Sydney Architecture Images- Gone but not forgotten



Corner of George and Campbell Streets (Haymarket district).


724 George Street Corner of George and Campbell Streets (Haymarket district).


Built-  1885  Demolished- ca.1920s


Victorian Italianate


Rendered brick Stone


Summary Opened as the Haymarket Academy in 1884, Frank Smith bought the building in 1885 and converted it into the Alhambra Music Hall. After he was forced out in 1892 by the economic depression, the theatre was leased such entrepreneurs as Harry Rickards (1893), St John and Wilson (1898/99) and for most of the 1900s and 1910s by the Pugliese family. The Alhambra was sold in 1921 and briefly operated as a cinema (The Melba) before becoming a storehouse for Mick Simmons.

(1885-ca.1920s) Corner of George and Campbell Streets (Haymarket district).

Situated at the north east corner of George and Campbell streets in the Sydney's Haymarket district the Alhambra Music Hall site had previously been used as a corn exchange and later the Peacock Inn before being turned into the Haymarket Academy in June 1884. The following year hotelier and sports promoter Frank Smith bought the building and converted it into a 900 seat variety theatre (it seated 1000 after being remodeled in 1887). After being opened on 25 May 1885, the theatre provided great opportunities for local performers, with most of the country's leading performers of the 1880s appearing there at some stage. Losses incurred during the economic depression forced Smith to pull out of the venture in 1892, after which it was briefly operated by his former manager Harry Barrington.

During the remainder of the 1890s, the Alhambra was leased out to a number of entrepreneurs, including Harry Rickards (1893) and Wilson and St John (1898/99). In the early 1900s the theatre was taken over by the Pugliese family who initially presented a waxworks exhibit and Sunday concerts there. The Puglieses' association with the Alhambra continued for 15 years, during which time they oversaw the production of various theatrical enterprises, including vaudeville, revues, drama, pantomimes and films. Among the managers/producers to be engaged by the family during the 1910s were Harry Barrington (1913) and Herbert Linden (ca. 1919). The Alhambra was sold in 1921 and briefly operated as a cinema (The Melba) before becoming a storehouse for Mick Simmons.

[Source: Australian Variety Theatre Archive]

The HAYMARKET ACADEMY, also known as the ACADEMY OF MUSIC, was behind buildings on the corner of George and Campbell Streets in Sydney's Haymarket. It was originally a bazaar or auction room, but in 1884 it was converted to a concert hall, with a small stage at one end. It seated six hundred patrons, and opened on 28 July as the Haymarket.

One year later it was again altered and became the ALHAMBRA MUSIC HALL. The hall was eighty two feet long and forty feet wide with a gallery above the auditorium. By 1887 it also had a proscenium arch around the stage. Five stone cottages behind the building were used for dressing rooms and other needs.

The Alhambra, which was now licensed for about eight hundred people, was Sydney's first true music hall. It was a variety house which did not serve food and drink. It was a popular venue, attracting audiences both of country visitors and locals, including the well-to-do from Potts Point. It ceased to operate as a theatre in 1897, and was possibly used as a market or store until 1908, but it was then revived and operated until the first World War. The building was later used as a cinema before it was demolished.


E. Irvin, Dictionary of the Australian Theatre 1788-1914 (Sydney, Hale & Iremonger, 1985)
Ross Thorne, Theatre Buildings in Australia to 1905, 2 vols (Sydney, Architectural Research Foundation, University of Sydney, 1971)
R. Waterhouse, From Minstrel Show to Vaudeville: The Australian Popular Stage 1788-1914 (Kensington, University of New South Wales Press, 1990)



From SYDNEY MORNING HERALD, Saturday 19 January, 1929
As the premises in George-street, near the Haymarket, now occupied by Messrs. Palrner and Son, Ltd .. are to be sold by auction to- day, a timely interest attaches to tho oil painting, illustrated elsewhere in this isssue, showing the same premises and their surroundings in 1858. The original painting, which is by G. Verdau~ belongs to Mr. Alfred Byrne, who was born in 1848, close to this very spot. :Mr. William Byrne, his father, had shifted his business premises thence in 1836 from the site of the present Haymarket Theatre, so as to be within the toll bar. The toll bar at that time stood where the Square, and Compass Hotel is situated now.
Mr. Alfred Byrne can remember vividly the “hay days” and the sales of wild horses, when the crowds ranged round the saleyard fence went into transports of delight at seeing some buckjumper meet his match, or some fiery animal being roped securely with a noose and prop.
At that time the Haymarket proper was a space of land extending between George, Elizabeth, Hay.and Campbell streets. The selling building shown in the painting had arches to allow drays to enter, and was surmounted by four large clock faces. On the George-street frontage there was a pump and a large water-trough cut out of stone. The weighbridge stood on the site of the present Capitol Theatre.
“Between Pitt and Elizabeth streets,” went on Mr. Byrne, -ran a line of stockyards, with a passage up the middle of them. The first of these yards, close to Pitt-street, was Sydney pound. On fine sale days the spectators had fun enough, but if it had rained recently the spot became twice as entertaining, for then the men holding on to the horses would be dragged inglorlously through thick mud. I had to pass by these yards on my wa y to school; but on sale days I am afraid that instead of passing I went and sat on the fence with the rest.
In Campbell-street, between George and Pitt streets, there were no fewer than five hotels – the Packhorse, the Irish Harp, the Beehive, the Picton Arms . and the Peacock Inn. The premises of :Mick Simmons Ltd., are on the Woolpack Inn site, and the old Alhambra Theatre was on the site of the Peacock Inn.

HAYMARKET 1858 by G Verdau. On the left of the picture stands the Peacock Inn. This was later demolished, to make way for the premises occupied in 1858 by Messrs Palmer and Son, Ltd. Here stood the old Alhambra Theatre. The street parallel with the lower frame of the painting is George Street, and the street at right angles between the Peacock Inn and the Haymarket, is Campbell street. Next, on the right, is the residence of Dr Fullerton and next again, the Wesleyan Church in Hay Street. [SMH 19 Jan 1929.