The Queen Victoria Building, now affectionately known as the QVB, was built in 1898 and designed by 28 year old architect George McRae, replacing the original Sydney markets on the site. Built as a monument to the long reigning monarch, construction took place in dire times, whilst Sydney was in a severe recession.
The elaborate Romanesque architecture was specially planned for the grand building so the Government could employ many out-of-work craftsmen - stonemasons, plasterers, and stained window artists - in a worthwhile project.
The QVB fills an entire city block bound by George, Market, York and Druitt Streets. The dominant feature is the mighty centre dome, consisting of an inner glass dome and an exterior copper- sheathed dome. Glorious stained glass windows and splendid architecture endure throughout the building and an original 19th century staircase sits alongside the dome. Every detail has been faithfully restored, including arches, pillars, balustrades and the intricate tiled floors thus maintaining the integrity of the building.
The Stained Glass
The visual message of Sydney's coat of arms, on the cartwheel stained glass window, is that the beehive depicts business, the sailing ship - trade, and the dolphins - the harbour. Panel 1, on the left hand side, represents the Council of the City of Sydney, and symbols of architecture, while the letters I.G.B. on panel 3, on the right, represent Ipoh Gardens Berhad, the Malaysian company who restored the QVB in 2009.
The symbols are of property developers - the builders. The bottom central panel represents the heraldic symbol of a finished building and the joining of two hands denotes the fusing of two cultures.
The Queen’s Secret Letter
There is a letter from Queen Elizabeth II to the Citizens of Sydney to be opened and read by the Lord Mayor of Sydney in the year 2085.
The Queen Victoria Statue
Outside the QVB, on Town Hall Place, facing The Town Hall are the Royal Wishing Well and Queen Victoria's statue.
The Palace of the People
Originally, a concert hall, coffee shops, offices, showrooms, warehouses and a wide variety of tradespeople, such as tailors, mercers, hairdressers and florists, were accommodated.
Over many decades, change saw the concert hall become the city library alongside additional tenants including piano tuners, palmists and clairvoyants.
Drastic 'remodelling' occurred during the austere 1930s and the main occupant was the Sydney City Council.
As recently as 1959 the Queen Victoria Building was threatened with demolition before it was saved by the people of the City following ardent public campaigning.
In 1984, and again in 2008, the building undertook major renovations, restoring it to a modern retail destination. It is testimony to the original vision for the building and the superb craftsmanship of the artisans who lovingly recrafted every detail that the building stands today as a preserved and cherished design icon of Sydney.
In 2010 the QVB was added to the New South Wales State Heritage Register and protected for years to come.
Read more about the history here.