Martin Place, Sydney

Martin Place, Sydney

Martin Place in 2013
Martin Place street signage

Martin Place is a pedestrian mall in the central business district of Sydney, New South Wales, Australia. Martin Place has been described as the "love heart" of Sydney.[1] As home to the Reserve Bank of Australia, the Commonwealth Bank of Australia, Macquarie Bank, Westpac and other corporations, it is also a centre of business and finance. The Sydney GPO and the Seven Network's Sydney news centre are also located on Martin Place.

Martin Place has become a national Australian icon in popular culture for attracting high-end film and television productions and actors to the area. Martin Place runs between Macquarie Street, and provides entrances to the Martin Place railway station below street level. Other cross streets include Pitt Street, Castlereagh Street, Elizabeth Street and Phillip Street.

The initial "Martin Place" was the section between George Street and Pitt Street, officially opened 1892, and was named in honour of Sir James Martin, the three time Premier of New South Wales and Chief Justice of Supreme Court of New South Wales. Closed to traffic in stages from 1971, Martin Place is surrounded by many heritage buildings and features the 1927 World War I ANZAC Cenotaph, water fountain, entertainment area, railway access and pedestrian seating.


  • History 1
  • Architecture 2
    • Notable buildings 2.1
    • Adjacent buildings 2.2
    • Other features 2.3
  • Transport 3
  • Events 4
  • Appearances in popular culture 5
  • See also 6
  • References 7
  • External links 8


Moore Street/Martin Place circa 1900
Eastern end of Martin Place during the construction of Martin Place station under the street. The exposed backs of buildings on the right (now replaced by the Reserve Bank of Australia building) still bear evidence of the demolitions that extended Martin Place to Macquarie Street in 1935.
Summer flower stalls in Martin Place, 2012. Flower stalls and pop-up stands have long been a fixture in Martin Place, even in its earliest days.

Today's Martin Place was built in several phases. Until the late 19th century, only the section between Pitt Street and Castlereagh Street existed in anything resembling the present form, as a short street named Moore Street.[2] Between Pitt Street and [3] The General Post Office occupied the entire southern frontage of the street.

Both Moore Street and Martin Place became prominent centres of business and finance in Sydney. In 1913, the headquarters of the Commonwealth Bank of Australia was constructed on the corner of Moore Street and Pitt Street.[4] In later years, other banks followed with a range of impressive buildings which still dominate the streetscape. In 1921, Moore Street was renamed as part of Martin Place.[1]

Conscription rallies for World War I took place here.[1] In 1927, a Cenotaph commemorating the WWI dead was erected.[1]

Soon after, the Sydney Municipal Council proposed to extend the street further east towards James Barnet, the building was constructed in stages from 1866 to 1891. Barnet's building features a neo-classical sandstone facade, with a colonnade running around the building at street level. Above the centre of the 100-metre Martin Place facade is the clocktower. This building was the headquarters of the NSW postal system until 1996, when it was sold and refurbished. The building now contains shops, cafes, restaurants, and bars. The Westin hotel and Macquarie Bank office towers stand in the former courtyard, now converted into an atrium.[5] Australia Post maintains a presence in the form of a "Post Shop" at the corner of Martin Place and George Street.

The Bank of Australasia Building (No. 2 Martin Place) is a Romanesque building standing on the corner of George Street and Martin Place. The Bank of Australasia merged into ANZ in 1951. The building has recently been refurbished and will now house retail space.

Challis House (No. 4 Martin Place) stands on land bought in 1906 for £500 per square foot by the University of Sydney from University endowment funds. The building was designed by W. L. Vernon, Government Architect and Robertson and Marks, Architects, and completed in 1907. The building was named Challis House after John Henry Challis, who in 1880 had bequeathed his estate valued at £276,000 (over $30 million in 2011) to the University. This art deco building is adorned with the Sydney University crest above the door, and forms one of the most important parts of the University's property portfolio. In 2002, the university entered a 99-year lease of the property.[6][7]

The Commonwealth Trading Bank Building (No. 5 Martin Place) is on the corner of Martin Place and Pitt Street. Built in 1916, this 12-storey building was designed and project managed by the Sydney architectural firm, J & H.G Kirkpatrick. The building was the first, large-scale all steel-framed "skyscraper" in Australia. Known as the "Sydney Bank" within the Commonwealth Bank, it was built to be the headquarters of the Commonwealth Bank of Australia, which served at the time as Australia's central bank. It is nicknamed the "Money Box Building" due to its depiction on money boxes distributed by the Commonwealth Bank to children starting from 1922.

Martin Place in the 1950s. The high rise building on the corner to the left is the Commercial Travellers Club Building and the 1930 wing of the Australia Hotel next to it. Both buildings were demolished in 1971–72 to make way for the MLC Centre.

The MLC Centre (No. 9 Martin Place) sits mainly upon the site of the Australia Hotel, demolished to make way for this 228-metre, reinforced concrete skyscraper, designed by Harry Seidler. The building is a modernist, octagonal column. At the time of its opening in (1977) it was the tallest reinforced concrete office building in the world, and was the tallest building outside North America. Construction of the building was controversial because it caused the demolition of several historic landmark buildings. Tenants include the Consulate of the United States of America.

The Henry Davis York building.

The Henry Davis York building (No. 38-46 Martin Place) is an 11-storey art-deco building on the corner of Castlereagh Street and Martin Place. It was the former headquarters of MLC, a large finance company taken over by the National Australia Bank in 2000. Its current principal tenant is law firm Henry Davis York. The large, red, carved letters "MLC" are still visible on the clocktower, although a clock is currently missing.

The State Savings Bank building (No. 48 Martin Place), later also owned by the Commonwealth Bank of Australia, has a distinctive terracotta and pink granite Beaux-Arts façade. It was built as the headquarters of the Government Savings Bank of NSW and opened in 1928. The interior features large scagliola columns, extensive use of marble, and a plaster and pressed metal ceiling. The building's square trading hall was originally one of the largest in the world. A stately vault is housed in the basement.

The Australian Provincial Assurance building (No. 53-63 Martin Place) (formerly Overseas Union Bank) is a 14-storey art-deco building on the corner of Elizabeth Street and Martin Place. One of its current tenants is the Lindt concept store and café.

The Colonial Building was the headquarters of the NSW State Bank, which was taken over by Colonial 1996 to form the Colonial State Bank, which itself was taken over in 2000 by the Commonwealth Bank of Australia. This 1986 post-modern building with its dark glass facade features a 36-storey tower atop a 2-storey atrium. The former banking chamber now contains the Sydney newsdesk of the Seven Network's Sydney-based Seven News which is ATN's current flagship programme from its production division. Another ad-hoc "live audience" stands on the street outside the windows every morning for two of the station's breakfast programs, Sunrise and Weekend Sunrise and mid-morning program The Morning Show as well as the other Seven News bulletins.[8]

The Reserve Bank of Australia building [9] is located between Phillip and Macquarie Streets. It houses the headquarters of the Reserve Bank of Australia, Australia's central bank, including a money museum.

The Westpac building (No. 60 Martin Place), located at the eastern end of Martin Place and in front of the Reserve Bank of Australia, with 28 floors extends from Phillip to Macquarie streets. In the ground floor a few retail shops are also located.

Adjacent buildings

  • At the Macquarie Street end, the Sydney Hospital.[10]
  • At the George Street end, the historic Westpac building, and the Commercial Banking Company of Australia building (the bank later merged into National Australia Bank), which currently houses a Burberry store.[11]
  • On Elizabeth Street, the Sun Building was formerly the headquarters of the Sun, an afternoon paper that ceased publication in the 1980s. This skyscraper Gothic building is one of only three buildings in Sydney in this style.
  • On George Street, Société Générale House is American Romanesque in style, and originally housed the Equitable Life Assurance Society of America.

Other features

Cenotaph, Martin Place.

Other features of Martin Place include:

  • The Cenotaph, located between the GPO Building and Challis House, commemorates ANZAC forces who served in World War I, as well as Australians who gave their lives in subsequent conflicts. This was originally built from Moruya granite by stonemasons working on the Sydney Harbour Bridge, and dedicated on 8 August 1927.
  • A water fountain is located on the east side of Pitt Street, near the Commonwealth Bank of Australia building. Behind this fountain is an amphitheatre, which features a stage that can be mechanically raised when required for performances.
  • Entrances to the underground railway station and attached plaza.
  • A Commando Memorial is located in the centre of Martin Place near the eastern end. It commemorates Australian commandos who were killed during World War II.[12]


Stairs leading into Martin Place railway station

George Street, Elizabeth Street, and Castlereagh Street, which cross Martin Place, are all major bus routes in Sydney's CBD. In addition, Martin Place railway station is located underground. Also nearby are St James railway station (near Macquarie Street end) and Wynyard railway station (near George Street end).


Anzac Day Parade on Martin Place in 1930

From its origins as a narrow laneway, Martin Place has over time become the "civic heart" of Sydney.[1] Apart from its central location, the presence of the General Post Office and its attached telegraph office meant that this was the location where important news first arrived in the city. As a result, in earlier decades this was a focal point for gatherings to await or celebrate significant events. The cenotaph was sited on Martin Place outside the General Post Office because this was where crowds gathered in the city at the end of 2000 Summer Olympics, or the apology to the Stolen Generation in 2008. An amphitheatre built into the plaza near Pitt Street has hosted music and cultural events, as well as political protests.

Some regular civic events now held on Martin Place include:

  • An Anzac Day dawn service is held at the cenotaph every year on 25 April.[13]
  • Sydney's largest Christmas tree stands in Martin Place every year. A Christmas concert is held in late November, when the tree is decorated.[14]
  • Martin Place is a major site during the annual Sydney Festival.
  • Outdoor concerts are held in the amphitheatre throughout the year.
  • Visual art displays during Vivid Sydney in late May to early June each year,
Occupy Sydney protests in Martin Place, October 2011

Some recent events which have occurred on the square include:

  • In 1954, a motorcade, with Queen Elizabeth and the Duke of Edinburgh, drove along Martin Place during their first visit to Australia.
  • Martin Place was a live outdoor venue for the Sydney 2000 Summer Olympics featuring 4.8 by 6.4 metre television screens broadcasting live coverage.[15]
  • The "Occupy Sydney" protest movement "occupied" a section of Martin Place close to the Macquarie Street end from 15 October 2011. Some protesters were removed on 23 October 2011.[16] A series of evictions by authorities and re-establishment by protestors occurred in July 2013, ending with the final eviction of the "camp" on 9 July 2013.[17][18]
  • 2012 Sydney anti-Islam film protests – On 15 September 2012, around 300 Muslims protested in response to the anti-Islam film Innocence of Muslims in Sydney CBD, including Martin Place. The event escalated into scenes of violent confrontation between police and various protesters, particularly around the areas of Martin Place and Hyde Park.
  • 2014 Sydney hostage crisis – On 15–16 December 2014, Martin Place was placed into lock-down after an incident involving an Islamic gunman at the Lindt Café, with 18 people taken hostage. The armed siege has killed three people—two victims and the perpetrator himself.[19] After the crisis it was reported that bogus Buddhist monks appeared targeting mourners over donations.[20]

Appearances in popular culture

Lloyd Rees fountain featured in the film The Matrix.
Channel Seven studios



See also


  1. ^ a b c d e A city's heart builds on a sense of place, Sydney Morning Herald, 1 October 2007
  2. ^ "Moore Street (now Martin Place)". Powerhouse Museum Collection Photostream. Retrieved 4 April 2015. 
  3. ^ a b c d Dictionary of Sydney: Martin Place
  4. ^ "Commonwealth Trading Bank Building, 108-120 Pitt St, Sydney, NSW, Australia (entry AHD1837)".  
  5. ^ "No. 1 Martin Place".  
  6. ^ "Auditor General's Report to Parliament 2002 Volume Three – University of Sydney" (PDF). NSW Auditor General's Department. Archived from the original (pdf) on 30 August 2007. Retrieved 15 July 2007. 
  7. ^ Notes on Challis House. Sydney University Archives: Reference File no. 214. 
  8. ^ "Seven news bunkers down".  
  9. ^ "Location of the Reserve Bank of Australia".  
  10. ^ "Location of Sydney Hospital". South Eastern Sydney and Illawarra Area Health Service. Archived from the original on 31 December 2006. Retrieved 22 March 2007. 
  11. ^ "Burberry Opens Sydney Flagship Store". Yahoo 7. 
  12. ^ UBC Web Design. "Commando Memorial – Monument Australia". 
  13. ^ "ANZAC Day".  
  14. ^ "Martin Place Christmas Concert and Tree Lighting". City of Sydney. Retrieved 24 October 2011. 
  15. ^ "The Official Report of the XXVII Olympiad, Sydney 2000 Volume 1 – Preparing for the Games" (PDF).  
  16. ^ "Occupy Sydney protesters vow to return".  
  17. ^ "Sydney Occupy Site Dismantled Again".  
  18. ^ Rebuilding following the Third July 2013 Eviction of Occupy Sydney, Occupy Sydney, 9 July 2013
  19. ^ "Sydney siege: Gunman takes hostages in Lindt café".  
  20. ^ "Fake Buddhist monks target Martin Place mourners for donations". Retrieved 31 December 2014. 
  21. ^ "Stunt chopper flies into real-life film set in Sydney CBD".  
  22. ^ "Sydney a star as Superman Returns".  
  23. ^ "The New Mole".  
  24. ^ "This Week's Roadblock".  
  25. ^ "Still shot of Dave Lepeska walking through Martin Place".  

External links

  • GPO Sydney
  • Martin Place architecture
  • Martin Place Cenotaph at the Register of War Memorials in New South Wales website.
  • "Martin Place". ] CC-By-SA [ 

No. 1 Martin Place

Notable buildings

Martin Place has a large collection of buildings of various styles, from neo-classical to contemporary.

Panoramic view of the western end of Martin Place: the General Post Office (No. 1) is on the right, the Bank of Australasia Building (No. 2) and Challis House (No. 4) are on the left.


A number of the street's older buildings were demolished in this period to make way for modernist buildings. The most prominent of these is the MLC Centre, designed by Harry Seidler.

The increasingly important role of Martin Place as the "heart" or "town square" of Sydney (see "Events" below) led to calls for the street to be pedestrianised. This was done progressively from 1971 until 1979, when the whole street became a pedestrian mall. The closure of the street to traffic was partly timed to coincide with the construction of Martin Place railway station under the eastern section of the street. The station also opened in 1979.[3] Leo Port, the Lord Mayor of Sydney was an advocate of civic design, and was partly responsible for the pedestrianisation of Martin Place and Sydney Square.