This is what’s left of Rowe Street, a city lane which runs parallel to Martin Place from Pitt Street into the MLC Centre. The street, which originally ran through to Castlereagh Street, was said to be a bustling thoroughfare, with narrow stores including restaurants, cafes and other specialist shops. It was home to much of Sydney’s art, craft, fashion and music culture from the late 1800s to the 1970s. In the years following WWII the influx of European migrants who opened shops on Rowe street meant visitors were introduced to new cultural experiences, including potentially the birth of Sydney’s coffee culture.
The street was originally recorded as Brougham Place, named after the Lord Brougham hostelry which was located opposite the Pitt Street end. As a fun fact, customers of the pub are said to have been given ‘the bird’ by the well-known cockatoo who used to screech at them as they would enter. In 1875 it was renamed as Rowe Street after Thomas Rowe, former Mayor of Manly, Sydney City Councillor and founder of the NSW Institute of Architects.
A quote that’s published on www.environment.nsw.gov.au by author Isadore Brodsky from 1962 which I feel sparks the imagination of what Rowe Street must have been like is ”Rowe Street is the street of the savant employing each of the five senses to understand thoroughly what is to be tasted, savoured, and slowly enjoyed in art and literature in theatre and music, in legend and fact and anecdotal bric-a-brac. …always interested in any fresh expression in art and earnest to encourage it. Rowe Street! You are a gem.”
Researching Rowe Street has made me wish I could have seen it in its day. Sadly much of it was demolished for construction of the present day MLC Centre during the 1970s.
Note: I try to be as accurate as possible but make no guarantees. Please use this information at your own risk.
Image courtesy of the State Library of NSW via Flickr.
Dick Gooding (on right of door) from Lincoln Coffee Lounge & Cafe, Rowe Street, Sydney
Photographed by Brian Bird c. 1948-1951
Rowe Street c. 1947-1953
Image courtesy of the Mitchell Library, State Library of New South Wales
Photographed by Kerry Dundas