Garden Palace

Coordinates: 33°51′53″S 151°12′47″E / 33.86460°S 151.21293°E / -33.86460; 151.21293

The Garden Palace was a large, purpose-built exhibition building constructed to house the Sydney International Exhibition in 1879 in Sydney, Australia. It was designed by James Barnet and constructed by John Young, at a cost of £191,800 in only eight months.[1] This was largely due to the importation from England of electric lighting, which enabled work to be carried out around the clock.

Garden Palace at the Sydney International Exhibition (1879)

Description and historyEdit

An 1879 engraving
The palace in 1880

A reworking of London's Crystal Palace, the plan for the Garden Palace was similar to that of a large cathedral, having a long hall with lower aisle on either side, like a nave, and a transept of similar form, each terminating in towers and meeting beneath a central dome. The successful contractor was John Young, a highly experienced building contractor who had worked on the Crystal Palace for The Great Exhibition of 1851 and locally on the General Post Office and Exhibition Building at Prince Alfred Park.[2]

Sydney's Garden Palace; an architectural drawing from the 1870s
1882 illustration of the fire.

The dome was 100 feet (30.4 metres) in diameter and 210 feet (65.5 metres) in height. The building was over 244 metres long and had a floor space of over 112,000 metres with 4.5 million feet of timber, 2.5 million bricks and 243 tons of galvanised corrugated iron.[3] The building was similar in many respects to the later Royal Exhibition Building in Melbourne. Sydney's first hydraulic lift, was contained in the north tower, enabling visitors to climb the tower.[2] The Garden Palace was sited at what is today the southwestern end of the Royal Botanic Garden (although at the time it was built it occupied land that was outside the Garden and in The Domain). It was constructed primarily from timber, which ensured its complete destruction when engulfed by fire in the early morning of 22 September 1882. The Garden Palace at that time was used by a number of Government Departments and many significant records were destroyed in the fire,[1] notably records of squatting occupation in New South Wales. Between 500 and 1000 pieces of Sydney Aboriginal artefacts were also lost in this fire.

The only extant remains of the Garden Palace are its carved Sydney sandstone gateposts and wrought iron gates, located on the Macquarie Street entrance to the Royal Botanical Garden.[4] A 1940s-era sunken garden and fountain featuring a statue of Cupid marks the former location of the Palace's dome. Few artefacts from the International Exhibition survived the fire, one of which is a carved graphite statue of an elephant, from Ceylon, now in the collection of the Powerhouse Museum. An 1878 Bechstein concert grand piano, that had won the musical instrument first prize at the Exhibition, but had luckily been removed from the Garden Palace prior to the fire, is also held by the Powerhouse.[5] A number of items are held by the State Library of NSW relating to The Garden Palace include a piece of molten glass from the Garden Palace fire,[6] a handkerchief[7] and a book, The Sydney Garden Palace : a patriotic and historical poem by Frederick Cumming.[8]

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ a b Shirley Fitzgerald (2008). "Garden Palace". Dictionary of Sydney. Dictionary of Sydney Trust. Retrieved 25 May 2016.
  2. ^ a b Morley, Sarah (Spring 2016). "SL Magazine" (PDF).
  3. ^ "The 1879 Sydney International Exhibition". Power House Museum. Retrieved 16 August 2016.
  4. ^ Macey, Richard (15 September 2007). "The palace that became a bonfire". The Sydney Morning Herald. Retrieved 25 May 2016.
  5. ^ Code, Bill (14 September 2016). "Sydney's Garden Palace, the fire and the Bechstein concert grand piano". ABC News. Sydney. Retrieved 18 September 2016.
  6. ^ "Piece of molten glass from the Garden Palace fire 1882". State Library of NSW. Retrieved 7 July 2022.
  7. ^ "Large handkerchief with decorated flower border and view of the Industrial Exhibition Building, the Garden Palace". State Library of NSW. Retrieved 7 July 2022.
  8. ^ Cumming, Frederick (1887). The Sydney Garden Palace : a patriotic and historical poem. Sydney: Stewart & Co.