As Green Square enters a new phase with a modern, cosmopolitan Town Centre equipped for residential, commercial and retail use, it is important to reflect on the areas roots.
Green Square is rich in history and human stories. Each wave of new inhabitants has made their own mark, creating a colourful and distinctive local character.
Before the arrival of European settlers in 1788, the sole inhabitants of the extensive tracts of land now known as Alexandria, Waterloo and Zetland were the local indigenous people of the Gadigal clan.
After European settlement, the area provided vegetables for the growing town of Sydney. Market gardening thrived on the fertile wetland flats of Sheas Creek, site of the old Waterloo Swamp.
The Green Square locality grew to become a major industrial centre, with its plentiful water supply one of the reasons why it was chosen as a home for industry. One of the first and largest industrial ventures, the Waterloo Flour Mill, was built by successful colonial businessman Daniel Cooper. Located on the site of what is now the Green Square Town Centre, this was one of the largest employers of its time.
As the industrial revolution changed the world forever, a series of other businesses including soap and candle factories, breweries, tanneries, glassworks and wool-washing joined the flour mill at what is now Green Square.
The area also boasted the State’s largest brickworks, which enabled much of the new city of Sydney to be built.
Green Square took on a rich and colourful working class character, with 22 pubs springing up during the height of the the World War Two era. These satisfied the thirst of some 22,000 workers from the 550 factories of the area.
Early in the 20th century, local workers could also attend the racecourse at Victoria Park, which opened in 1909. Later, that site was also taken over for industrial purposes, becoming the nation’s largest car manufacturing plant which produced famous automotive models like the MG and Morris.
Just as it was a thriving industrial space, Green Square was also a home to a diverse mix of people. In the early 1800s, the area welcomed Irish and English settlers, some of them working in the local flour mill. Towards the end of the 19th century, Alexandria attracted a large Chinese contingent, many of them working in the market gardens.
A range of home types distinguished the area, including many Victorian terraces which can still be seen today. The construction of Rosebery Estate in 1912 – a planned ‘garden suburb’ where detached homes were built in a leafy open setting– was a sign of things to come.
Much later, at the end of the 20th century, planned residential development began changing the landscape once again. This started with the construction of new apartments on some former factory sites, including Landcom’s Victoria Park. This process will culminate in the development of the Green Square Urban Renewal Area, with the Green Square Town Centre lying at its heart.
Swapping smokestacks and noise with a sustainable, modern environment where culture and commerce naturally coexist, Green Square Town Centre will become the heart of the Inner South. While embracing the future, the Town Centre will acknowledge its past in a range of different ways, from restored heritage features to engaging and informative public art installations.
Further details of Green Square’s history can be found here.