Most visitors to Sydney, Australia, spend some time in The Rocks area. Just a short walk west of Circular Quay on a hill, The Rocks are at the heart of Sydney tourism. This is Sydney’s oldest neighborhood following settlement by convicts from England in the 19th century, and this city has done a good job of preserving its past.
Miraculously preserved, Susannah Place was home for more than 100 families over time. The building was erected in 1844, which by European or, say, Chinese standards was yesterday. But for Sydney this is as close to real history as you can find, and Susannah Place is one of 12 self-described living museums and historic houses that have been identified and preserved in the Sydney area to help 21st century people envision this city’s origins.
Working-class people, many of whom were Irish immigrants, lived in Susannah Place between 1844 and 1989. Their stories are surprisingly well-preserved and recounted on tours that are only given between 2 and 5 pm daily. It helps that tours are kept small because Susannah’s rooms are small with many still furnished as they have been for decades. Tour tickets are acquired in the 1915 corner home/shop that was once a cash-only grocery store. It has been preserved as it once was with, among other historic items for-sale, old-fashioned lollipops, which are called lollies in Australia.
Susannah Place, which is directly across the street from Sydney’s most important archaeological site, was for 150 years part of a tight-knit community in a high crime, disreputable harbor neighborhood. Rocks Walking tours are available and are a worthwhile alternative to a tour of Susannah Place if its limited opening time is a problem.
Not far from the typical skyscrapers of Sydney’s downtown, these four connected terrace homes are remarkable in that they have not been torn down for yet more high rises. The stories told within bring it alive.