Monday, 22 June 2009
Performing Arts - Treading the boards (1)
Walsh Bay, and the timber wharves extending out from Hickson Street, is rapidly becoming Sydney's performing arts "engine-room". The wharves house The Sydney Theatre Company, The Sydney Dance Company, The Philharmonia Choirs and The Song Company. It is the site for The Sydney Writers' Festival each May.
Much of the Walsh Bay wharf area was demolished and rebuilt after the devastating 1913 bubonic plague which the government of the time used as an excuse to reclaim large swathes of land along that short wharf section of the harbour, and back up the slope to The Rocks. This was prior to the construction of the approaches to the harbour bridge and the massive works required for the southern pylon of the bridge. Due to shortages of materials after World War 1 timber was used instead of the planned concrete. The wharves were two-storey with steel bridges - originally planned for 1921 but put on hold until the 1930s - giving upper and lower access.
Hickson Street - named after Robert Hickson, an Irishman who was the first president of the Sydney Harbour Trust - was carved from the steep slope that ran down to Walsh Bay. Henry Walsh - after whom the wharf area was named and who migrated to Australia from Ireland in 1877 - was the Chief Publc Works Engineer between 1901 and 1919 instigating improvements to the ports of Sydney and Newcastle.