This image shows Sydney Town Hall which was built between 1868 and 1889 from the corner of George and Druitt Streets. Various architects were involved over the course of its construction, including George McRae, who was responsible for the Queen Victoria Building. The ornate high Victorian Second Empire Style reflected the affluence and confidence of the booming city of the time. When finished the Town Hall's Clock Tower was the tallest structure in the city.
The photograph also shows a large sandstone structure where the Town Hall steps now stand. This structure is a porte-cochere – a covered area for horse-drawn carriages, designed so that guests arriving for a function could step out of their carriages under cover. The porte-cochere was completed in 1892 (the Town Hall itself was completed in 1889). A ring road for ease of access for horse-drawn vehicles and stone gates with iron railings were also part the original site. Excavations in the 1920s for the underground Town Hall railway station severely weakened the the porte-cochere and in 1934 the structure was declared unstable and demolished.
This photographic negative was taken by the Sydney based photographer Henry King. It is part of a collection of over 1300 glass plates taken between 1880 and 1917, although most appear to have been made in the late 1880s and 1890s
King was one of the Colony's most significant early photographers and although born in England around 1855 grew up in Sydney. He found work with the well-known Sydney photographer J. Hubert Newman and in 1880 established a studio in partnership with William Slade. Four years later he was sole proprietor.
King quickly established a reputation for himself due to the high quality of his finished work. While King's income, like many other photographers, was dependent on portraiture he, like Kerry, is best known for his outdoor work. These views, particularly his city views, are justifiably praised and seem more carefully framed and printed than Kerry's. Outdoor views of Sydney make up the main bulk of King's work in the collection although, like Kerry, he took a series of photographs of the Jenolan Caves using magnesium flares.
Henry King died aged 68 in Waverley War Memorial Hospital on 22 May 1923 following abdominal surgery
Geoff Barker, Curatorial, December, 2008
King, Richard, Australian Dictionary of Biography - Online Edition
Josef Lebovic, Henry King, 1855 - 1923, auction catalogue, Josef Lebovic Gallery, Paddington, Australia, date unknown
Newton, Gael, Shades of Light; Photography and Australia 1839 - 1988, Australian National Gallery, Canberra, 1988