Dismantled sandstone columns from the Australian Museum were reused in the newly opened Centennial Park, 1890

In January 1868  the long awaited extension for Australia’s first museum opened. This building, which faced College St, greatly enhanced the number of objects that could be displayed. However it was immediately obvious the extension towered over the original building especially when viewed from the north. After some discussion it was decided to renovate the William St building to provide much needed extra space and to integrate the 'old' with the 'new'.

Raising one of the Australian Museum columns in Centennial Park
Raising one of the Australian Museum columns in Centennial Park Image: NSW State Archives
© NSW State Archives

With the opening of the new building the museum entrance had moved from William St to College St and the redundant front door recess was used as an aviary. So in 1890-91 the original building got a facelift. The portico was enclosed and windows altered to become uniform with the external facade of the new building. With the addition of a 3rd storey a uniform height was achieved. An access door remained in William St, later known as the Director’s Entrance, which is now passed on the way to the recently re-located entrance - the Crystal Hall.

During the renovations the 9 meter high Corinthian sandstone columns that edged the front door were dismantled and removed. Charles Moore, an Australian Museum Trustee, was also the planner of Centennial Park. He arranged for the magnificent fluted columns to be transferred to Centennial Park in 1890. The columns can be seen today in the aptly named Column Garden and Rose Garden. Proudly sitting atop the columns are the terracotta statues Sunset and Sunrise, two of the remaining three from an original 31 statues that adorned the Park.