On 1 January 1901, over 60,000 people stood in Centennial Park to witness the birth of the modern nation of Australia. When the official party arrived, all eyes were on one structure – the Federation Pavilion.

But, wait, that’s not the Federation Pavilion we have in Centennial Park today. So, where did the original Federation Pavilion go?

Before we tell that tale, let’s start with an image…of The Wiggles.

 

Screenshot from The Wiggles (Big Red Car)

Screenshot from The Wiggles (Big Red Car)

 

At the outset of the film clip to The Wiggles smash hit song “Big Red Car“, there is a three-second glimpse of the band driving along a road. In the background is a quite anonymous looking structure.

That, would you believe, was the same structure that 60,000 people were looking at in Centennial Park on 1 January 1901!

 

How the Federation Pavilion lost its central importance

During the inauguration of the Federation of Australia on that day in 1901, the suitably ornate-looking pavilion was built for the official signing of the documents and the swearing-in of Australia’s first Government (incredibly, you can actually watch this moment online here).

And, up close, it did indeed look ornate…

 

Federation Pavilion looking its best on 1 January 1901

Federation Pavilion looking its best on 1 January 1901

 

Despite the original Federation Pavilion being an imposing 14 metre high, octagonal, domed structure (richly decorated with bas-relief castings of native flora and the imperial coat of arms), the reality was that it was made largely of plaster of Paris!

The plaster pavilion deteriorated rapidly and was removed from the Park in 1903. However, instead of disposing of the structure, the Council of Concord purchased it and moved it to Cabarita Park (in the Sydney suburb of Cabarita).

Over the years the structure was painted and added to for aesthetics and safety, and here it is in full glory as it stands today…

 

The original Federation Pavilion (image from Local Studies Collection, City of Canada Bay Library Service)

The original Federation Pavilion (image from Local Studies Collection, City of Canada Bay Library Service)

 

If you want to see this little known piece of Australian history yourself:

…or just sit back and enjoy The Wiggles classic (with its fleeting glimpses of our national treasure!)

 

 

More information

 

– posted by Craig Easdown

 

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