The Garden Palace – A Forgotten Icon

This photo is courtesy of State Records NSW. It shows the what was once the pride of Sydney called the Garden Palace which dominated the city’s skyline for 3 years in the late 1800s.

At a length of over two football fields it was located in a section of today’s Royal Botanical Gardens. It was larger than the QVB and stretched between the State Library and Conservatorium of Music.

The Garden Palace was built to host the Sydney International Exhibition in 1879. It was modelled off London’s Crystal Palace and built in only 8 months due to electric lighting from England allowing work to be done at night.

Construction cost ₤191,800. It had a long hall with lower aisles on each site. It also had a large dome in the centre which was 100 feet (30m) in diameter and 210 feet (65m) high. Directly under the dome was a large bronze statue of Queen Victoria.

The building was a grand structure, made predominantly of timber. This however contributed to its destruction by fire in 1882 in what is said to have been as horrifyingly grand as the building itself. It included rivers of lead, a volcano like scenario when the dome fell and the scary image of the Queen Victoria statue engulfed by flames. The building was destroyed in under an hour, with it’s cause remaining a mystery.

Since the building was used for government departments, many important documents were lost including squatters records and the 1881 Census records.

The only remains of the Garden Palace today being the sandstone gateposts and wrought iron gates at the Macquarie Street entrance to the Gardens. A fountain featuring a statue of Cupid is located at the former location of the dome.

Photo courtesy of the State Library of NSW -  Queens Statue, Garden Palace Building, Sydney, between 1879-1882 / [NSW Government Printer ?]  Sydney has two large bronze statues of Queen Victoria but this one no longer exists. The "Garden Palace" which housed the International Exhibition between 1879-1882, was destroyed by a fire with flames which could be seen for 20 miles. A pond in the Botanic Gardens marks the spot where the statue stood under the dome.
Photo courtesy of the State Library of NSW –
Queens Statue, Garden Palace Building, Sydney, between 1879-1882 
Sydney has two large bronze statues of Queen Victoria but this one no longer exists. The “Garden Palace” which housed the International Exhibition between 1879-1882, was destroyed by a fire with flames which could be seen for 20 miles. A pond in the Botanic Gardens marks the spot where the statue stood under the dome.
Photo courtesy of the State Library of NSW - The International Exhibition, Sydney, from Lady Macquarie's Chair, 1879-1880 / photographed by C. Bayliss, 419 George Street [Sydney]
Photo courtesy of the State Library of NSW – The International Exhibition, Sydney, from Lady Macquarie’s Chair, 1879-1880 / photographed by C. Bayliss, 419 George Street [Sydney]
Photo courtesy of the Powerhouse Museum - The Garden Palace: Macquarie Street entrance of the Garden Palace
Photo courtesy of the Powerhouse Museum – The Garden Palace: Macquarie Street entrance of the Garden Palace
Photo courtesy of the Powerhouse Museum - The Garden Palace: the South Nave (taken from the Dome)
Photo courtesy of the Powerhouse Museum – The Garden Palace: the South Nave (taken from the Dome)
Photo courtesy of the Powerhouse Museum - The Garden Palace: statue of Her Majesty the Queen
Photo courtesy of the Powerhouse Museum – The Garden Palace: statue of Her Majesty the Queen

Photo courtesy of State Records NSW - Construction of the Garden Palace [NRS 4481 SH1168] On September 22nd 1882 the Garden Palace fire occurred. The Garden Palace was built in only eight months to house the Sydney International Exhibition in 1879 in the southwestern end of the Royal Botanic Gardens. At the time of the fire a number of government departments housed records in the Palace so that when fire completely engulfed the timber building a number of significant documents, such as the 1881 Census, were destroyed.
Photo courtesy of State Records NSW – Construction of the Garden Palace
[NRS 4481 SH1168]
On September 22nd 1882 the Garden Palace fire occurred. The Garden Palace was built in only eight months to house the Sydney International Exhibition in 1879 in the southwestern end of the Royal Botanic Gardens. At the time of the fire a number of government departments housed records in the Palace so that when fire completely engulfed the timber building a number of significant documents, such as the 1881 Census, were destroyed.
Photo courtesy of State Records NSW - Garden Palace ruins after fire, taken from Garden Palace Grounds
Photo courtesy of State Records NSW – Garden Palace ruins after fire, taken from Garden Palace Grounds
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