The other day I was wandering through The Rocks in Sydney when I noticed something unusual – a load of huge furniture seemingly stuck in the middle of nowhere!
No, IKEA hadn’t opened an inner-city branch, seems I’d stumbled across Foundation Park, The Rocks’ own bit of hidden history tucked away from it all behind a row of bustling shops and cafes – and it’s fascinating.
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What is Foundation Park?
Well, it’s kind of a living museum.
Despite sounding like it should have grass, trees and maybe the odd duck waddling about, Foundation Park is actually a patch of land focused around the foundations of eight two-roomed terraced houses – numbers 2-16 Gloucester Street – that were built in the 1870s and demolished in 1938.
Because the houses were built in such a precarious area (they literally butt into the cliffs) they were deemed of historical interest and, to stop anyone else building on it, the area was turned into a ‘park’ (sans ducks) in 1972.
In the 1990s, it was decided that more should be made of this exciting find and so, sculptor Peter D Cole added the oversized furniture. Low walls and ‘house numbers’ were also added so people could see each individual home.
The point of it is to give an idea of how cramped everything was in The Rocks way back when.
Each room in the houses is no more than 3 metres by 3 metres and eight houses were crammed into this a tiny uphill site. To add to lack of space large families were the norm then with between four to ten people crammed into each of these tiny homes. I moan about sharing a bathroom!
What really brings things home is when you find out, the furniture isn’t actually oversized – it just looks it compared to how small the houses were!
While the main focus on Foundation Park is the ‘floor’ with the furniture, don’t just explore here for the full effect.
Underneath the ‘furnished’ rooms is what used to the be the kitchen of the home – although all that’s left now is the sinks and climb right up to the top and you’ll find a mock-up of a front door and roof to give you an idea of the height.
I’m gobsmacked that Foundation Park was in The Rocks the whole time I’ve lived in Sydney and I’d never even heard of it, let alone wandered past it before.
Even more amazingly, it’s marked on google maps, but the name doesn’t give away what you’ll find there or quite how cool it is.
Definitely, add it to your list of interesting things to do in The Rocks if you want to see something most people don’t.
How to Find Foundation Park in The Rocks
The easiest way to do it is to walk onto Argyle Terrace which is one of The Rocks’ main thoroughfares.
Between numbers 27 and 26 on the left-hand side, you’ll notice an unmarked alleyway – walk down it and it’ll bring you to a courtyard.
Climb up the stairs and you’ll see the ‘kitchen’ and an old washing tub – the rest of the site is then there for you to wander round at will.
If you’d rather be a polite guest and arrive at the ‘front door’ of the house, walk up Argyle Street away from the harbour until you reach the archway of Argyle Steps.
Climb these to the first ‘landing’ and then follow the path along – you’ll spot the bright orange doorway that marks the entrance to the park.
There’s no information at the site itself so if you do want to learn more you can book one of walking tours of the Rocks that take in the site – like this one.
Or, there’s a full history of it online – although you might want to look at that on a big screen before you head out as someone really needs to show them how to paragraph.
What to Read Next
Of course, Foundation Park isn’t the only cool piece of history in The Rocks, the place is full of it – and a lot of other cool things to explore as well. Check out our guide to some of the more unusual things to eat, see and do in The Rocks here.
The Rocks is also one of the spookiest areas of Sydney and as such, pretty much everywhere you go seems to have a ghost! Have a look at our guide to some of most famous spooky sights here.
Who Writes Differentville?
My name is Helen Foster and I’m a journalist and author living in Sydney.
My travel articles have been published in titles including The Australian, Body & Soul at the Sunday Telegraph, RAC Horizons, Jetstar magazine and more.
I like the weird, the wonderful and anything that makes me jump and down with glee like I’m about three. That’s what you’ll find here.
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