What did Sydney Look Like in 1869? Part 2

Continue our journey into the past, looking at Old Sydney and historic wine region Epernay as we celebrate 150 years of Moet Imperial, and the history of Sydney

The General Post Office, Martin Place, circa 1976, Source: NLA


During this time of civic growth, Sydney saw a boom in the construction of hotels, coffee palaces, libraries, and museums. This increase in infrastructure, helped by the industrial revolution, contributed to both economic and population growth. Public buildings and institutions such as the General Post Office were built. Taking the GPO building as a great example, this magnificent building built in 1866, is an icon on the well-known Martin Place. It served as headquarters of Australia Post until the late 1990s, when it was privatized. It remains a Sydney landmark today and a great example of the blend of architecture and art from the 1860s.

Another building that was being constructed during this time was the famous St. Mary’s Cathedral. In the year 1869, the second wooden cathedral burnt down by fire during the summer and was the time construction started on the cathedral as we know it. Still standing today, this is one of the largest Churches in Australia and took 14 years to build. As for the oldest building in the Sydney CBD, the Parliament House Sydney remains heritage listed and the eldest, being built in 1816 by convicts.

Moet & Chandon cellars. Source: Moet

The Champagne region also holds particular significance for French history. It was originally part of the Roman province of Gallia Belgica, which in the 5th Century became the seat of the Merovingian dynasty that ousted the Romans. In medieval times, Champagne was the venue of great annual trading fairs. In World War I it was the bloody battlefield of the Western Front, later coming to symbolise the reconciliation between France and Germany.

For 300 years the Champagne Houses have been adding to this exceptional heritage through the commissioning of architectural masterpieces that sing the praises of the King of Wines. The house of Moet Chandon itself was founded in 1743.

The Rocks and Circular Quay, circa 1857, Source: SLNSW

The Rocks region

If you’ve ever visited Sydney, chances are you would have heard about The Rocks, the historical heart of Sydney. You’ll even find Australia’s oldest pub here, the Fortune of War, which dates back to 1828 and was built by a convict!

Culturally speaking, there are still many heritage-style buildings remaining in The Rocks, well known for their architectural style and cultural importance. There are traditional cottages, which were built by former convicts in the 1830s, and tell stories of the past immigration from Great Britain. The oldest remaining building, Cadman’s Cottage was built way back in 1816. For those interested, many tours and self-walking routes are available to be completed in this area to learn about the many quirks of this historical borough.

Sydney lifestyle and culture

Throughout this time, Sydney’s beaches were becoming popular seaside holiday destinations, and it was classified as ‘indecent’ for sea bathing during the day until the early 1900s. Did you know, there was no electricity in Australia until the 1880s? This meant construction and infrastructure were undertaken via steam, coal and water energy; until the Second Industrial Revolution expanded the ability for large corporations to flourish in the economy. Until then, you would have heard the ‘iceman’ outside delivering ice bricks to the domestic iceboxes (pre-refrigeration) and heard “milko!” echoing down the street, signaling the milk man’s presence.

Thankfully refrigeration has helped the entertainment culture of Sydney and Australia in general. Australian culture and tastes have been refined by the dynamic migration and integration of many cultures.

From the outset, Moët Impérial set off on an epic journey, through challenge and opportunity, to become a universal icon of celebration, conquering new worlds and creating unforgettable moments filled with glamour and style.

The Radisson Blu Plaza Hotel Sydney is pleased to join with Moet Imperial to celebrate their 150 year anniversary. A lot has changed between the 19th and 21st centuries, and we hope you enjoyed this brief look into the past of Sydney, our building and seeing 2 icons flourishing in 2019.

For more information on the history of the Radisson Blu Plaza Hotel building, click here.


(By Emma Hedges)

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