While no longer a post office, the exterior of this building, thankfully, retains its classical elegance and beauty. The interior which now, in the main, comprises the lobby, bars and restaurants of the Westin Sydney Hotel, retains a significant number of architectural features of the former post office but it’s just not the same and to me more resembles the recreated architecture of a Las Vegas casino than the original building interior that it actually was. That said, what’s here is better than nothing, and I do especially like that part of the original ceiling which remains accessible to pubic view as depicted in picture four attached.

The Victorian Italian Renaissance building, built in stages between 1866 and 1891, was designed by Colonial Architect, James Barnet. It was without doubt Barnet’s most notable work but also his most controversial given the choice of carvings for the ground floor arch spandrels on the Pitt Street side of the building. I have written a separate review on the GPO spandrels.

Built on a grand scale and at huge expense, the GPO dominated the streetscape and the Sydney skyline for decades and spoke, and continues to speak, volumes of the prosperity Australia enjoyed in the wake of Australia’s late 1800s gold rush. Prior to the construction of the Harbour Bridge and the Opera House the GPO was Sydney’s equivalent to London’s Houses of Parliament and Paris’ Eiffel Tower.

For me one of the most stunning aspects of the Pyrmont stone building is the statue of Queen Victoria and the Royal Crest on the Martin Place side of the building. The detail here is exquisite and worthy a close look.

It is interesting to note that the 73 metres high clock tower (originally added in 1891) over the Queen’s statue was taken down during World War II for fear of it being hit in an air raid and collapsing and destroying the trunk telephone exchange located below. This would have severed vital communication links with Europe at a rather key time given Australia’s involvement in WWII. The Tower was rebuilt in 1964.

An additional three faced clock (1880) can be seen attached to the George Street side of the building. Also visible on the George Street facade is a pre-cursor to the State’s current coat of arms. This was added in 1887 on the eve of the colony’s 1888 Centennial celebrations.

While having a look at the interior of the building do go down to the basement and visit the small Tank Stream Museum. The oddly named Tank Stream ran from where Hyde Park is now to to-day’s Circular Quay via where the GPO is now located. It was Sydney’s original drinking water source when the colony of New South Wales was established in 1788. See my separate review on the Tank Stream and the Tank Stream Museum.

The building served as Sydney’s General Post Office until 1996.

Address: 1 Martin Place
Directions: On Martin Place between Pitt and George Streets

For my next Sydney – City – BRIDGE STREET TO MARTIN PLACE review click HERE.
For other Sydney reviews click HERE.

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