Sydney Times



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The Queen Victoria Building, now affectionately known as the QVB, was designed by George McRae and completed in 1898, replacing the original Sydney markets on the site. Built as a monument to the long reigning monarch, construction took place in dire times, as 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. Originally, a concert hall, coffee shops, offices, showrooms, warehouses and a wide variety of tradespeople, such as tailors, mercers, hairdressers and florists, were accommodated.

QVB History Tours & QVB History & High Tea Tours will recommence this Saturday 11 January 2020.



Experience the history and grandeur of the Queen Victoria Building with a guided tour.


Learn about the history of the building from design and conception, through its life as Sydney Markets, its refurbishments and life today as a bustling shopping centre. Discover the splendid architecture featured throughout the building with the majestic central dome, glorious stained glass windows and clocks as your major highlights.

Tour Cost: $15 pre-bookings, $20 walk-in

Running Time: approximately 45 minutes

Tour Times: Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays, 11:30 am and 1:30pm

Booking: Contact QVB Concierge located on Ground Floor or call 9264 9209


Over many decades, change saw the concert hall become the city library, offices proliferate and more tenants move in, 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. As it stands now, in all its glory. It is testimony to the original vision for the building and the superb craftsmanship of the artisans who put it all back together again.

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 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.

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. There are many interesting and charming exhibitions and attractions throughout the building, along with portraits of the Queen. There is also 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. Outside the QVB, on Town Hall Place, facing The Town Hall are the Royal Wishing Well and Queen Victoria’s statue.


Since first opening in 1898, the QVB has had a mercurial history. Designed by George McRae, it replaced the original Sydney Markets and was named to honour the monarch’s Diamond Jubilee. Elaborate Romanesque architecture was chosen for the grand building, which housed a concert hall, coffee shops, showrooms, warehouses and a wide variety of tradespeople. Over many decades, the concert hall became the city library, offices proliferated and many tenants moved in.

Drastic Art Deco ‘remodelling’ occurred during the 1930s to accommodate the main occupant – Sydney City Council. From 1959 to 1971, the QVB faced near-demolition. A massive restoration project was given the green light and, in 1982, Ipoh Garden was awarded the restoration project and a 99-year lease. The fully restored Queen Victoria Building reopened her doors to Sydneysiders and visitors alike in 1986. A major refurbishment in 2009 restored her even further. Today the QVB stands in all her glory, testimony to the original vision for the building and the superb craftsmanship of the artisans who put it all back together again.

A complete summary of the site’s history is outlined below.

  • 1810 Governor Macquarie sets the area aside, designating it to become a market place.
  • 1820 A two-story building is constructed on the site. The Druitt street end has offices to administer the market. The cross-shaped Greenway’s Market House sells maize, wheat, green forage, vegetables, turkeys, ducks, geese, pigs, drapery and groceries.
  • 1828 Greenway’s Market House is converted into Police Offices and a Magistrates Court, which all become the Central Police Court.
  • 1829 The Government of the day issues a general order that the area be set aside as a market square.
  • 1869 The whole market area is roofed and the street becomes an arcade within the market.
  • 1887 George Mc Rae is appointed as city architect.
  • 1888 First plans appear for the new George Street Market.
  • 1893 Site work commences with part of the excavation.
    George McRae submits four designs for the QVB facades: Gothic, Queen Anne, Renaissance and Romanesque. The Market’s committee chooses the Romanesque design and decides the building should accommodate the following:

    the Coffee Palace (a residential hotel) over several floors at the Druitt street end, a concert hall for 500 people at the Market Street end, shops, warehouses, markets in the basement served by four hydraulic lifts.

    In December of this year the foundation stone is laid by Major William Manning.

  • 1894 Superstructure commences.
  • 1896 Building nears completion.Designs are invited for an allegorical group of marble figures over the central arch in George Street. The contract is awarded to Mr W P Macintosh for two groups: one in George Street and one in York Street above the main arches, for a sum of [3,3000] pounds.
  • 1897 Council resolves to name the building the Queen Victoria Markets Building “in order to mark, in a fitting manner, the unprecedented and glorious reign of her majesty, the Queen”. The total building cost is 261.102/10 pounds.
  • 1898 July 21: the official opening is held by Mayor Alderman Mathew Harris.
    The ground floor has 58 shops with a variety of tenants, including:

    tailors, mercers, boot importers, hairdressers, tobacconists, florists, chemists, fruiterers, a tea room.

    On the first floor are 17 large rooms, warerooms, showrooms and offices. On the second floor are 12 large rooms with a gallery.

    At the southern end is the Coffee Palace featuring:

    a dining room, sitting, drawing and public rooms, 57 bedrooms, a gallery and promenade.

    Little mention is made of the basement tenants but the accommodation includes:

    strong rooms, cooling chamber, wine bodegas and cellars and public toilets.

  • 1901 Tenants have changed considerably from those who first occupied the building, with only Singer Sewing Machine Co. and one tailor remaining.
    The basement is now occupied by:

    Lindemans Wines, Busby Wines, printers, Direct Fruit Supply Co.

    The Concert Hall has become the City Library and the Coffee Palace has become offices.

    Other tenants include:

    piano tuners, teachers of dancing, palmists, clairvoyants.

    Later this year electric power and lighting is installed throughout the building.

  • 1918 The building’s name is changed to Queen Victoria Building.
  • 1934-1938 The Architects Branch of City Engineering and Building Surveyors Department remodels the building.Galleries are floored over and shopfronts are remodelled again in the Art Deco style featured in the area occupied by the Sydney County Council.
  • 1959 Alderman Jensen proposes to demolish QVB to form a parkland and civic square with parking and shopping beneath.
  • 1964 Turrets are removed from the base of each minor dome.
  • 1971 Sydney’s new Lord Mayor Emmet McDermott commits Council to the restoration of QVB.
  • 1976 A panel is formed for the QVB restoration and tenders are called for submissions as Project Manager on the QVB restoration. A total of 55 submissions are received by Council.
  • 1978 January: the Hilton bombing affects glass in QVB.
  • 1979 January: glass replacement commences (as a result of the Hilton bomb blast).July/August: restoration of minor domes commences, proving to be a time consuming task for copper craftsmen.
  • 1980 Sydney City Council seeks public submissions for the restoration of QVB.June: Malaysian company Ipoh Ltd develops a restoration scheme for QVB.
  • 1983 Council grants a 99-year lease to Ipoh Ltd and an agreement for the restoration program is signed.
  • 1984 Restoration begins.
  • 1986 November: QVB reopens its doors to the public.
  • 1987 A number of Turrets are restored to original position around the minor domes.
  • 1998 100 years triumphant.
  • 2000 QVB Ballroom is restored to the tearoom.
  • 2008 A $48m refurbishment of the building commences.
  • 2009 Refurbishment is complete welcoming new escalators connecting upper levels, elevators, painting throughout, balustrades, carpet, signage and bathrooms.

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