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The Rocks

From Academic Kids

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George Street, the main street of The Rocks

The Rocks is a tourist precinct and historic area near the central business district (CBD) of Sydney, Australia. It borders on the Bradfield Highway, leading to the Sydney Harbour Bridge, and is immediately adjacent to Circular Quay (Sydney Cove), the site of Australia's first European settlement in 1788.

The Rocks became established shortly after the colony's formation. The original buildings were made mostly of local sandstone, from which the area derives its name. From the earliest history of the settlement, the area had a reputation as a slum, often frequented by visiting sailors and prostitutes. During the late 1800s, the areas was dominated by a gang known as the Rocks Push. It maintained this rough reputation until approximately the 1970s.

History

By the early twentieth century, many of the area's historic buildings were in serious decay. In 1900, bubonic plague broke out, and the state government resumed areas around The Rocks and Darling Harbour, with the intention of demolishing them and rebuilding them. Part of the area was demolished, but redevelopment plans were stalled by the outbreak of World War I. During the 1920s, several hundred buildings were demolished during the construction of the Sydney Harbour Bridge. However, the outbreak of World War II once again stalled many of the redevelopment plans, and it was not until the 1960s that serious attempts to demolish much of the area were revived.

In 1968, the state government gave control of The Rocks to the Sydney Cove Redevelopment Authority, with the intention of demolishing all the original buildings, re-developing them as high-density residential dwellings. In February 1971, a group of local residents formed the Rocks Residents Group to oppose the plans. They felt that the new dwellings would result in increased rents, which would force out the traditional residents of the area. The residents' group requested a Green Bans from the Builder's Labourers Federation, who had become increasingly active in preventing controversial developments over the previous four years.

By 1973, the union had imposed the ban, and after discussions with the Sydney Cove Redevelopment Authority, a 'People's Plan' was developed. By October 1973, it appeared that the redevelopment would proceed as originally planned, using non-union labor. For two weeks, demonstrations by local residents and unionists followed, with numerous arrests being made. Liberal Premier Robert Askin was in the midst of an election campaign, and used the protests as a means of conveying his law and order message to voters. However, the green ban stayed in place until 1975, when the state union leadership was overthrown, and was ultimately successful, as can be seen in the buildings that survive today. Instead of demolishing The Rocks, renovations transformed the area into a commercial and tourist precinct.

Today the Rocks is a partly gentrified area, but still contains a significant proportion of Housing Commission properties, and there is still a significant problem of urban poverty in this district. As housing stock becomes dilapidated, government policy is to sell the now extremely valuable public housing units to private owners, in the expectation that they will restore the properties.

Culture

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A local historic building

The close proximity to Circular Quay and the iconic Harbour Bridge, as well as the historic nature of many of the buildings, mean that the Rocks is very popular with tourists. It features a variety of souvenir and craft shops, and many themed and historic pubs. The Rocks Market operates each weekend, with around 100 stalls. There are numerous historic walks through the area, visiting historical buildings such as Cadman's Cottage and Observatory Hill, and the Dawes Point Battery, which was the first fortified position in New South Wales.

Two separate pubs in The Rocks claim to be Sydney's oldest surviving pubs. Its situation beside Circular Quay has led to several hotels in the area due to the picturesque views. A passenger boat terminal and the Museum of Contemporary Art, Sydney is also situated beside the Rocks area. The precinct can also be accessed by rail, as it is within walking distance of Circular Quay station.

The book and film Playing Beattie Bow featured time-travel back to the Rocks during the late 1800s.

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