• History and Heritage

    What could have been – a State House in Centennial Park!

State House 1887 design

History is full of “what ifs”, and Centennial Park’s history is littered with such “what ifs”. Indeed, what if Sir Henry Parkes got his way fully on his plans for Centennial Park?

Then today we would have an ornate and grand State House within the Park!

The background

It is a well known story that Sir Henry Parkes was instrumental in the creation of Centennial Park, but one key project he envisioned never came to fruition.

History records that in January 1887, when Sir Henry Parkes and his Government gained office, the passage of the Centenary Celebrations Act 1887 was passed smoothly into law.

Although it would probably have also been passed by the previous Government led by Sir Patrick Jennings, the Act contained a curious funding provision – £200,000 was specifically allocated for “…the creation of a State House and approaches thereto…”. The Act approporiated funds for the State House, but did not specifically provide for the park – that was to be funded through land sales along the border of the park.

The State House proposal

So, what exactly would a State House have looked like?

The Dictionary of Sydney refers to the plans as “…a Sydney version of Westminster Abbey”. Not only was it a concept, but a winning design was chosen – and here it is:

State House

State House winning design – John Kirkpatrick, architect

The chosen location of the State House was the northern hill of the Park near Paddington Gates.

While there was some community support for the proposed building, the proposal (according to the Sydney Morning Herald) “…met with a considerable amount of strenuous opposition in Parliament and was so unfavourably commented upon by the public” that it was shelved, to be eventually abandoned by Parkes.

What could have been!


Like these stories from history? Buy our book Centennial Park A History today. It contains over 125 years of great stories and anecdotes from the past. If you think you know Centennial Park, think again!



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