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The Sydney Town Hall is possibly the only non-religious city building to retain its original function and interiors since it was built 120 years ago. Accommodation in the 19th century building includes the Council Chamber, reception rooms, the Centennial Hall and offices for the Lord Mayor and elected councillors.
The building's history is a turbulent one. After decades of unsuccessful negotiations, the city fathers finally secured a land grant from the Crown in the commercial centre of the city - as far away as possible from the colonial Government House in Macquarie Street.
The site was the old cemetery next to St. Andrew's Cathedral which required careful exhumation and transferral of bodies to other cemeteries. Some remains are said to be still under the Town Hall.
When completed the building had a large porte-cochere over the present (rebuilt) steps and its own ring road inside a stone and iron palisade. Unfortunately, this area was destabilised in 1934 during tunnelling for the underground railway and the formal entry had to be demolished.
Albert Bond, when City Architect, designed the chamber now known as the vestibule (open to the public) which served as the meeting hall until the larger Centennial Hall was built. The vestibule has elaborately decorated surfaces in plasterwork with stained-glass lanterns and cast metal plaques commemorating royal visits to the city.
The "Great Hall" by Charles Sapsford - which was officially named the Centennial Hall but referred to in its day as the Place of Democracy - was an engineering triumph, involving a highly structured roof system to meet the span. The ceilings are lined with an early use of the Wunderlich metal panel system, chosen to overcome the fear of plaster panels falling on patrons from vibration caused by the immense organ which still functions.
Fgrry ba Fgbar.