Dreamers and developers have long had their eye on Potts Point, hoping to make their mark and help shape the suburb.
From a candle factory to a giant birthday cake, we take a look at some of the abandoned plans that never came to be.
Candle factory dreams extinguished
Francois Girard stood out in colonial Sydney from the start. A Frenchman, Girard was transported in 1820 for apparently stealing two watches while teaching in London.
After receiving his ticket of leave, Girard began making a living giving lessons in French and dancing. But he had bigger plans.
Girard ventured into new territory and set up a bakery. He then secured a government contract to supply bread for Sydney’s entire population of convicts and troops. He also spied an opportunity to make and sell ships’ biscuits and began negotiations with Richard Jones, a leading Sydney whaler with several hungry crews. In return, Girard would take whaling by-products off Jones’ hands, which he’d then use to make candles.
Ever the entrepreneur, Girard determined to build a candle factory (and his own windmill into the bargain) on Woolloomooloo Hill, as Potts Point was once called. Girard’s windmill dreams would eventually take flight … but not the candle factory.
Seeking a land grant, Girard was initially told by Governor Darling he would receive the Woolloomooloo Hill land he wanted. However, more than a year later, Darling backtracked, stating he could not grant land to an ‘alien’.
Undeterred, Girard bought an acre himself and built his windmill, which stood near the corner of Roslyn Street and Darlinghurst Road for many decades. But the process of securing land had taken so long that he gave up his idea of the candle factory.
The roundabout that went nowhere
Francis G. Hood was another man with a plan. Many plans, in fact – some of which never left the drafting table.
Born in New Zealand, the architect had redesigned Potts Point’s Hotel Mansions in the 1930s. Soon after, Hood turned his attention to what the media called “the Kings Cross problem” – traffic congestion.
To address the issue, Hood and his colleague Florence Mary Taylor, Australia’s first qualified female architect, designed a network of roads and underpasses that would culminate in a double-storey roundabout at the intersection of Darlinghurst Road and Victoria Street. In the centre would be a control tower, with a traffic-free shopping area and reserve.
Hood’s plan was first discussed in the city’s newspapers in 1939 and again in 1945, when detailed sketches also appeared. Hood and Taylor were clearly convinced of the plan’s merits: in 1946, a lengthy and passionate argument in its favour (apparently written by Taylor) appeared in Construction magazine.
But the local council weren’t as convinced, and the plan never came to fruition.
Hood’s other thwarted plans included an overground express route connecting Martin Place with Watsons Bay. Commuters would drive over Potts Point via an elevated, vaulted roadway and pass over the water at Woolloomooloo and Rushcutters Bay by viaduct.
Sid’s schemes too bold for locals
Like everything in the 1980s, Kings Cross was looking to go bigger and bolder. And multimillionaire developer Sid Londish had some big, bold ideas for the area.
In the lead-up to the 1988 bicentenary, Londish planned to build an enormous steel birthday cake on a site he’d bought near the top of William Street. But others weren’t impressed; an article in the Financial Review called the idea “much laughed at,” and even the premier, Barry Unsworth, wasn’t initially keen.
Londish’s cake never went ahead (the idea was toppled by a giant echidna sporting 200 candles), and the developer set his sights on bigger things. He had, after all, bought the site to erect La Galleria, a 32-storey hotel with a huge shopping and restaurant complex underneath.
However, before construction could begin, there were complaints about the building’s size, so six floors were knocked off the design. But the increasing appeal of inner-city apartment living ultimately won out, and in 1990 Londish sold the site to Rushcutter Properties Limited. Eventually, the Elan and Altair Apartments were built on the land.
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