Whether your taste runs to the modernist or whether you prefer classical, Sydney’s Historic Houses Trust has a sample that will enlighten and entertain.
Elizabeth Farm contains Australia’s oldest building. Begun in 1793, it was the home of John and Elizabeth Macarthur, early sheep farmers. The farm was the birthplace of the now world-renowned Australian wool industry.
Visitors can get a good feel for what life was like in the early 19th century, in a region that knew few comforts. But there were a few. There’s an 1830s garden, recreated, as well as a tearoom that serves Devonshire tea and lunch.
The house has two sections, a servants quarters of eight rooms, and the main house with 15. Come sit beneath the shady veranda and imagine what life was like in the rough country 200 years ago.
Elizabeth Farm is located in Rosehill, near Parramatta.
Hyde Park Barracks
London isn’t the only city to have a Hyde Park, though the one in Sydney is named after that more famous site. Here visitors can see the building that was home to convict men from 1819 to 1848 who were working off their sentences by laboring. It later became an immigration point for young girls, still later an asylum and has several other uses.
The Greenway Gallery inside holds exhibits on Australian history and culture. But the building exterior is just as much an exhibit. The orange brick building is an outstanding example of architecture of the period.
Hyde Park Barracks is located at Queens Square, Macquarie Street.
Elizabeth Bay House
Elizabeth Bay House looks out over the magnificent Sydney Harbor (technically called Port Jackson). Inside, visitors can view the exquisite 19th century furnishings.
Designed by the then-Colonial Secretary the ground floor comprises seven rooms. Here you can see the elegant yellow couch and multi-colored rugs that were the quintessence of 1840s style. Or, wander through the maid’s room and the dining room and imagine what it was like to be a servant in such an elegant home.
Ease through the Library and Drawing Room to view the Macleay botany and insect collections, painstakingly gathered from the local area. Then watch the video with actors portraying the family and get a deeper understanding of their daily lives.
Tour the grounds and take in the wonderful colonial style house, a veritable mansion of the time and place. Admire the simplified Greek style with its prototypical columns and balcony over the entrance.
Originally set among a 54 acre garden, take a trip back in Australia’s history and imagine how ‘the other half lived’ during those days.
Elizabeth Bay House is at 7 Onslow Avenue, Elizabeth Bay. The house is an easy five minute walk from the Kings Cross train station. Or, take the 311 bus from Circular Quay and be let off at the front door.
Rose Seidler House
What a difference a hundred years makes! Take a trip to the Rose Seidler house, completed in 1950. A modernist landmark in Australian architecture, it was the first commission of the owners’ son.
Set in natural bushland, the house makes a stark contrast to the surroundings, with the panoramic views of Ku-ring-gai National Park.
Fully restored to the original, it features the minimal color scheme and open floor plan typical of the period. The original furniture helps complete the look, with its simple, straightforward style.
Rose Seidler House is 20km/12mi northwest of downtown Sydney in the suburb of Wahroonga.
From only a few years after the first European settlers landed to the latest in Australian modern, Sydney’s Historic Houses offer something for everyone. Come more than once. You won’t see everything in one trip.