A lot went down in 1970s Potts Point beyond just flared pants and paisley prints.
In fact, our area was at the very centre of Australia’s counter-cultural revolution. We take a look at a few things that happened around here in the most magical of decades.
Artists got creative
Potts Point has always attracted artists – from poets to musicians, creatives of all kinds have found their spiritual home here.
Founded by pop artist and cartoonist, Martin Sharp, the Yellow House Artist Collective on 57-59 Macleay street was a 70s Aussie vision of Vincent Van Gogh’s artists’ colony in Arles. By the time he established the collective in 1970, Sharp had already found notoriety as the lead artist for Oz Magazine (which also earned him a conviction for obscenity). And by the time it closed its doors in 1972, artists including Brett Whiteley, George Gittoes, Bruce Goold, Peter Weir, Philip Noyce, Albie Thoms and Aggie Read had lived, collaborated and found inspiration here. It also hosted events as diverse as poetry reading and puppet shows.
Today, the name lives on and Yellow House is home to an upmarket vegetarian restaurant, Yellow, as well as several apartments.
Green bans saving the streetscape
If Kings Cross was Australia’s Bohemia central then Victoria Street was Kings Cross’s Bohemian heart, with many artists, musicians and other creatives living in its affordable, semi-derelict housing. In an era when developers began knocking down much of Sydney’s history, the battle for Victoria Street became one of the biggest flashpoint of the city’s green bans movement.
A developer, Frank Theeman, had plans to turn Victoria Street into a massive apartment block. However, he met the full force of community protest as well as green bans imposed by the NSW Builders’ Labourers Federation. In 1975, the battle for Victoria Street reached its climax with the disappearance of Juanita Nielsen. An heiress to the Mark Foy’s department store fortune, Nielsen published alternative newspaper NOW and, through its pro-preservation stance, became the face of Victoria Street’s anti-development protests. She was last sighted drinking at the Carousel Bar.
Victoria Street wasn’t the only local green ban, even if it became the best known. Woolloomooloo was also subjected to a green ban between 1973 and 1975, which saved the working-class neighbourhood from the wrecking ball. In 1973, a green ban was also placed on constructing commercial buildings in Darlinghurst.
Today, you can visit many of the sites that were saved on the Green Bans Art Walk.
The Vietnam War brought in the military
With the Vietnam War raging and the city’s main naval base just down the road, Kings Cross became the focal point for US military personnel on R&R in Sydney. And Sydney was so popular as an R&R destination with Americans serving in Vietnam that they needed to join a waiting list to come here.
This breathed a new life into the area’s late-night scene, with Kings Cross’s world of cabaret shows, strip clubs and everything that was weird and wonderful all captured by photographer Rennie Ellis.
Partly as a result of this, the area also began attracting more organised crime syndicates and developed an unsavoury reputation as Australia’s drugs and prostitution capital. But the dozens of hotels constructed at the time ensured that “The Cross” remained a tourism mecca well into the 1990s.
Transport changed the face of Potts Point forever
The Kings Cross Road Tunnel was opened in December 1975 so that vehicles passing between the city and the Eastern Suburbs were separated from the local Potts Point traffic. To build it, the government acquired and demolished 118 properties. And, in 1974, as the tunnel was being completed, the iconic Coke sign was first installed.
Right near the end of the 1970s, in June 1979, Kings Cross railway station opened, as part of the Eastern Suburbs line between Central and Bondi Junction. The NSW Office of Environment and Heritage lists the station as “aesthetically significant for its 1970s underground design features”. It also describes it as “a good representative example of the ESR style stations, retaining original features including moulded ticketing windows, small mosaic tiling, signage (interior and exterior), escalators, moulded ceilings, integrated lighting, seating layout arrangement and concourse pod.”
If you’re interested in buying or selling in Potts Point contact my team today.