Macquarie Place Park is on the corner of Bridge and Loftus streets in Sydney's central business district. This triangular plot of land was a rare open space within the town that grew up at Sydney Cove after the first European settlement in 1788. The origin of the name was the street called Macquarie Place, now incorporated in the park, which ran from the Tank Stream bridge to Kings Wharf.
This triangle was originally surrounded by the residences of the governor and civil officers (judge advocate, chaplain and surveyor) and by the colony's store buildings. On the side next to Sydney Cove, town leases were held by some of the most prominent merchants in the colony, including Simeon Lord, Thomas Randall, William Chapman, Andrew Thompson and Thomas and Mary Reibey.
One town lease occupying the actual park site was held by Shadrach Shaw, a clerk in the Transfer Office of the Bank of England who arrived in Sydney in 1792 after being transported for trying to defraud a customer. He was the first external trader in the colony, distributing goods imported by the New South Wales Corps officers during the 1790s. He sold his business to Simeon Lord when his sentence expired in 1798 and he returned to England.
Macquarie Place was formalised as an open space with the erection of an obelisk in 1818 by Governor Macquarie to mark the place from which public roads in the colony were measured. A sandstone Doric fountain was also erected the following year. A sandstone dwarf wall and iron palisade fence were built around the site, and although the railings were removed between 1905 and 1910, part of the wall remains.
The construction of Circular Quay from 1839 to 1847 resulted in the extension of streets including Castlereagh Street (now Loftus Street) which took up a large part of the reserve so that the obelisk, which was once in the centre, was relocated to one side. Governor Macquarie's Doric fountain, designed by Francis Greenway, was demolished to make way for a statue of Thomas Sutcliffe Mort, a leading Sydney businessman. He was involved in auctioneering and pastoral finance, owner of the largest commercial dry dock in Australia, a pioneer of frozen meat exports and a founder of the Australian Mutual Provident Society (AMP). He died in 1878 and the statue, by sculptor Pierce Francis Connelly, was erected in 1883.
The men's lavatory, built in 1907, is a fine example of Edwardian civic design. It is an underground structure surmounted by a metal and glass dome and surrounded by handsome masonry screen walls, with late Art Nouveau ironwork over the entrance. It is currently decommissioned and filled with sand, a material which was chosen to allow for its future removal.
The ornate canopy drinking fountain in the park was one of eight ordered from Macfarlane's in Scotland in 1870. This example, bearing the warning 'keep the pavement dry', was relocated to Macquarie Place in the 1970s, when the park was enlarged in the opposite direction with the closure of Macquarie Place (the street) and its incorporation into the park.
Also in the park are the anchor and cannon from HMS Sirius. Due to the efforts of Sir Francis Sutton, the anchor was salvaged in 1905 from the 1790 wreck of HMS Sirius on Norfolk Island, and erected in the park in 1907. The nearby cannon from the same ship was used as a signal gun at South Head from 1810, and joined the anchor in Macquarie Place, also in 1907.
The sandstone gate piers and curbing on Bridge Street were erected by Walter Renny, Mayor of Sydney in 1869. The small bronze fountain by sculptor Gerald Lewers, completed in 1960, was a memorial to sculptor John Christie Wright who was killed at Bullecourt, France, in 1917 during World War I.
Plantings in this park are dominated by two Moreton Bay figs on the western boundary. Two plane trees were planted in the Loftus/Hunter street corner by the Queen and Duke of Edinburgh in 1954, to mark the beginning of the Remembrance Driveway from Sydney to Canberra.