Sydney has a large stock of terraced housing which originates to the early colonial settlement of the city. Due to the city’s higher density, it is not unusual to find terrace houses of up to four storeys.
Multi-storey terraced housing is most prevalent in the Sydney inner suburbs of The Rocks, Ultimo, Kirribilli, Paddington, Balmain, New Town, Erskineville, Bondi Junction, Milsons Point, Potts Point, Glebe, Darlinghurst, Redfern, Forest Lodge, North Sydney and Darlington. Freestanding terraces and single storey terraces can be found elsewhere within 10-15 kilometres of the city centre.
The terraces of some Sydney suburbs exhibit a distinctly regional variation, particularly those of the 1870s and 1880s. The undulating topography of Sydney’s inner suburbs means that many of the terraces are typically staggered up hills rather than level or uniform. Sydney terraces were more likely to make a feature of the roof. Local building codes introduced in 1838 required party walls to be raised above the roofline which helped define the Sydney style and skyline of terraced suburbs. Sydney terraces often lack a parapet and feature high pitched roof with dormer windows and attics to make use of the roof space. Sydney terraces were often built right up to the property line. Sydney’s narrow streets also make for more intimate terraced streetscapes.
Most Sydney terraces are firmly anchored into solid sandstone.
Early Georgian style sandstone terraces are found in many of Sydney’s inner suburbs, but with the exception of Hobart, almost never found elsewhere in Australia.
Sandstone also provided an opportunity to follow the British practice of constructing a basement storey below street level, reached by a flight of stairs down from the street. Many examples of this are to be found in Paddington. In the suburb of Balmain, there are examples of houses actually constructed from local sandstone, rather than bricks covered with stucco.
Round arches windows with round lintels were often used and the grille columns were a popular of supporting verandah construction in the 1880s.
Another Sydney innovation was the cantilevered verandah which allowed inner city terraces and corner shops to utilise the space above the public footpath and giving the houses a distinctive appearance. While this terrace style was used elsewhere in Australia, it is extremely rare outside of Sydney.
Sydney has some of Australia’s oldest terraced housing and terraced houses were a feature of the city from around the 1830s.
Lyon’s Terrace overlooking Sydney’s Hyde Park is probably the grandaddy of all Australian terraces, at least according to historian Brian Turner. The now long demolished three storey terrace was designed in 1937 and completed in 1841 features the distinctive double storey verandah which has become the hallmark of the Australian terrace. Lyon’s Terrace became a prototype for the local vernacular was quickly formed in response to Australia climate and taste and evolved over time.
Susannah Place (1844) a row of four double storey terraces at 58-64 Gloucester Street, is one of the earliest still surviving. Sydney developers were quick to large rows of speculative workers cottages across the city and grand, fashionable mansion style terraces in well-to-do suburbs like Potts Point and Paddington.
Sydney has been lucky to retain a lot of intact terrace rows and suburbs. Green bans in the 1970s prevented much of the heavily terraced area of The Rocks being demolished for offices and apartments including Susannah Place.1
During the 200s, Sydney’s terraces once again came under pressure from development. Green bans in 2009 helped save rows of terraces in Pyrmont from demolition for a new railway sation.2 The NSW government offloaded some of its ownership of run down terrace stock in historic Milsons Point, including ‘Indarra” (1885 ) and a Georgian-style sandstone terrace in Kent Street – were sold by the government on 99-year leaseholds in December.3 Despite a substantial price fall for Sydney terraces in 2009, terraces remained popular with buyers. The average terrace in Paddington in 2009 – at $1.23 million – was the highest in Australia.4
Significant Sydney Terrace Houses
- Horbury Terrace, Sydney
- Castle Terrace, Woolhara
- Hortonbridge Terrace, Potts Point
- Avonmore, Randwick
- Corana & Hygeia, Randwick
- A perspective on Sydney’s Green ban Campaign, 1970-74. Burgmann, V. Power and Protest 1993 ↩
- “Green ban hits Pyrmont” – Sydney Morning Herald. Paul Bibly, Urban Affairs Reporter. July 17, 2009 ↩
- “Terrace buyers snare slice of early Sydney” – Sydney Morning Herald. Jennie Curtin and Ellie Harvey. December 2, 2009 ↩
- “Paddington rules the terrace house price league” – Sydney Morning Herald. Stephen Nicholls, Domain Editor. April 25, 2009 ↩