Skip Links

Sydney Opera House History 1788 - 1953

1788 - 1953 History

1788 - 1953 History

1788 (25 January)

Governor Arthur Phillip anchors close to Bennelong Point

Following Governor Arthur Phillip’s decision to locate the settlement for the British colony at Sydney Cove, the first ship to arrive from nearby Botany Bay is the HMS Supply. With Phillip on board, the Supply anchores at nightfall roughly 200m from what was later to be known as Bennelong Point. The rest of the First Fleet arrives the following day.

A flag is raised at Sydney Cove on 26 January. Disembarkation takes place on Cattle Point or Limeburners Point, now Bennelong Point. The formal proclamation of the colony takes place at a parade in Sydney Cove, 7 February.


Governor Phillip captures two Aborigines

Governor Phillip captures two Aborigines – Bennelong and Colebee. Bennelong becomes an important intermediary between the settlers and the local Aborigines. In 1791, a hut for Bennelong is built on the site where Sydney Opera House now stands.


Governor Lachlan Macquarie completes construction of Fort Macquarie

Governor Lachlan Macquarie completes construction of Fort Macquarie, designed by Francis Greenway, on Bennelong Point in January.


Sydney Opera House theatre opens

Sydney Opera House, a theatre for comic opera and vaudeville, opens in a warehouse on the corner of King and York Streets. The theatre undergoes a series of renovations and reconstructions and is eventually condemned in 1900.


Fort Macquarie is demolished on Bennelong Point and replaced by a militaristic looking tram shed.


Jørn Oberg Utzon is born on 9 April in Copenhagen, Denmark. 


Utzon receives Diploma in Architecture from Royal Academy of Fine Arts, Copenhagen.

1947 (7 July)

Eugene Goossens draws attention to need for Concert Hall and Opera Theatre in Sydney

English composer Eugene Goossens arrives in Sydney as the new conductor of the Sydney Symphony Orchestra and immediately draws attention to the need for an opera house. Goossens had spent the previous 20 years as conductor of the Eastman-Rochester Philharmonic Orchestra and the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra. Both orchestras performed in purpose-built halls with seating capacities of 3500.

According to The Sydney Morning Herald, (3 July, 1947) “Mr Goossens ... felt that ... in Australia there was a challenging situation from which something fine could be created for music, and for the people ... his ambitions include a fine concert hall for the orchestra, with perfect acoustics and seating accommodation for 3500 people, a home for an opera company and a smaller hall for chamber music. He said he saw no reason why a city the size of Sydney, with such keen music interest, should not have these.”


Jørn Utzon travels to the USA and Mexico.


The Hon. JJ (Joe) Cahill becomes Premier of New South Wales.

Skip Links