Originally known as the Rum Hospital because its construction was paid for by government-controlled rum sales, Sydney Hospital is the city’s only early institutional building still performing its original function.
The current structure is a grandiose, late Victorian edifice, which thoughtlessly replaced the centre of what was once an eye-catching trio; cast your eyes to Parliament House on one side and the Mint on the other to get an idea of what the hospital originally looked like.
Outside stands the Il Porcellino bronze boar sculpture, a copy of the famous original in Florence; its snout is shiny from people rubbing it for good luck. Inside, the marble floors, magnificent windows and colour scheme have been carefully restored. The lobby lists those who donated to its construction and the respective amounts – Dame Nellie Melba kicked in £100, as much as some of the business giants of the day.
You can’t just walk into the hospital itself, but you can book two weeks ahead for guided historical tours (02 9363 1471; $10). The Lucy Osburn-Nightingale Foundation Museum is open to the public on Tuesdays (10am-3pm; $5), while the courtyard is open to all and has a very good café, with views over the Domain and an elaborate and colourful cast-iron fountain commemorating British comedian Robert Brough, who endeared himself to Australian audiences in the 19th century.
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8 Macquarie St
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