The changing "top of the Cross"

Sketch by S. J. Gill (1856)(SL-NSW)
Kings Cross is not an actual suburb of Sydney, it is simply a point where two streets, Victoria Street and Darlinghurst Road, crossover. It used to be a T-junction, but now it is more akin to an alphabet-junction. Drivers - and pedestrians - have to take into account:
William Street
Darlinghurst Road,
Victoria Street,
Bayswater Road,
Craigend Street, and
Kings Cross Road.
Not long after William Street was promulgated and constructed - between 1835 and 1840 - the monarch of Great Britain changed from William IV to Queen Victoria. Hence, this intersection was known as "Queen's Cross". When Edward VII ascended the throne in 1901, it changed to "Kings Cross", and that is where it has stayed, no matter HOW long Elizabeth II stays on the British throne.
Taken in August, 1916. City of Sydney Archives
This photo was taken two months after all the properties along the southern side of William Street were officially resumed, but it is hard to tell the difference. Resumed, not demolished: a project of this size does not happen over-night. It would take until 1924 - another 8 years - before all the buildings were demolished, and the owners compensated. The re-building commenced not long after the owner and the City Council had agreed to terms. Pubs seemed to be rebuilt first, but then the breweries had a "special relationship", didn't they?

Only the building facing the south side of William Street was required to be demolished. All the way along. From Darlinghurst Road to Yurong Street. At the "Top of th Cross", on Darlinghurst Road, just one building: the one that was rented to A. A. Higgs, bootmaker. Flora Mann was the owner. She was in line for compensation. Higgs had to find another shop to rent. Which he did for a time at # 223 as Lucy O'Rourke's catering business had already moved on.

L: 53 Darlinghurst Rd to the Higgs shop on the corner of William St, June 1916
R: The block starting with Higgs on the corner, March 1918 (Both images sourced from City of Sydney Archives.
L: Higgs and the other buildings in his row are gone, October 1918
R: Higgs had already moved into #233 in the previous image, but here is a clearer image taken in 1920. (Both images sourced from City Of Sydney Archives.
William Street, looking west (1930s)(City of Sydney Archives)
Alhough this photo was tagged 1930s, we know that it must be some time AFTER 1934, as that was the year that the trams were once again centred. You'll love this. The City Council, which was doing the resumptions, "forgot" to organise with the Tramways to centre the tracks so that the widening had the benefits envisaged. Only in Sydney! From this image, we are unable to see the state of "The Top of the Cross" in 1934.
"The Top of The Cross" (1932)(City of Sydney Archives)
But this image, tagged 1932, shows trams making that mad turn out of William Street across "The Top" and then another swing into Bayswater Road. From this photo you would swear that William Street had not been widened at all. Perspective will do that. But this photo shows just how congested this area was already. Give it another 40 years and this intersection was mayhem.

So if Mr Higg's bootmaker shop was no longer on the corner of Darlinghurst & William, what was? Go back and have another look at #53 Darlinghurst Rd. Note that in the shot where the Higgs building is gone, that the building next to Higgs is boarded up. So it must have gone to be replaced by a white 3-storey building that hugged the corner. It looks as though the three buildings with the triangular parapets were demolished in sympathy.
Aerial view of William Street and the t-junction "Top of The Cross" (1950s)(NLA)
But the biggest demolition to the "Top of the Cross" occurred in the period 1969-1975 when a tunnel was built through the Cross. Through, not under, because the cut-and-cover technique was by far the cheapest method. Looking at this aerial view of "the Top of the Cross", I calculate that 4 buildings were demolished in Darlinghurst Road alone. I will take this aerial photo and indicate on it just what had to be demolished to ease the madness that was "Kings Cross". This was in Darlinghurst Rd, but there were more buildings in William St that had to be demolished also. Yes, those very buildings that REPLACED the ones demolished as a result of the 1916 widening.

But that is another story, which you find (eventually) under the "Kings Cross Tunnel" link.

No comments: