Sunday, 16 February 2014

Governor of NSW # 3 - Philip Gidley King

Detail from the roof-line of the Louis Vuitton building
So, we had Arthur Phillip, the first governor of the colony return home in 1792, sick in heart and soul, more than body. Then we had an interregnum of 18 months where the English establishment vacillated, the free settlers grew rambunctious, the sodiers of the NSW Corps took it upn themselves to rattle their sabres, and flex their muscles. During which time, the poor deputy governor (sans real power, and sans the power that comes from respect) was on a hiding to nothing. Then Hunter blew into town, managed to make matters, if not worse, certainly no better. And we come to September 1800, when the third governor, Philip Gidley King arrives.
Left: The State Supreme Court complex (1820-1827) on the Macquarie St ridge
Right: The 1892 facade that morphed into one of the "Merrivale" (trendy) pick-up joints
Another miserable failure finding a statue. Onto my third governor, with only one statue under my belt. It does get better. Promise! But, neither Hunter nor King left much of a legacy. Not one that we trumpet from the rooftops. But, really, it was not their fault. The rot set in with the hurried departure of Phillip, and the tardiness with appointing his replacement. A case of "home alone"; the kids in charge of the lolly shop. Although no statue, I do have a major city street to meander. King Street runs east-west through the centre of the CBD. It rises in the west at Darling Harbour (aka Cockle Bay), and terminates in a pedestrian plaza before Macquarie Street, where all the state judicial buildings are.
"Then and Nows" are always good value, This is the SE corner of King and George Streets. The old photo was taken in 1910and is from the City of Sydney archives. This focal store was, until recently, a Darrell-Lea Chocolate shop. Although built prior to 1910, it was actually the 5th building on that corner. Each of them was probably tragic to lose.
Once again, note the topography. If Sydney is nowt but a drowned valley (over the millenia), then the streets contend with the myriad ridges and rivulets that hurried down the uplands towards the valley floor. Melbourne and Adelaide are flat as, the urban designer's dream. Sydney is a goat track looking for a sure footing. With our graders, and with our rollers, we can cut and paste the environment to do our bidding, but my CBD is always looking in the environmental mirror, constrained by topography, and by a history that was ever-ready to cut corners in the chase for an easy development buck.
King the person, what's to say? He governed from September 1800 through to August 1806, which seemed like an eternity to him. Yet, one cannot but think that, surely, he knew what lay in store for him in this bustling land-locked prison. he had sailed in 1787 as second-in-command to Phillip to found the colony. He had endured the tribulations (and pleasures of the flesh) whilst founding Norfolk Island as an overflow penitentiary. He knew first-hand that the English masters were incapable of resisting the blaggards and the trumpet-blowers that thrived hanging out down the arse-end of the known-world. People like John MacArthur, like Captain George Johnston, like Captain William Paterson.
Close but no cigar. My photo is looking east, whereas the 1900 photo is looking west down King Street. But ... See the old Surrey Hotel? It is still there just above that silver parked vehicle, beside the red flag. Up until just a couple of years ago it housed the Louis Vuitton shop. i kid you not!
And so, he came, he struggled, and he was replaced. The free-marketeers, and the vagabonds were in the ascendancy. Which leads us into a fascinating slice of colonial history: the gutting of a governor.
These two buildings are diagonally opposite each other on the intersection of King and York Streets. The first is the drop-dead gorgeous Grace Hotel renovated out of the struggling department store chain, where Douglas McArthur set up his command during WW2. The second one, was the original warehouse for the Beard & Watson department store.
The first and last photos are of the "Louis Vuitton" shop on the corner of King and George (King being the governor, George being the king!). Before it went all up-market it was simply the head office of the E.S.& A. Bank, which still trades as the ANZ Bank, one of our four-pillars. What I found attractive was the roof-line mouldings. They are not all intact, but I shielded your tender eyes from that.


Joe said...

A fascinating historical post Julie. The topography of Sydney must have posed as many problems for its architects as governing the colony did for King.

Julie said...

Sydney is all about topoggraphy, Joe. Totally shapes the built environment and the outlook of all who travel in her.

Jim said...

Great comparison shots