About Pyrmont

Across Darling Harbour from the City Centre, Pyrmont – and Ultimo – have had ambivalent relations with the rest of Sydney. In the early days of European settlement the peninsula began to host great estates: John Harris created Ultimo Estate and John Macarthur planned something similar at Pyrmont Point. The outcome was more mundane. Pyrmont was ideally located for industries that were essential to the City’s economy but unwelcome to its citizens. Boat-building, iron foundries and abattoirs flourished; then sandstone was quarried on an immense scale. Deep water attracted port facilities and railways, bringing wool and wheat in transit to overseas markets. The peninsula became the noisy, smelly, crowded home for workers in these industries, and in the greatest of them all, the sugar refinery. It is no coincidence that the Burley Griffins, the architects of modern Australia, built a world class incinerator to replace the rubbish dumps that spilled out of old quarries.

As industries expanded, professionals fled to outer suburbs, ordinary workers were squeezed out, and the population declined from the 1890s. In the latter twentieth century heavy industries also moved out or closed. The area was still handy for the City, so the old companies and cottages were replaced by clean media and IT firms, and by up-market high-rise apartments. Once a by-word for squalor, Pyrmont became a poster-boy for urban renewal. This website describes this transformation and its effects on the people who have lived and worked here.

About this site

The Pyrmont History Group is an association of residents recovering and sharing information about this suburb and community. Urban renewal, from the 1990s, displaced residents and industries but did not obliterate their experience. In this website we identify significant places in Pyrmont, and uncover and introduce evidence of the lives and careers of quarrymen and butchers, refiners and distillers, and many other occupations of a busy precinct.