Eternity Playhouse restoration

We transformed the 132-year-old heritage-listed Burton Street Tabernacle into a modern 200-seat theatre and creative arts centre, which includes a bar and cafe.

Project Status: Completed

What we’re doing

Our newest theatre in the heart of Darlinghurst opened to the public on Sunday 22 September 2013.

We transformed the 132-year-old heritage-listed Burton Street Tabernacle into a modern 200-seat theatre and creative arts centre, which includes a bar and café.

This important project is part of our plan to develop the Oxford Street cultural quarter to support artists and designers.

Eternity Playhouse is leased to the Darlinghurst Theatre Company, which raised the curtain on its first production, 'All My Sons' in November 2013.

About the restoration

Our restoration of the Burton Street Tabernacle and the transformation into Eternity Playhouse has breathed new life back into this unique building. It has created a community and cultural hub in the heart of Darlinghurst.

When we purchased the Burton Street Tabernacle in 2004 it was in need of significant repair. In 2008, following extensive community consultation, we undertook major work to bring the 132-year-old heritage-listed building back to its former glory.

We repaired the roof structure and laid new Welsh slate tiles to match the originals. We restored the original decorative timber ceiling and carried out sewer works, re-pointing of brickwork and general repairs. In 2011, the building's transformation began.

History of Burton Street Tabernacle

Eternity Playhouse has its foundations with the Woolloomooloo Baptist Church, formed in 1872 with the Rev Frederick Hibberd as its first pastor.

The congregation first met in temporary accommodation on lower Bourke Street, but as parishioners grew in the 1870s, the church began to look for a permanent home. In 1884, Woolloomooloo Baptist Church purchased land on the corner of Burton and Palmer streets in Darlinghurst. Parishioner and architect John Stone prepared plans and specifications for a new, purpose-built church. Burton Street Tabernacle was completed in 1887. The building was extended in 1892, and again in 1922, with major internal alterations in 1948.

It was the focus of Baptist worship for over 100 years. It’s associated with a number of Baptist ministers, including Rev Hibberd, Rev William Lamb and Rev John Ridley. It was also associated with members of the broader community such as department store owner William Buckingham and 'pavement scribe' Arthur Stace.

The church initially had a large congregation, but with an ageing population in Darlinghurst, the number of parishioners diminished to around 50 by the 1950s. The decline continued, and the last worship service was held in May 1996.

We acquired the building, which was in a state of disrepair, in 2004.


The words eternity written in calligraphy

The story of Eternity

The story of Arthur Stace chalking ‘Eternity’ on Sydney streets and landmarks over 35 years is well-loved, and the image of his script is iconic.

Inspired by a sermon at the Burton Street Tabernacle, where Rev John Ridley said he wished that he could “shout eternity through the streets of Sydney”, Stace took to the streets with a piece of chalk.

Every day for over 20 years, Stace wrote the word ‘Eternity’ in flowing copperplate on the pavements of Sydney’s streets. It has been claimed he wrote the word over a million times.

Council resolved to rename the Tabernacle ‘Eternity Playhouse’ on 5 December 2011 in tribute to Arthur Stace. His famous 'Eternity' script is replicated throughout the new theatre, marking the building’s transformation into a new cultural destination for Sydney.

Read more about Arthur Stace in the Dictionary of Sydney