Sydney’s Grandest Markets Open

Queen Victoria Building


On 21 July 1898 Sydney celebrated as Mayor Alderman Mathew Harris officially opened the Queen Victoria Markets Building. The Lady Mayoress, with a commemorative solid gold key, opened the druitt Street entrance. That evening the Town Hall was transformed for the 1400 guests at a ball celebratig the opening of these markets.

Designed by George McRae, City Architect, the building was constructed between 1893 and 1898 by brothers Henry and Edwin Phippard and replaced the original markets on the site. In 1810 Governor Lachlan Macquarie had set aside this area for the purpose of a market place for Sydney.

Named in honour of Queen Victoria’s Diamond Jubilee, this grand Victorian retail arcade of three storeys, with its sandstone clad walls and copper domes was designed in the Federation Romanesque style. Measuring 98 ft wide by 620 ft in length, it fi lls the city block bounded by George, Market, York & Druitt Streets.

The dominant feature is the great central dome of 62 ft in diameter and 196 ft from ground to top of the cupola and is sheeted externally in copper, as are the 20 smaller domes. The building consists of basement, ground and two main upper fl oors, with additional levels in the end pavilions.

The newly built market building provided a business environmen for a variety of tenants including tailors, mercers, hairdressers, fl orists, fruiterers, tea rooms and coff ee shops as well as showrooms, warehouses, offices, Mei Quong Tart’s tearoom, a concert hall for 600 people and the Coff ee Palace (a residential/dining hotel). Through these early years there was also Lindeman Wines, dancing teachers, clairvoyants to name a few and both the City of Sydney Library and the Electricity Department were long-time occupants. The QVB has endured remodelling, restoration, alterations and refurbishments throughout its 118 years of operation and is listed on both State Heritage and National Trust Registers.

Donna Newton, RAHS Librarian

(This article “This Week in History” was printed in the July RAHS News and is reprinted with permission.)

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