The Sydney General Post Office: A Metaphor for Australian Federation

Department of History, University of Western Australia
Publication Type:
Journal Article
Limina: A Journal of Historical and Cultural Studies, 2007, 13 (May), pp. 66 - 79
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The architecture of the Sydney General Post Office, completed from 1864 to 1891, captures the spirit of the Australian populace in the period preceding Federation. By the time the carvings on the Pitt Street façade were commenced, Sydney had hosted an international exhibition and become a world city; and an emerging urban ethos of pride in the city was encouraging widespread interest in further development. The controversial carvings reflected this changing temper. The completion of the clock tower in 1891 marked a new stage in the life of the city. The physical form of the metropolis had nurtured the ideals and aspirations of society and now provided a platform for nation building. The remarkable clock tower was used as a metaphor for Federation in a poem by the Federalist, Robert Garran.Australian Federation, claims John Hirst in The Sentimental Nation, was a people s movement and an outcome of national sentiment. This paper is the first to identify how the grand architecture of the General Post Office helped people to imagine themselves as part of a larger national and international community.
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