Oh, that’s nice.
But what’s this? Couldn’t make it through century two, then?
Actually, the Bank of NSW (later Westpac) held on here for a good 30 or so years past 1960. Let’s take a look:
As we’ve previously been over, the Bank of NSW has a long and illustrious hiszzz…huh, wha? Oh, do excuse me. The revered financial institution was established in 1817 without a safe. Yes, you read that right:
In the spirit of that ridiculousness, tomorrow I’ll be establishing an amusement park: Fast Rides of the Near Future. Anyone got any rides I can borrow? Free entry for a year if you do!
In 1860, the BoNSW started to branch out – literally. The bank’s first branch was established here on Broadway that year. But what flies in the ’60s sinks in the ’90s, and by 1894 changes had to be made. The powers that be summoned Varney Parkes (son of Sir Henry and former Bank of NSW employee) to design the current building (complete with it’s own gold smelting facility), unceremoniously treating their number one son like number two in the process. In fact (as we’ll see), that plaque at the top of the page is about as sentimental as Westpac cares to get (but remember, you’re not just a number 🙂 ).
Actually, maybe in 1955 you were. Oh, check it out: the postbox by the corner is still there!
1982 saw the Bank of NSW merge with the Commercial Bank of Australia to form Westpac, presumably to confuse customers. You can guarantee they would have netted some poor old biddy’s cash in the changeover. To aid the public through this confusing time, all branches were poorly rebranded with the Westpac name, and the Railway Square spot was no different.
Here it is in 1992, in glorious colour for the first time. In that same year, Westpac suffered a $1.6b loss, a record for any Australian corporation at the time. Staff were let go en masse, and that would had to have affected this branch. Luckily, anyone forced out the door would have seen the old Sydney City Mission logo behind them there. I wonder whatever happened to that? Someone should get on that.
Despite Westpac’s extensive refurbishment of the building in 1989-90, the bank was hit too hard by ’92’s recession. By 2000, the building that had once been the bank’s pride and joy was just another ‘For Lease’ along George Street, just in time for the Olympics.
Today, the bank’s purpose is to serve as a function centre. Why one would be needed right beside the Mercure, which presumably has its own, boggles the mind…unless. UNLESS…when the Mercure set themselves up, they put an ad in the paper advertising for the lend of a conference room…
These days, this building on the corner of Mountain Street and Broadway, Ultimo, houses a convenience store, apartments, and our old friend Breadtop, but the inconspicuous facade hides a colourful and tempestuous history.
Built in 1911, the building started life as the Broadway Theatre, a cinema. With the advent of TV, this was one of many suburban cinemas that had fallen by the wayside by 1960, when it closed. In 1968, it was acquired by nightclub owner John Spooner and converted into Jonathan’s Disco, where it became well known as one of Sydney’s prime live music venues. Sherbet and Fraternity both got their big break at Jonathan’s, playing residencies involving six hour days for months on end. Imagine the poor disco staff having to listen to six hours of Sherbet a day for months. Perks of the job…
In May 1972, Jonathan’s Disco was gutted by fire. I can’t help but think it was one of those beleaguered staff members. “HowZAT?” they’d’ve quipped as they flicked their cigarette into the freshly-poured puddle of gasoline. The damage was extensive, and required a complete internal refit before it was opened again in 1976 as a ballroom dancing studio.
The Sydney City Council granted the Maltese community use of the premises as a licensed venue in 1980, when it became the Phoenician Club. Once more, the site became one of Sydney’s most popular live music venues with local bands such as Powderfinger and Ratcat playing gigs there throughout the late 80s and early 90s. Nirvana played their first Sydney show there in 1992 – a far cry from Sherbet. Around this time, the rave scene exploded in Sydney; a development that would lead to the end of the Phoenician Club.
Anna Wood, a 15yo schoolgirl from Belrose, attended an ‘Apache’ dance party at the Phoenician in October 1995, where she took ecstasy. Her resulting death shocked Sydney and enraged then-NSW Premier Bob Carr, who declared war on the Club. A series of fines and restrictions imposed on live venues in the wake of Wood’s death led to the closure of the Club in 1998 and the decline of Sydney’s live music scene which continues today. Good thing Wood wasn’t killed by a pokie machine.
From 1998 the site sat derelict, just in time for the Olympics. Nothing international visitors like seeing more than abandoned, graffiti-tagged buildings. In 2001 it was completely redeveloped internally, and today satisfies Carr’s idea of a venue put to good use.
The Parcels Post Office, situated at Railway Square beside Central Station, was built in 1913 and operated as a post office until the 1960s. Prior to the construction of Central Station in 1901, this was roughly the site of the Benevolent Asylum:
After decades of sitting derelict, someone finally decided the former post office would be good to go with a little funky cold Medina:
Nothing like a hotel right next to the train line!
In 1903, Albert and Joseph Grace established their flagship shop (flagshop?), ‘The Model Store’, in an 1896-built four-storey building on what was then George Street West (now Broadway). Dudes even constructed a private electricity plant to power the store. It took another 20 years before the twin store across Bay Street was built. In 1911, a theatre was constructed beneath the original building. Queen Elizabeth II visited the store in 1954. Grace Bros. set up their own removalist service from this building, now known as Grace Removals. The domes above the clocks were filled with water that operated the building’s hydraulic lifts.
But the party had to end sometime. Grace Bros. bailed on the site in 1992 and took their water with them, preferring to maintain their Pitt Street store as the new flagshop. The chain had been bought by Myer in 1983, but the name-change didn’t take effect until 2004. In 1998, the building was re-opened as the Broadway Shopping Centre, with a cinema complex on the top level. Did they forget they already had one downstairs?