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A look back in time at urbanest Cleveland Street

With so much history behind the site of urbanest Cleveland Street, we thought it only fair to share the story with you. Spanning centuries, the history starts with the first people in Sydney to the development of urbanest Cleveland Street and where it is today. Head to urbanest Cleveland Street to see the timeline for yourself or take a trip back in time below.

The First Peoples of Sydney

Aboriginal people traditionally lived in small family or clan groups associated with particular territories and places.
The Sydney region is thought to have been home to approximately twenty clan groups. The Aboriginal peoples that lived in the Redfern area were the Cadi-gal.
The Cadi-gal were hunter gatherers who relied on fishing and hunting and the gathering of plants and small animals for food, medicine and the making of clothing, tools and weapons.
They hunted and gathered along Blackwattle Creek and along other swamps, creeks and the coastline. One such swamp was located near the current Cadigal Green at the University of Sydney, approximately 500 m south west, which would have been utilised for food and other resources.

Like all Aboriginal people, the Cadi-gal were seriously affected by European settlement and land appropriation.

Some research suggests that the 1789 smallpox epidemic claimed all but 3 of the Cadi-gal clan,
although it is probable that more survivors banded together with survivors of neighbouring clans.

Rural Development

The earliest record of European settlement in the Redfern area begins in the early years of the nineteenth century, with parcels of land given to both free settlers and ex-convicts by the Governor of the Colony.
The residential property was eventually expanded and may have been used to house dairy cattle.
As Sydney grew, the current site began to take shape as an agricultural area.
From the earliest known land grant in 1815, a number of owners and tenants farmed the site. The land was cleared of bushland, the swamp areas were filled in and cultivation began.
From 1815 and through to the 1880s the entire block was used to grow barley, potatoes and market garden crops.
During this time the site was also used to raise cattle, with Thomas Hart (the man behind the naming of nearby Harts Lane) running a small urban dairy out of the site between the 1840s and the 1880s.
A residential building, that included accommodation for convict workers, was constructed in the early 1800s on the site.
The banks of Blackwattle Creek, that ran through the current site, were repeatedly modified. By the 1880s a brick egg-shaped drain, used as a sewer, was constructed along the alignment of Blackwattle Creek.
The drain is still in use as a stormwater drain today.
By March 1881 the land at the intersection of Abercrombie and Cleveland Streets was occupied by the Dog and Bear Hotel.
At the same time the Dog and Bear Hotel was being constructed, three houses consisting of two terraces and a small cottage were constructed alongside on Abercrombie Street.
These houses were demolished between 1980 and 1996.

Industrial Development

By 1882 shop and factory frontages could be seen along Cleveland Street, including the current site.
Smaller premises were located closer to the Dog and Bear hotel while on the corner of Cleveland Street and Hart Lane stood two larger sheds.
These early industrial buildings housed a number of tradesmen including a coach builder, an engineer and boiler maker.
After many changes in name and ownership the hotel was named the Royal Exchange Hotel in 1899.
In 1904 the original Royal Exchange hotel was demolished and a new hotel, the Abercrombie, associated yards and shop were constructed.
By 1939 the former early industrial buildings and yards had been demolished and two factories had been constructed across the majority of the site.
In 1939 the western factory became home to the Kraft Walker Cheese Co. Ltd, which was a partnership between Fred Walker and Co., the Australian company which first sold Vegemite in 1924, and American James L. Kraft.
The factory continued to make Vegemite which soon became an iconic symbol associated with Australia worldwide.


The Abercrombie Hotel was demolished in 1996.
In its place a three storey commercial and residential apartment building was constructed at the western end of the site bounded by Hudson Street, Abercrombie Street and Cleveland Street.

Urbanest Development

The factories were in use between 1938 and 2011 when they were demolished for urbanest Cleveland Street.
As one of the requirements for the project was to undertake an archaeological dig on site, excavation for foundations and lift cores was a delicate and slow process.
Following confirmation that there were no significant archaeological artefacts found on the site, construction began in earnest.
Following a decision to enhance the fire safety of the building above and beyond what was required, the building was completed in two stages.
The project was completed successfully, with the first students moving into half the building in February 2014.
Through various name changes, a series of demolition and reconstruction phases, the corner of Cleveland Street and Abercrombie Street has been providing accommodation since 1881.



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