McDonald Street is a tucked-away cul-de-sac off Macleay Street.

While it may be only short, McDonald Lane also connects it to Challis Avenue and Victoria Street.

Join me on a short walk down this fascinating street to discover more about its history…

The making of McDonald Street

McDonald Street is named after businessman Alexander MacDonald.

MacDonald arrived in Sydney around 1848. From 1863, he ran a general importing company, “MacDonald, Smith and Company”, and also had an association with the Union Bank. One of his business partners was John Henry Challis, a successful merchant in the mid-nineteenth century (after whom nearby Challis Avenue is named).

Both Challis and MacDonald spent time living at Adelaide Cottage, one of 17 original allotments in the Potts Point area. Adelaide Cottage had been designed by colonial architect and engineer, Edward Hallen for surgeon Henry Gratton Douglass on land he had been granted in 1828. Its second owner, ex-soldier Thomas Shadforth, sold it to Challis in 1850.

Challis lived at Adelaide Cottage until he returned to England in 1855, after which it was rented to his business partner, Alexander MacDonald.

In 1888, MacDonald died, and shortly after, the house was demolished and the grounds were prepared for subdivision as The Challis Estate.

In 1889, 45 residential sites were auctioned off between Macleay and Victoria Streets. They fronted the brand-new streets: Challis Avenue and McDonald Street. All those on the south side of McDonald Street, lots 36-39, were marked as sold.

A similar 1893 subdivision plan shows that the lots on the north side of McDonald Street, including the corner fronting Macleay Street, were still available.

Today, white Magnolia Grandiflora line the centre of McDonald Street. Here are some of the landmarks you’ll see on McDonald Street in 2024:

Number 1: Habitat apartments

Before the seven-storey Habitat Apartments were built at 1 McDonald Street in 1964, a villa called “Corio” occupied this site. The original villa was turned into a private hotel in 1935 and was believed to be run by a Dutch couple who housed Dutch refugees during the Second World War. It was then run as a boarding house until it was sold to a developer in 1959 and demolished in 1961.

The building you see today was designed by architects Rudder, Littlemore & Rudder, who also designed the famous curved Qantas building at 1 Chifley Square. It was originally called “Mowbray” and built as apartments. However, just a few years later, it became the illegally operated “Florida Motel”, known for “wild swimming parties” in the communal pool, that upset neighbours and council.

The building was upgraded and renamed Habitat in the late 1990s, returning to its intended use as an apartment building.

Numbers 2-6: Character-filled Art Deco apartments

Different styles of Art Deco apartments line the North side of McDonald Street. These tend to be popular with buyers and renters because of their character charm, original features and amazing location just off Macleay Street.

At number 6, “Mayfair” was built in 1925 for Mrs Hordern (of the retail dynasty) and designed by architect Mr Rutledge Louat.

Walsingham” stands at number 4. A 1938 advertisement for flats to rent in the building describes them as “ultra modern” and “beautifully furnished” with “water, refrigeration service if desired” and a “trolley bus to door”.

Winchester” is at number 2 and, in 1939, the Herald advertised “spacious” apartments including bed-sits with offices with the “latest American built in furniture” with free hot water, refrigeration and blinds.

Numbers 5-9: A trio of Victorian terraces

On the other side of the street, you’ll find a trio of stunning Victorian terraces. “Greta”, “Clio”, and “Jersey” are the stately old dames of McDonald Street. Filled with Victorian features, such as stained glass windows and with generous proportions over three levels, these are no ordinary terrace houses. Dating back to the Challis Estate subdivision, they’re believed to have been built in the 1880s.

The City of Sydney Archives contain a small letter from 1891 signed from AGH Wise, of Greta. It requests a street sign to mark McDonald Street: “I beg respectfully to urge that its name be placed on a lamppost,” Wise wrote, also elaborating about the frustration residents had.

Over 100 years later, this photo from 1986 shows Greta, Clio and Jersey pre-restoration.

Buy your own piece of McDonald Street

We’re currently listing ‘Greta’ at 9 McDonald Street.

One of the original Victorian terraces, Greta seamlessly blends its circa 1880s elegance with modern style. Boasting five bedrooms (including a luxurious master zone), a study, and four bathrooms, this home highlights its unique North-facing position and includes off-street parking for two cars.

Great’s location on this quiet cul-de-sac provides a serene escape while being just steps away from vibrant Macleay Street. Meticulously renewed, it features over-height ceilings, timber floors, marble fireplaces, and sleek finishes.

Want more?

Contact us to inspect 9 McDonald Street today or if you’re looking to buy or sell in Potts Point or Elizabeth Bay.

Article by Jason Boon

In a real estate market that is the focus of Australian, and indeed worldwide attention, Jason Boon's results in the Sydney scene make him a highly significant figure within the industry. A long-term specialist in the Potts Point and inner eastern suburbs area, he is uniquely placed to leverage his skills and local knowledge as the area undergoes significant change and diversification. Jason ha…