Dr. Johnson, with the memory of countless nights spent at the Mitre and the Crown and Anchor, once remarked that
"a tavern chair was the throne of human felicity." If we had possessed a Johnson in Sydney in the 'twenties there
would have been many references in his indispensable Boswell to the Sydney Hotel, the site of which is the southern
corner of George and Grosvenor streets. Great steel latticing is pushing its way to the skies at this moment
on the spot as the framing for the new offices of the Union Steamship Company. The site, however, has round it far
more interesting associations than that of a well-known tavern. In fact, to begin at the beginning of its
history, we must go back to the First Fleet and 1788. With Governor Phillip there came, as
Lieutenant-Governor, Major Ross, and that gentleman selected this spot as the site of his house. If one could push
on one side the buildings in front of it one could see what excellent taste the major displayed.At our feet would
be the waters of the Cove, and from these we could lift our eyes to behold the glorious length of the Harbour to
the Heads. The building was started in April, 1788, and Collins, in referring to it, says: "One face of which was
to be in the principal street of the intended town." This entry is interesting, for it marks for us where Phillip's
noble street of 200 feet width was to run.
It stood on the southern corner of
George and Grosvenor streets. Thesketch was made at the time it was occupied by Lieutenant-Governor Paterson.
In front is the parade ground with a squad of soldiers at
drill.The house afterwards became the Sydney Hotel.
In the plan of July, 1788 the building is shown in position to the new street, which was to extend from the
vicinity of the present Petty's Hotel past the site of the house to the Cove in a straight line. The
intersecting street, which the Lieutenant-Governor's house fronted, ran at right angles to the principal
street. These streets never came into being. George street pushed its way past the house, and became the
principal thoroughfare, but while the house stood it was always a reminder of Phillip's intention, for it ran
obliquely across the corner lot. After Major Ross's departure, Major Grose, his successor, became the tenant.
This gentleman evidently regarded himself as the owner, for on his departure, in 1794, he leased the premises to
his successor for fourteen years. Captain Paterson, that "simple, good-natured man," as Macquarie describes
him, was one of the most interesting tenants of the house.
Peron, the French navigator, who visited Sydney in 1802, referring to the building, says that behind it "is a
vast garden, which is worth the attention both of the philosopher and the naturalist, on account of the great
number of useful vegetables which are cultivated in it, and which have been procured from every part of the world
by its present distinguished possessor, Mr. Paterson, a distinguished traveller, and a member of the Royal Society
of London." Portion of the house and the garden may be seen in the illustration "Sydney in 1813," on page 17.
After Paterson left the colony we find Garnham Blaxcell in possession. This gentleman, in 1817, found
himself in such financial difficulties that he just quietly faded away one night, and was seen no more in New South
Wales. Following him as owner and occupier we have Sir John Jamison, of whom we shall hear more in our next
chapter. Sir John let the premises, in 1820, to Mr. Stilwell, who opened it as the Sydney Hotel and Coffee
Palace. This gentleman reigned only a few months when he was succeeded as tenant by the Superintendent of Police,
who gave place in December, 1822, to Mr. William Cummings. This gentleman revived the Sydney Hotel, and it was
while he reigned as boniface that the Sydney Hotel became the leading hotel of Sydney. It was a place of
meetings, as well as a meeting house.
Mr. Cummings moved to Macquarie-place in January, 1828. in January, 1831, Sir John Jamison sold the
materials of the old building and the site was sold in the following September.
The purchaser of the site was Mr. Samuel Lyons, who erected, in 1833, that fine block of buildings, in which was
his auction room, to which Sir James Fairfax recently referred to in his memories of old Sydney. "Lyons built it,
and there sold everything that might be sold under an an auctioneer's hammer. It was the birthplace of many
enterprises.' Lyons's buildings were demolished in 1912, and the site now enters upon a new phase of existence.
PORTION OP SAM LYONS' AUCTION ROOMS.
They stood at the corner of George street and Grosvenor street. The
Agricultural Society of N.S.W. was founded here, and its sign is visible on the second floor. The
photograph was taken in 1871