NO. 4 POLICE STATION, THE ROCKS
Walking past the former Police Station on George Street in The Rocks, its layered history is not immediately apparent. Start digging and all kinds of interesting stories appear. Originally the location of the first hospital in Australia, the site then became the department of the police, tasked with keeping law and order amoungst gangs in The Rocks.
The building at 127-129 George Street, was designed in 1882 by Government Architect James Barnet. The building is designed in the form of a Palladian Water Gate. A water gate was a fortified gate, leading directly from a castle or town wall directly onto a quay, riverside or harbour. Given the proximity of the police station to Circular Quay, this might explain the consideration in the design by Barnet. Over the archway, are Queen Victoria's initials with a lion's head holding a police truncheon in its mouth; a symbol of British justice and authoritative power. It housed offices for the police department as well as cells for prisoners. There was an outdoor exercise yard at the back, which was eventually removed to make room for Nurses Walk which runs behind the building. In November 1974, the building was decommissioned as a police station. It went through a period of different tenancies before sitting vacant for a number of years.
In the late 1960s, the Sydney Harbour Foreshore Authority was established by the government, with the goal of preserving Sydney's heritage and cultural precincts. A large portion of The Rocks was saved from demolition, and today we can witness the layers of history dating back to the early days of the first settlers.
The building remained largely intact from its era as a police station. Recently, it has undergone a sympathetic, sustainable renovation. The building’s general form, configuration and scale was retained, maintained and conserved: including metal cell doors and window grilles. Modern construction of steel and glass improves the function of the building, while differentiating between the old and the new. A cafe now occupies the space which means it is possible for customers to sit and have a coffee in the same space where prisoners once sat and dreamed of freedom. Now that's what you call progress!