Here’s something completely stupid: this carriageway is the Western Distributor passing over Kent, Day and Margaret Streets near Wynyard. Below it is…a bit of road that…goes nowhere, and does nothing.
The Western Distributor began life in the early 1960s as a way to relieve traffic on the Harbour Bridge. Sydney’s extensive underground rail system meant that the Distributor couldn’t be built as a series of tunnels, so viaducts were the sensible alternative. That’s where the sense stopped.
The only reason the Western Distributor existed was because the designers of the Harbour Bridge and existing road system didn’t use enough foresight. You’d think that planners of the WD would employ twice as much foresight to make sure that further modifications weren’t necessary. Well, two times nothing is still nothing.
That’s it there, below that huge, multi-lane bridge. If you can’t see it, squint. The two-lane Glebe Island Bridge had been built in 1903 to provide access to the Glebe Abattoir, and it includes a swing bridge to allow boats through. Surprisingly, this bridge proved to be unable to handle the traffic spewing forth from the Western Distributor, and in 1984 the NSW Government proposed another bridge. Good thinking! The Anzac Bridge was completed by 1995 (!), and opened in December of that year. It features a great height to allow boats through.
Of course, when the Distributor had been designed, it was flowing towards a small bridge. Now that it had a giant, capable bridge to lead into, the one-lane road itself suddenly seemed a bit lacklustre. In 2002 (!!), work commenced to widen the Western Distributor throughout the city, which brings us back to our original ridiculousness.
This bit of suspended road was originally an on-ramp for the Western Distributor, with access from Margaret Street. When the road above our piece here was widened, it claimed the on-ramp’s space and ended Margaret Street’s usefulness in the scheme of things. For a time it was used as a parking bay (illustrating the lengths the City of Sydney Council is willing to go to to make a buck out of parking). The ramp was then severed at both ends, and now sits hanging above the street, useless and surreal.
The happy ending to this story is that after the implementation of each of these emergency patches to the highways of Sydney, traffic in the city was never a problem ever again.
Amalgamated Wireless Australasia Ltd. started life at our old friend Homebush West in 1909, and over the next few years became the Federation-era’s answer to Sony. In 1918, AWA received the first radio broadcast from the UK to Australia – an address to troops by then-Prime Minister Billy Hughes. AWA then transmitted the first newsreel pictures from Sydney to London in 1930.
Not content to just broadcast and receive the radio signals, AWA entered the consumer radio market after the Second World War. AWA became the leading manufacturer of consumer radios in Australia, and subsequently branched out into other areas. Fans of commercial radio (I know you’re out there) may care to thank AWA for owning and operating 2GB sister station 2CH for many years.
Of course, an Australian company couldn’t do this well without at some point having their own building, and in 1939, that dream was realised in York Street, Wynyard. The AWA Building was the tallest building in Australia until 1958, and remained AWA’s head office until the late 1990s, when AWA backed out of the broadcasting race because it’s kinda hard to get a decent signal amongst all those skyscrapers in Wynyard. Today, the tower is E. G. Collections, “specialising in Ladies Suits”, with office suites above, and doubtlessly the friends of all of the building’s employees are sick of hearing about how you can see the office in that one bit in The Matrix.
Perhaps seeing the writing on the wall for the kind of olde-tyme radio business they were so deeply involved in, 1991 saw AWA acquire Smorgon Technologies. Although it sounds like a Captain Planet villain, it was a world leader in totalisator systems, and this purchase led to AWA’s own acquisition by Tabcorp in the 2000s. Wow.
AWA regained its independence from Tabcorp’s clutches in 2004, and these days focuses on IT and commutation services, which is a newfangled way of saying it’s doing what it always did, but NEW. Strangely, AWA has licenced its brand name to Woolworths, Big W and Dick Smith Electronics for use in generic consumer electronic devices. You know, just in case anyone out there is 150 years old and remembers how good the sound was from their AWA car radio.
If you’ve ever had a birthday, chances are you’ve received a card from John Sands. Although John (1818-1873) has been indisposed for a fair period of time now, he never forgets a birthday, a funeral, an unexpected pregnancy, or any other occasion requiring a “social expression”. These days, John Sands is owned by the fittingly named faceless corporation American Greetings, but back before he sold out, Sands ran his operations from locations (dunes?) in Druitt Street, the flagshop in George Street, and here, in Clarence Street.
As you can see, John and the other Sands made a living sinking dies, engraving plates and printing all manner of stationery. Someone was canny enough to have engraved the business name all over this building too, because now it’s heritage listed. Despite the listing, it’s currently for lease, despite plans in recent years to convert it into an Italian restaurant and a Nando’s chicken shop, among other things. To survive a Nando’s incursion…that’s staying power. I guess you might say [Terrible sand erosion pun removed for everybody’s sake – Ed].
Remember Krispy Kreme? That donut (or doughnut) fad that took off in 2003 and crashed hard in…late 2003? For a good part of that year, everyone was talking about Krispy Kremes. Workplaces stocked them as treats, families bought them by the boxful. I knew a guy who would spend an hour in the car driving out to the Krispy Kreme at Liverpool to buy six boxes at a time because he loved them that much, and there was a time when that was the most convenient location. Krispy Kreme responded to the demand by increasing the number of stores, failing to realise that fads are fads because they don’t last. Exhibit A: Krispy Kreme.
Now a shadow of its former self, KK’s Australian subsidiary went into voluntary administration in late 2010, citing poor sales as the reason. Imagine how poor the sales must have been for it to only give up the game in 2010, a full seven years after the honeymoon was over. Even more mindblowing is the fact that the brand has been around since 1937. In any case, this site is an example of a location that no longer wanted doughnuts (or donuts) and voted with its feet…literally: Ugg boots are the wares being peddled here now.
Before KK kame along to korrupt konsumers with krappy konfectionery, Cue clothing ran the shop. Cue has been around since 1968, and since forging a relationship with Myer in 1970 hadn’t had as much need for self-contained shops. This one opened in 1976, but closed during the 1990s due to declining sales. That’s a better run that Krispy Kreme had. Cue’s executive director Justin Levis said in 2008 that the shop closed because the surrounding shops had become tacky bargain stores. Now that the ugg boot shop has moved in, this location has finally found its place in that dynasty.