Pyrmont Point was part of John Macarthur’s land grant, and probably the site of the picnic which reminded a guest of picturesque Bad Pyrmont. Frequently since then the site has been contested by authorities (for commercial benefits) and residents (for social services). Macarthur’s ventures (milling, salt boiling and timber) languished, but Thomas Chowne began building boats across Elizabeth Macarthur Bay in 1840, and by 1869 two Scots – Goodlet and Smith – operated their timber yard on Pyrmont Point itself. CSR in the 1870s transformed the waterfront into wharves where ocean-going vessels unloaded sugar.
However, there were swimming baths on the point from 1875, enlarged in 1901 to become the focus of Pyrmont’s social and romantic life. Under the control of the Sydney Harbour Trust, much of the land was occupied by wharves and timber yards, but residents repelled efforts to replace the baths with more wharfage. In 1929 a ship rammed the structure, probably by accident. The Council declined to maintain it, so residents repaired and managed it for 17 years until it collapsed.
As industry, cargo ships and residents abandoned Pyrmont from the 1960s, the Point was largely neglected until 1992 when the NSW Water Police built their headquarters there. Later in the 1990s, as the State and City West developments planned to redevelop Pyrmont as mixed residential and commercial purposes, Pyrmont Point was seen as an appropriate site for high-rise apartments, similar to those being built in Point Street and Jacksons Landing. But in In June 2003, Pyrmont residents rallied to protest the Government’s plans to dispose of one of the last pieces of publicly owned foreshore on Sydney Harbour.
Inspired by Marcelle Hoff, the Friends of Pyrmont Point ran an effective campaign, enlisting the support of leading political figures, Jack Mundey, and other campaigners hardened by the green ban battles of the previous decade. The site was transferred to the Sydney City Council, which paid for, and oversaw, Pyrmont Point’s transformation into the elegant Pirrama Park.