History of Green Square

Waterloo Derelict industrial site for lease

The sand hills, fresh water creeks and wetlands of Green Square were an abundant source of food for the Gadigal people of the Eora nation who are the traditional owners of this land.

Their paths criss-crossed the country as they hunted and collected and celebrated the land.

In the early 1800s the area’s plentiful water supply attracted local manufacturers searching for power sources for their mills.

Flour milling, paper and textile making and brewing came first. By the 1850s, brickworks, candle and soap factories, pottery works, tanneries and wool washing businesses were thriving.

The rich soils also attracted market gardeners and by the 1870s Chinese market gardeners dominated the trade.

Green Square and the neighbouring Ashmore estate became Sydney’s industrial powerhouse in the 1920s attracting Irish, Greek, Italian, Lebanese, Ukrainian and Vietnamese immigrants who worked in its factories. Among the production of glass, bricks, furniture, pickles and cordials, national icons grew such as Akubra hats and Minties, Jaffas and Fantales lollies.

Widening of Bourke Street, corner Elizabeth & Bourke Streets, Zetland
Widening of Bourke Street, Zetland. Corner Elizabeth & Bourke Streets, Zetland. Image: City of Sydney Archives 012/012107.

The factories and their shift work were part of the rhythm of life with workers living in tightly packed terraces.

In the 1970s and 80s the de-centralisation of manufacturing led to the decline of industry and (thankfully) the Zetland incinerator – all have now gone.

Main image: Waterloo derelict industrial site for lease. City of Sydney Archives 057/057889.

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