Sydney’s Garden Palace was a magnificent building with a grandeur that dominated the skyline, stretching from the site of the current State Library of New South Wales to the building that now houses the Sydney Conservatorium of Music. The Palace captivated society from its opening in 1879. 

Three years later it was destroyed in a devastating fire. The motto of the Sydney International Exhibition would prove tragically apt, Orta Recens Quam Pura Nites or ‘Newly risen, how brightly you shine’. The Exhibition was planned in the hope that it would contribute to the prosperity and advancement of the New South Wales colony and demonstrate Australia’s identity.

In brief

Dimensions: 244 x 152 x 64 metres

Dome: 31 metres in diameter, 47 metres high with a 6 metre wide stained glass skylight (6 largest in the world)

Area: 112,000 square metres in cruciform shape

Architect: James Barnet

Builder/Contractor: John Young together with Messrs. Hudson Brothers             

No. of workmen: 3000 men directly and indirectly employed including 650 carpenters

Deaths during build: 1 (Samuel Allen, a labourer, died on 22 April 1879)

Decorator: Messrs. Lyon & Cottier

Building began on: 13 January 1879

Foundation stone laid: 13 February 1879

Materials used: 2.5 million bricks, 243 tonnes of galvanised iron, 1.4 million metres of timber and glass

Period of International Exhibition: 17 September 1879 – 20 April 1880

Cost of admission: initially 5 shillings and later dropped to 1 shilling

Cost of season pass: £3, 3 shillings

Total attendance on opening day: between 19,853 and 24,000 depending on the source

Total attendance at the International Exhibition: 1,117,536

No. of Restaurants and pavilions: approximately 30

Highest daily attendance: 27,000 on 26 January 1880

Countries participating: 34 plus their colonies

No. of exhibits: 14,000

No. of judges: 254

No. of awards: 7554