Band plays on at century-old Observatory Rotunda

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A century-old harbourside bandstand that is a Sydney institution, hosting over 100 wedding ceremonies a year, has been restored to its former glory by the City of Sydney.

The Observatory Hill Rotunda, which has panoramic views over Sydney Harbour, underwent a $500,000 restoration to ensure it remains a photographic must for sightseers and marrying couples.

[caption id="attachment_15097" align="aligncenter" width="620"] The improved Observatory Hill Rotunda with views across Sydney Harbour[/caption]

Lord Mayor Clover Moore said the City was committed to maintaining landmarks steeped in Sydney’s rich history.

“Since it was built 104 years ago on Sydney’s highest hill, the Observatory Hill Rotunda has been an important place for Sydneysiders and visitors,” the Lord Mayor said.

“The rotunda once held musical performances attracting Millers Point residents and people from across Sydney, who could listen and relax on the grass in the surrounding Observatory Hill Park. Now it’s quite rightly a popular spot for weddings, marriage proposals, photography and sightseeing.

“This much-photographed landmark is now in good shape for the future, I hope it will continue to bring people together at important milestones in their lives for many years to come.”

[caption id="attachment_15095" align="aligncenter" width="620"] The improved Observatory Hill Rotunda 2016[/caption]

The work included repairing and replacing the timber balustrades and roof, adding new lighting and treating painted surfaces to protect them from wear and tear.

The project was undertaken over four months from Mondays to Thursdays, with the rotunda reopened from Fridays to Sundays so it could still be used for events.

Over the past few years, the rotunda has hosted performances by The Bondi Beach Band and Brass on the Grass, lighting installations for Vivid Sydney, events for Earth Hour and the Millers Point Festival, and was an official viewing site for the International Fleet Review and Sydney New Year’s Eve.

[caption id="attachment_15096" align="aligncenter" width="620"] The improved Observatory Hill Rotunda with view to Sydney Harbour Bridge[/caption]

The Federation-style octagonal timber rotunda on a brick base was built in 1912 on the northern slope of Observatory Hill Park. It represents a time in history when park-going became a large part of people’s leisure time and bands playing music in bandstands for the public were a regular occurrence.

At over 40 metres above sea level, Observatory Hill is the most elevated point in Sydney and was originally covered with vegetation including eucalypts, angophora, blackbutt, banksias, acacias and tea trees. For the local Aboriginal people, it was probably a popular lookout spot because it was the highest point in Sydney.

[caption id="attachment_15091" align="aligncenter" width="620"] Crowds gather at Observatory Hill to walk across SHB - 20 March 1932 - MUST CREDIT Courtesy State Library of NSW[/caption]

The hill was named Flagstaff Hill Reserve and dedicated for community use in April 1884. It was renamed Observatory Hill Park in 1887.

The earliest European development on the site was a windmill, built by Irish convict John Davis in 1796. The area was then selected in 1800 as the best place for Fort Philip that was armed with four 6-pounder cannons and a gunpowder magazine.

The Observatory and Astronomer’s Residence were built on the hill in 1857-1859, incorporating a time ball that signalled the time to ships in the harbour. The Observatory operated for 123 years before closing in 1982. It now operates as a museum and public observatory.

[caption id="attachment_15092" align="aligncenter" width="620"] Observatory Hill Rotunda[/caption]

For more information, visit

For media inquiries: City of Sydney Senior Media Adviser Jodie Minus 0467 803 815 or


For interviews with Lord Mayor Clover Moore: Matt Levinson 0499319385 or email


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