Skip to navigation Skip to content

Pyrmont: A History

49 Pyrmont: A History50 Pyrmont: A History

Pyrmont’s colourful history dates back to 1799, when it was purchased by John Macarthur for a gallon of rum. Since then, the suburb has transformed from a thriving industrial area to one of the most derelict parts of Sydney, to the trendy, diverse community it is now.

The rich industrial history of Pyrmont began in 1815, when Australia’s first steam-powered mill was built in Darling Harbour.

The 1870′s saw the rise of a successful wool industry in the area, with auctions being transferred from London to Sydney. By the 1890′s, wool stores, power stations and mills created employment for thousands of local residents and continued to do so until well into the 1960′s, particularly during World War II. As early as 1900, Pyrmont was the Australian centre for distribution of flour, milk, sugar and wool, and was providing Sydney with all its power for lights and trams. The first Pyrmont Bridge opened in 1858, and a larger bridge with a central swingspan which opened to allow larger ocean craft to pass through opened in 1902.

As well as its thriving wool industry, Pyrmont was the home of Sydney’s best sandstone, creating a highly profitable quarrying business. Some of Sydney’s most reputable and well-known buildings were built using Pyrmont’s yellow block sandstone, including Sydney Town Hall, the Art Gallery of NSW and the University of Sydney.

51 Pyrmont: A History52 Pyrmont: A History

Unfortunately, this industrial boom was not to last. By the early 1980′s freight services had been moved elsewhere and the railway goods yard closed down, leaving thousands unemployed. Even though Darling Harbour was officially opened as an entertainment and leisure centre in 1988, Pyrmont was largely derelict, with its thriving population of thousands reduced to a mere 900 by 1990. Today, Pyrmont is a lively mixture of industry, small businesses and residential areas. An initiative by the government called the ‘Better Cities Programme’ led to great improvements within the suburb, attracting a wide variety of new residents and establishing a pleasant, village-style atmosphere in a place that was almost ravaged beyond repair.

53 Pyrmont: A History54 Pyrmont: A History

What's next?

  • Digg it
  • Save this page
  • Stumble this
  • Subscribe to Pyrmont Village
  • Leave a comment
  • Subscribe to our newsletter

    Receive the latest local offers from Pyrmont businesses in your inbox once a month.

3 Responses to “Pyrmont: A History”

  1. Elizabeth Royle Says:

    Hi there, interested in the early Pyrmont History. My gg grandfather Thomas Joseph O’Brien was publican of the Native Youth Hotel in Union Street Pyrmont (now called Pyrmont Bridge Hotel). I believe he may have also been involved in quarrying in the area as well. Are you open for research? Or do you do research for a fee? I lived in the Central Coast and do not come down to inner Sydney much. Any information you can give me would be greately appreciated or any books you can advise me to read on the early history of the area

    Regards, Elizabeth Royle (nee O’Brien)

  2. Felicity Says:

    Hi Elizabeth,

    I have done a great deal of research into my family history and thought you might be interested – if you don’t already know about it – in

    Here you can access for free every edition of the Sydney Morning Herald for the period 1803-1954.

    I put in ‘Native Youth Hotel’ and found an 1875 death notice for your Thomas O’Brien. It’s at

    Trove can be a bit fiddly but it’s a great resource.

    Good luck!


  3. Elizabeth Royle Says:

    Thanks Felicity for your interest and answer re Thomas O’Brien, I am familiar with Trove, it is an interesting and informative site. Have Thomas death certificate, was interested more in his time at the Native Youth Hotel

    Elizabeth Royle

Search Pyrmont Village