160 Years Ago Today, Work Started On Sydney's World-Famous Circular Quay, Using This Map

State Records NSW NRS 12444 Harbours and Rivers: Maps and plans; SR 1282, Plan extension of Semi-Circular Quay, 11/1/1854

Here’s a slice of Sydney history: 160 years ago today, Circular Quay began to take shape when the first timber piles were driven into the mud flats at the mouth of the Tank Stream, the colony’s main fresh water supply (which still runs under the city to this day).

As you’ll see from this 1854 plan, which is in the State Records NSW archives, drawn up by civil engineer Edmund Walcott, Sydney Cove was originally, literally, named Semi-Circular Quay, which was later shortened for convenience to Circular Quay.

The blue line is the cove’s existing sandstone edge, and the pink is the new timber waterfront, which created a bridge across the Tank Stream and gave access for the first time all the way around Circular Quay.

State Records archivist Rhett Lindsay said that while horses and vehicles had to head up to Bridge Street to cross the Tank Stream, there was foot-traffic bridge at its mouth known as the Bon Accord, or Halfpenny Bridge, so named for the cost charged by the Bon Accord Wharf, which owned the bridge.

It was removed in the process of extending the Quay and a century later, the next big innovation for the area was the Cahill Expressway.

Five decades later, this is what it looked like, in photos taken by Henry King and courtesy of the Powerhouse Museum’s Tyrrell Photographic Collection.

And here it is in all its glory today…

Photo: Getty

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