Australian TV documentary “The Glittering Mile” (1964): an historical portrait of Kings Cross in the 1960s
The first people to inhabit the area now known as the 2011 postcode area were the Gadigal people of the Eora nation, Indigenous Australians whose ancestors have lived in the area for tens of thousands of years and whose descendants continue to live there. The land was never ceded by the Gadigal people.
The 19th Century
Much of the area that today comprises Potts Point and the adjacent suburb of Elizabeth Bay, originally constituted part of a land grant to Alexander Macleay (NSW Colonial Secretary from 1826–37), and after whom Macleay Street is named.
The area was further subdivided after Macleay’s time, and a number of grand Georgian mansions were built along the high point of the suburb’s ridge line. Several of these survive (albeit much hemmed in by later buildings), including ‘Rockwall‘ and ‘Tusculum‘. (source)
Woolloomoomoo: “After the First Fleet’s arrival in Sydney, the area was initially recognised as Garden Cove or Garden Island Cove after the nearby small wooded Garden Island, off the shore. The first land grant was given to John Palmer in 1793 to allow him to run cattle for the fledgling colony.
In the 1840s the farm land was subdivided into what is now Woolloomooloo, Darlinghurst and parts of Surry Hills. Originally the area saw affluent residents building grand houses, many with spectacular gardens, attracted by the bay and close proximity to the city and Government House.
The area slowly started to change after expensive houses were built in Elizabeth Bay and further east and a road was needed from Sydney. It was for this reason that William Street was built, dividing the land for the first time.” (source)
Rushcutters Bay: “After British settlement, the area was first known as ‘Rush Cutting Bay’ because the swampy land was covered in tall rushes used by early settlers for thatching houses. In 1878, 2 hectares (6 acres) were reserved for recreation; and, after reclamation work was completed, Rushcutters Bay Park was created, bounded by New South Head Road and the bay at Sydney Harbour.” (source)
Turn of the century and First World War
“The Kings Cross district was Sydney’s bohemian heartland from the early decades of the 20th century. The illegal trading of alcohol, known as sly grog, was notorious in the area up until mid-century, led by rival brothel owners, Tilly Devine and Kate Leigh. For most of the 1900s the “Cross” was an entertainment centre which hosted numerous clubs and cafes was well as the Kings Cross Theatre, one of Sydney’s earliest movie houses. The area was also home to a large number of artists, including writers, poets and journalists such as Kenneth Slessor, Christopher Brennan, Hal Porter, George Sprod and Dame Mary Gilmore, entrepreneur Mayfield B. Anthony, actors including Peter Finch and Chips Rafferty, and painters Sir William Dobell and Rosaleen Norton.” (source)
The Stadium; “Rushcutters Bay was once the site of the famous Sydney Stadium. On Boxing Day 1908 at the Stadium, Tommy Burns lost his heavyweight title to the legendary Jack Johnson, famously the first African-American to win a world title.” (source)
“Potts Point was the site of some of Australia’s earliest blocks of flats, and from the 1920s through to World War II the area was intensively developed along those lines. As a result, it boasts the highest concentration of Art Deco architecture in Australia. Amongst the most notable examples are the more than 60 residential buildings “Macleay Regis” (1939), “Cahors” (1940) and “Franconia” in Macleay Street and “Carinthia” and “Carisbrooke” in Springfield Avenue.” (source) More Art Deco buildings as well an extraordinary Spanish Mission house, “Boomerang”, are found in Elizabeth Bay.
Minerva Theatre: xxxxx
White City / Phonofilm: “For many years Rushcutters Bay was home to White City Stadium for major tennis tournaments, prior to the establishment of tennis facilities at Sydney Olympic Park. On 6 April 1927, Herbert Pratten, Federal Minister for Trade, appeared in a Lee DeForest film to celebrate the opening of a Phonofilm studio in Rushcutters Bay.” (source)
Postwar period and the 1950s
1945 onwards: Arrival of migrants from war-torn Europe, bringing their culture, coffee shops, delicatessens, fashion, etc.
R&R: “During the Vietnam War, the Darlinghurst Road precinct (commonly known as Kings Cross), which straddles Potts Point and Elizabeth Bay, became a popular destination for US military personnel on R&R – due chiefly to its proximity to a major naval facility. Partially as a result of this, the area attracted organised crime syndicates and developed an unsavoury reputation as Australia’s drugs and prostitution capital. Dozens of hotels constructed at the time ensured that “The Cross” remained a tourism mecca well into the 1990s.” (source)
June 1964: The Beatles stayed in the Sheraton Hotel opposite the Chevron Hilton, in Macleay Street, Potts Point
Wayside Chapel: “In 1964, the Rev. Ted Noffs started the Wayside Chapel, an unorthodox Methodist ministry to the Kings Cross area. It began as a small drop-in centre in a block of flats at 29 Hughes Street, and grew into a complex that occupies two blocks of flats. It is a major welfare and community centre in the area.” (source)
“From the late 1960s, drug-related crime was one of the area’s main social problems.” (source)
Green Bans 1: “Another working-class area saved was Woolloomooloo, home to maritime workers and fishermen, which would have been turned into high-rise office blocks, skyscraper hotels and parking lots. Thanks to a green ban placed in February 1973 on the entire suburb and not lifted until early 1975, 65 per cent of the area was retained by the Housing Commission for low-income earners, under a plan that entailed a genuine socio-economic mix of residents living in medium-density buildings with many trees and landscaped surroundings.” (source)
Green Bans 2: “Some developers were prepared to use brute force to evict poorer tenants. In one instance the green ban movement came into serious conflict with the criminal underworld of Sydney, during the ban to preserve the attractive working-class residences and streetscape of Victoria Street, Kings Cross, from redevelopment geared to a much higher-income residential market. Despite National Trust attempts to persuade Sydney City Council to preserve these residences, from the late 1960s most of Victoria Street was being bought by developers, such as Frank Theeman whose links with criminal elements are well documented.  The NSWBLF placed a green ban on Victoria Street in April 1973. However, armed thugs vandalised Theeman-owned buildings earmarked for demolition and terrorised the residents; one green ban activist disappeared and returned too frightened to say what had happened to him; and another – Juanita Nielsen – disappeared on 4 July 1975. Her body has never been found.  Resident activists who had defended the buildings during much of 1973 by squatting in them were forcibly evicted by police on 3 January 1974. The ban was lifted late in 1974 after ‘Intervention’ (see below). Although the green ban successfully prevented hideous high-rise development and saved much of the attractive streetscape, which rapidly became gentrified, the lifting of the green ban meant that the area did not retain a significant proportion of low-income housing stock, as intended in the placing of the ban.” (source)
Juanita Nielsen: “Juanita Nielsen, a journalist and publisher, campaigned against property development in the Kings Cross area during the 1970s until her sudden disappearance on 4 July 1975. A coronial inquest determined that Nielsen had been murdered, and although the case has never been officially solved, it is widely believed that Nielsen was killed by agents of the developers.” (source)
“In February 1973, the Builders Labourers Federation placed a two-year long green ban on the suburb to stop the destruction of low-income housing and trees. It succeeded and 65% of the houses were placed under rent control.” (source)
Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras: “As a celebration to commemorate the Stonewall Riots, the inaugural Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras pro-gay rights protest march was held on the evening of 24 June 1978. After the protest march, participants were subject to police harassment in Hyde Park, following the revocation of the original protest permit. Some participants headed to Kings Cross where police arrested 53 people, although most of the charges were later dropped.” (source)
The 1980s and 1990s
“Australian crime drama series Underbelly: The Golden Mile was set in Kings Cross. It was a dramatic representation of Kings Cross organised crime in the 1980s and 1990s.” (source)
2000 Olympics: The area saw a decline in demand for hotel rooms after the Olympics had ended and many of those rooms were sold off as strata apartments.
The 21st Century
Medically Supervised Injecting Centre: “In 2001, despite controversy, Australia’s first Medically Supervised Injecting Centre was established (where users of illegal drugs can inject themselves at a safe injection site in clean conditions) at a shopfront site in Kings Cross. The injecting room is credited with reducing the occurrence of fatal overdoses in the injecting drug user community, as well as reducing the number of needles left in the street, with an interim evaluation report in 2007 claiming.” (source)
2014-21: Lockout laws