History of Fitzroy Gardens

In 1961 the El Alamein Fountain was built, and its distinctive dandelion shape soon became a symbol of Kings Cross.

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Fitzroy Gardens is at 60-64 Macleay Street, Potts Point.

This area was part of the 1841 subdivision of Colonial Secretary Alexander Macleay’s 54 acre Elizabeth Bay Estate. The first stage of the park was the site of Osterley at 62 Macleay Street which was built in the 1870s and demolished in 1927. It was resumed and landscaped in 1939 and was originally to be named after Civic Reform Alderman Ernest Tresidder, but political considerations intervened and the name was changed to Fitzroy Gardens after the Fitzroy ward of the City of Sydney, originally from NSW Governor Sir Charles FitzRoy (1846-1855).

The park was enlarged with the purchase of Maramanah in 1943. This house was built in the 1860s and for many years had been the home of the Hollander family, who were immortalised in Robin Eakin’s 1965 memoir Aunts up the Cross. Maramanah was demolished in 1954 at the same time as the council resumed Tenilba at 60 Macleay Street.

In 1959 the Florence Bartley Library was built on the site of Tenilba. In 1961 the El Alamein Fountain was added to the park, and its distinctive dandelion shape soon became a symbol of Kings Cross. Further work in 1971 included the paving of the park to eliminate the dustbowl created by its large trees. The most prominent are a Chinese elm and Canary Island palm, both dating from around 1920, and a Port Jackson fig and Hill’s weeping fig.

An historic photo of a road with a car and tall buildings.
1-13 Elizabeth Bay Rd, 1960Image: City of Sydney Archives (unique ID: A-00011926)

In 1975, Elizabeth Bay Road was closed to traffic and along with the former sites of 1-13 Elizabeth Bay Road was added to Fitzroy Gardens increasing its size by one-third.

Kings Cross was the favoured site for Sydney’s New Year’s Eve revellers from 1936 until 1976 when the first harbour fireworks drew crowds away to The Rocks and Circular Quay.

Throughout its history, Fitzroy Gardens always had 2 distinctly different uses. By day, mothers and children, the elderly and, more recently, dog owners frequented the park. By night it was long the haunt of people visiting Kings Cross nightclubs and during the 1980s it became a notorious haunt of young male prostitutes and their clients.

Florence Bartley Library

Built on the site of 60 Macleay Street and opened in 1959. It was named after the wife of Sydney Lord Mayor Reg Bartley. The building, designed by Sydney City Council architect’s branch, won the NSW RAIA Sulman Award for Public Buildings in 1958. It was demolished in 1997 in association with the Rex Hotel redevelopment.

Kings Cross Police Station

Built on the site of 1-13 Elizabeth Bay Road in 1979 as a subsidiary station to Darlinghurst which closed in 1987. Kings Cross police station was substantially upgraded and enlarged in 1998.

El Alamein Fountain

Designed by Bankstown architects Robert Woodward and Phil Taranto who won the main prize of £500 in the City Council fountains contest in 1959. It was named to commemorate the deeds of the 9th Division of the AIF during World War II, and opened by Lord Mayor Harry Jensen on 18 November 1961.

Sculpture

The substantial bronze sculpture Angled Wheels of Fortune was designed and donated by property developer Dennis Wolanski. It was unveiled on 26 April 1988 by the Council’s Chief Commissioner Sir Eric Neal.