Monday, 1 December 2014

Old Pictures: Sydney Opera House

I have 39 Wonders still to visit, and 14 previews still to write. They will begin next year. In the meantime, I'm going to allow this blog to ramble around like a slightly senile geriatric. The very observant among you may have noticed The Longlist tab, which has appeared on the green bar above. Clicking on that will explain its purpose. I will be writing about each of the places there, in time. Also, in full rambling mode, I'm going to write about the countries I've been to on these travels, from the perspective of a budget traveller looking for World Wonders (that is, my perspective). And I'm also going to be digging up some old pictures and photos of Wonders, either in construction or from ye olde times. Likely, there will be a few others bits and pieces too. Anyway, for today, let's begin at the beginning (in terms of the order I've visited things at least) and take a look at some old pictures of the Sydney Opera House.

The Sydney Opera House is almost as notable for its location as it is for its distinctive white sails (apparently inspired by orange peel, but you know what architects are like). It sticks out into Sydney Harbour on a knob-like peninsula called Bennelong Point, named after an 18th Century aborigine called Bennelong. You might know that Australian history hasn't been too kind on the aborigines, so it was good work by Bennelong (like Madonna and Sting, he went by just the one name) to get some land named after him. He was a go-between for the British and the local Eora tribe, although somewhat of a reluctant one - the British had kidnapped him for the job. He did it pretty well, and although he escaped, he later chose to return. In 1790, he asked the British to build him a hut on a small tidal island in the harbour, and the British agreed. The island soon became known as Bennelong Island. Bennelong himself stayed with the British for a few years, even going to England and back, then returned to his tribe and presumably swaggered around like the man until his death in 1813.

Meanwhile, the small area between the island and the mainland was filled in, so Bennelong Island became Bennelong Point, and a fort was built on it - Fort McQuarie. Here are some pictures of it from the National Library of Australia.

It turned out that building a fort on the other side of the world was a bit pointless - nobody ever bothered to try and attack Sydney, let alone at that exact position, so in 1901 the fort was dismantled. A tram shed, in a kind of faux-castle format, was built in its place. That's what was standing when the citizens of Sydney decided they wanted to build an opera house somewhere.

In 1955, it was demolished, and the Sydney Opera House was (rather slowly) built. To finish, here's a few shots of it in construction.

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