Exploring Sydney's Rich History

Nicole Hawkins
March 4, 2020
My view walking from the bus stop to the General Post Office in Martin Place, Sydney.

Today, I took a 30-minute bus ride from my apartment to Martin Place, also known as the “civic heart” of Sydney. I disembarked and walked by a number of historic buildings and vendors until I reached the General Post Office -- not where I pictured I would be on a Wednesday afternoon. As I stood beneath the colonnades of the building, which opened its doors in 1874, I found myself in awe of the architecture that has stood there for over one hundred years. I was unaware of the post office’s existence until three hours ago and, honestly, wouldn’t have made the trip if it weren’t for an assignment for my Modern Australian Art and Cinema class. I was tasked with acting as a flaneur for the day and reporting back to my class on my experiences. First on my to-do list was figuring out what in the world a flaneur was (am I the only one who’s never heard that word?) and discovered it’s a person who unobtrusively observes the places and people around them. Once I understood my assignment, I began my observations.

I walked from the post office up George Street to The Strand Arcade, which is a covered building with arches along one or both sides and not a dark room filled with pinball machines and air hockey tables as I was expecting (a welcome surprise). Here, I was once again meant to observe. My first impression of the building was that it was beautiful, with its ornate railing surrounding each floor filled with luxurious shops and restaurants. After doing more research, I discovered the building has much more to offer than its beauty. According to Sydney’s tourism website, The Strand was the “last of the arcades built in Victorian Sydney, and it is the only one remaining in its original form.” Opened in 1892, the arcade is a place with a rich history. I looked at photos of the building in its infancy in comparison to the place in which I was sitting and they were eerily similar. I felt moved by the fact I was sitting in a place, untouched by time, where people like me sat over 100 years ago.

As I looked down at the patterned tile floors with its dark browns, light blues and bright whites, and gazed up at the vaulted ceiling made up of window panels that allowed the sun into light shoppers' paths, I couldn’t help but feel connected to the women who sat in this same spot in 1892. Although we lived in very different Sydney’s -- their’s rapidly transforming into a Victorian-era metropolis, only declared a city decades earlier, and mine, an iconic international destination with a population of over 5 million -- we both experienced this place, The Strand Arcade, and I’m overwhelmed by and full of gratitude for that. 

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Nicole Hawkins

<p>Nicole is a journalism and political science major at Texas Christian University. Originally from Tucson, Arizona, she is excited to leave the Southwest behind for a semester at the University of Sydney! While abroad, you’ll most likely find her en route to a coffee shop or on the beach with a book in hand.</p>

Home University:
Texas Christian University
Tucson, Arizona
Political Science
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