Centennial Park is a large public, urban park that
occupies 220 hectares in the Eastern Suburbs of
Sydney. Centennial Park is located 4 kilometres
south-east of the Sydney central business district,
in the City of Randwick. Centennial Park is
also a small residential suburb, on the western
fringe of the parkland, which is part of the local
government area of the City of Sydney.
The government began plans for a celebratory park in 1886 and passed an Act of Parliament in the following year. Some of the grandiose plans for the area, such as a museum and a national convention building, never eventuated. Centennial Park was dedicated by Sir Henry Parkes in January 1888 to celebrate the first 100 years of European settlement in Australia and described by him as 'emphatically the people's park'. The Governor-General, Lord Hopetoun dedicated the park 'to the people of New South Wales forever'.
The land was originally set aside by Governor Lachlan Macquarie for grazing and watering stock. The ponds to the south, known as Lachlan Swamps, were named in his honour and were the chief water supply for Sydney from 1830 to 1880. Water was carried to Hyde Park along a tunnel called Busby's Bore, after its designer John Busby (1765-1857). The tunnel served the needs of Sydney until the Nepean scheme made it redundant in the 1880s. In 1851, it was a scene of a duel between the first Premier of New South Wales, Sturt Donaldson, and the Surveyor-General, Thomas Mitchell. Both men survived to fulfil their duties.
In more recent times, the park has had its share of bad news and publicity. On February 7, 1986, Sallie-Anne Huckstepp was found drowned in the Busby Pond. It was thought that she had been murdered by a well-known Sydney criminal, Neddy Smith, but he was not convicted. The Sydney Morning Herald described her as a "32-year-old gangster's moll, heroin addict and prostitute who mingled with Sydney's most notorious criminals and blew the whistle on crooked cops."
Centennial Park is the largest of the three parks that make up Centennial Parklands. It is 2.20 square kilometres in area, originally swampland, known as Lachlan Swamps and is located adjacent to another large public space, Moore Park. It is administered by the Centennial Park & Moore Park Trust, a NSW Government agency whose responsibilities cover low-lying wetlands, ornamental lakes, pine and native forests, expanses of grass, to playing fields, a golf course, tennis and netball courts and the Entertainment Quarter at nearby Moore Park. It is one of Australia's most famous parks and is listed on the Register of the National Estate.
The Federation Monument, which consists of the Commonwealth Stone (1901) and the Federation Pavilion (1988), is significant as the site of the official ceremony to mark the Federation of Australia and the inauguration of the Commonwealth of Australia on 1 January 1901. The Federation Pavilion, designed by Alexander Tzannes, was erected around the 'Commonwealth Stone' as a permanent monument to Federation, in the Bicentennial Year of European Settlement in 1988. An inscription around the pavilion is from a poem by Bernard O'Dowd, and reads: "Mammon or millenial Eden". The building was renovated and plaques were added to celebrate the Centenary of the Federation of Australia on 1 January 2001.
The Commonwealth Stone is made of sandstone, and it is almost the only remnant of the original pavilion used by Lord Hopetoun. Most of the structure rotted, being made of plaster of Paris; the base survived and is now located in Cabarita Park.
Grand Drive is the circular main road through the park. It runs for 3.8km and is part of the Sydney Marathon course, which was used in the 2000 Summer Olympics. The drive is separated into five concentric circles, with the outer track used for cycling or rollerblading, fourth largest for car driving, third for car parking and many trees, the second is a paved pathway for walking, also used for running, the smallest being a dirt track for horseriding.
McKay Oval Located in the most western area of the park, it is the home ground of Sydney Boys High School for Rugby Union, Soccer and Cricket matches, in the Greater Public Schools Competition. When leased to Sydney Boys High School in 1929, it was a swamp littered with rocks. After the swamp was drained, the rocks were removed mostly by the students, who for their training warmups had to find ten stones. Drainage issues still exist to this day, on occasions where there is heavy rain, winter sports matches are relocated or cancelled. Cricket matches everywhere are always cancelled in light rain. The main oval is currently surrounded by small white fence, which is also the boundary for cricket games, though spectators for the winter sports are allowed inside this boundary and are allowed to sit very close to the field, around 5 metres.
Built adjacent is the Fairland Pavilion, the hosting area for various lunches and afternoon teas, also the location of the canteen, changerooms, scoreboard, first aid, and storerooms for the bulk of the sporting equipment.
The suburb of Centennial Park sits on the western fringe of the parkland and features quality houses on large blocks as well as large multi-unit buildings developed in the 1960s to 1980s on Robertson Road. The suburb developed as a result of a decision to sell off land adjacent to the park to raise money for the park development. One hundred and one acres of land were subdivided in 1904. To ensure high standards of residential development, certain requirements were imposed. No wooden buildings or terrace homes were allowed; brick or stone were mandated, with tile or slate roofs. Between 1905 and 1925, a wide range of substantial, quality homes were built, featuring a mixture of Federation, Arts and Crafts, Victorian and Old English styles. Homes are centred mainly on Martin Road, Robertson Road, Lang Road and Cook Road.
A fine example of the international design 'Arts and Crafts Movement style' is the Crossways, a house of historical significance that was designed by Waterhouse and Lake and built in 1908. The Crossways was built as part of the subdivision of 1904 that created the suburb, and was the home of physician/surgeon Dr Craig Gordon.
Other distinctive homes in the area are Devon in Martin Road, The Bungalow in Robertson Road and the Boom-style Italianate home in Lang Road. The latter was built circa 1890 and features the kind of polychrome brickwork that was fashionable at the time. It is listed on the Register of the National Estate