King Street, Newtown, Sydney
King Street is the central thoroughfare of the suburb of Newtown in Sydney, Australia. The residents of the area, including a higher-than-average concentration of students, LGBT people and artists, are most visible on this street, sealing Newtown's reputation as Sydney's premier hub of subcultures. The street can be divided geographically into two sections, North and South. King Street is particularly notable for the many picturesque Victorian era and Edwardian era commercial buildings that line the street.
Like Parramatta Road, King Street is believed to follow the line of ancient Aboriginal track that led from the Sydney Cove area south-west across to Botany Bay. Prior to white settlement, the local Aboriginal population kept the Sydney area well cleared with regular low-level fires. Colonial officer Watkin Tench recorded that during the early years of the colony, the area beyond the settlement was, in effect, open parkland, and that it was possible to walk easily across country from Sydney Cove to Botany Bay.
From the late 19th century onwards, King Street developed into a thriving retail precinct. After its initial prosperity, it became run down for much of the 20th century, when Newtown was a low-income blue-collar suburb, often denigrated as a slum; at the crucial time when Victorian era buildings were being demolished elsewhere, Newtown was too unfashionable to make development profitable. By this sheer luck, King Street, as a whole, is the best-preserved Victorian era high street in Sydney, and despite gentrification since the late 20th century, development controls ensure that this will not change.
King Street was served by a busy tramway until the system's closure in 1957 (Keenan 1979). The buildings are still predominantly late Victorian, to early Federation, although there are some art deco buildings as well.
North King Street
North King Street, running east-north-east to west-south-west from the University of Sydney (where it joins with City Road) to Newtown railway station at the junction with Enmore Road, is a very busy thoroughfare, with heavy vehicular and pedestrian traffic the rule rather than the exception. This is the stretch that most people associate with King Street, featuring a profusion of restaurants, cafés and pubs, alongside bookshops, fashion stores and homeware retailers.
South King Street
South King Street, running southwards from Newtown railway station to St Peters railway station, is by contrast the down-market section, with slightly less traffic. Businesses that have been established in this stretch of King Street include cafés, antique shops and assorted small businesses. The southern end of South King Street, between Alice Street and St Peters railway station, features three theatres (New Theatre, King Street Theatre and Sydney Independent Theatre Company) and three pubs (Union Hotel, Botany View Hotel and Sydney Park Hotel).
In popular culture
- The 1985 song "King St" by John Kennedy's Love Gone Wrong references the street and name-checks various local landmarks and characters of the time including the Coles' New World supermarket (which occupied the building which is now the Dendy Cinemas), "The Wire Man" (a local eccentric who collected wire coat hangers and scrap metal), Maurice's Lebanese restaurant (still extant) and The Hub cinema (which was operating as a pornographic cinema at the time). The music video features extensive footage of King St as it looked in 1985.
- The 1999 Australian drama film Erskineville Kings starring Marty Denniss and Hugh Jackman features King Street in its opening sequence.
- The 2006 Australian drama film Candy starring Heath Ledger and Abbie Cornish features Advance Loan Office on King Street, in the scene where the female lead prostitutes herself for money to fund her and her boyfriend's drug addiction.
- The Whitlams band became popular for its performances at The Sandringham Hotel on King Street
- King Street is referenced in The Lemonheads song My Drug Buddy
- In 2013, Sydney band Sticky Fingers filmed a music video for their song Australia Street on King Street between Church and Brown Streets
- In June 2014, English band Coldplay filmed a music video for their song Sky Full of Stars on King Street between Mary and Australia Streets
1. Keenan, D. (1979), Tramways in Sydney, Sydney, Australia: Transit Press.