'It used to be a Dingy Kind of Joint': Reflections on Pubs and the Past in Pyrmont and Ultimo

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Locating Suburbia: memory, place, creativity, 2013, 1, pp. 125 - 139
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It is a far cry from the bustle that descends on the `Harley on a Friday evening or when a rugby international is being shown on the big screen. Asked for his impression of the pub on this warm afternoon, 31-year-old patron Chris Bowen comments that, `It looks a lot more upper class today, it used to be a more of an old fashioned... old looking dingy kind of joint.1 Bowens description of the Harlequin Inn could be equally applied to its immediate surrounds. No longer a `dingy kind of joint, Pyrmont and its neighbouring suburb Ultimo are now salubrious and highly sought after locations. The Pyrmont/Ultimo peninsula is in the heart of Sydney, Australia. Since European colonisation, the peninsulas fortunes have swung wildly from centre of industrial activity to abandoned slum district to new media and creative hub. At its industrial peak in 1900, the peninsulas population reached 19 000 but by 1981 it had slumped to a mere 1590 residents. Thirty years later, however, and Pyrmont alone had become home to approximately 12 000 people. The transformations that have enveloped the Pyrmont peninsula have been explored often passionately by historians. For them, Pyrmont and Ultimo gave much to Sydney for scant return. Angered by the waves of `slum-clearances, demolitions, powerhouses, intolerable traffic and the absence of public facilities that had afflicted life in these suburbs, Michael Matthews 1983 history of the suburbs sought to capture the `more glorious past of this area and to mount a case for the improvement of `Sydneys Sink.
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