Martin Place celebrates 50 years

Martin Place. Photo: City of Sydney.

The civic heart of Sydney, Martin Place, is 50 years old.

The pedestrian mall, Sydney’s first, was built in several phases but got its start 50 years ago when the City of Sydney Council ‘temporarily’ closed part of the former Moore Street – and then never re-opened it. 

“50 years ago over a quiet weekend, the City of Sydney placed flower-pots across the road to close Martin Place to traffic,” wrote Sydney Lord Mayor Clover Moore in a post to her official Facebook account today. 

“Then they ‘forgot’ to remove them. 

“The traffic chaos some predicted never came, and Sydney had its first pedestrian mall.“

Moore said that Pitt Street Mall followed and “now we’re making real progress on George Street – giving space back to people”.

“They’re more pleasant corridors to shop, eat and navigate through the city on foot – particularly while maintaining physical distance is so important,” she enthused. 

“So happy birthday Martin Place, and thank you for being a real trend-setter!”

The pedestrian mall, which has come to play an important role as Sydney’s ‘town square’, is the location for Sydney’s official Anzac Day dawn service, held each year on 25 April at the Cenotaph in Martin Place.

It is also an important site for light displays during the annual Vivid Sydney festival, and the location of Sydney’s largest Christmas tree each November and December.

Sydney Lord Mayor Clover Moore launching last year’s Martin Place Christmas display, including a 25-metre tall Christmas tree. Video: 7News Australia/YouTube.

Innumerable events have occurred at Martin Place including royal visits, outdoor concerts and large-scale demonstrations, such as the Occupy Sydney protests.

Tragically, Martin Place became the scene of the 2014 Sydney hostage crisis when 18 people were taken hostage at the Lindt cafe, and three people – including the perpetrator – were killed, in a rare terrorist incident in the Harbour City. 

On a more upbeat note, the plaza has played host to numerous films and television productions, appearing in Hollywood blockbusters such as The Matrix and Superman Returns.

Martin Place featured heavily in the 1999 Hollywood blockbuster, The Matrix. Video: Flashback FM/YouTube.

It is also the home of Channel Seven’s studios for their flagship programs Seven News, Sunrise and Weekend Sunrise, and the location of Sky News Australia’s Sydney city studio.