Building St George

From birth to old age, we utilise many different public services throughout our lives, such as child care, public transport and senior citizen centres. With a growing and ever-changing population in the St George region, the available services and facilities need to reflect and accommodate the needs of this community. Hurstville Museum & Gallery’s latest Snapshot exhibition, Building St George, captures these moments of change and growth featuring images of construction and demolition from the Georges River Libraries Local Studies collection.

As more people settled in the Georges River area in the late nineteenth century, more transport options were needed to increase the area’s accessibility. Due to heavy use, the poorly maintained road from Sydney to Wollongong was reported to take 40 hours by stage coach. This led to many people requesting improvements to be made to the region’s public transport. The opening of the South Coast (Illawarra) railway line in 1884 was the beginning of affordable and easy transport in and out of Sydney. [1]

The establishment of the railway had a profound impact on the St George area. The rural landscape of the area changed as bushland was cleared and paddocks were replaced with cottages and roads. Large land holdings were purchased by companies, subdivided and then bought by businessmen and professionals who built grand homes. This greatly influenced the demographics of the area, as residents changed from those who worked the land to tradespeople gaining employment from the building boom and commuters travelling to the city. The significant rise in the population of St George also increased the demand for shops, schools, local government services and roads. [2]

newspaper

‘Holt-Sutherland Estate Advertising’, Sydney Morning Herald, 5 November 1885, p. 6.

The original Como railway bridge was built as part of an extension of the Illawarra railway line from Hurstville to Sutherland, and opened on Boxing Day, 1885. Upon its opening it was described in the press as a ‘very handsome structure… constructed on the newest and most enlightened principles… built on cylinders, and latticed and girdered in the most approved fashion’. As a single rail track, train services had to be timed appropriately so that both northbound and southbound trains could utilise the track. As demands grew for more railway services it became apparent that a dual track bridge was required. The decorative iron lattice bridge served the needs of the area until 1972 when a new dual track Como Bridge opened.

Como bridge

Construction of new Como Bridge, Como, 1971, Georges River Libraries Local Studies collection.

The population of the local area has continued to grow exponentially over time due to a range of different factors. The end of the Second World War saw birth rates increase, defining the generation as ‘baby boomers’. The St George community continued to grow in the 1950s, as Australia signed immigration agreements with over 20 European countries to supply a workforce for post-war boom production. This influx triggered a building boom which saw the construction of many new houses during the 1960s and 1970s, with more multi-storey residential buildings being erected. The population of Hurstville’s municipality increased from around 50,300 in 1954 to over 66,000 in 1977.[3] The latest census recorded that 158,411 people now reside in the Georges River local government area.

To discover more stories of change and construction visit our latest Snapshot exhibition, Building St George. Exhibition on until 22 March 2020.

References

[1] St George stories catalogue, Hurstville Museum & Gallery.

[2] Ibid.

[3] David, Pedr.  The Hurstville Story, p. 189.

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