Archaeological excavations were undertaken by Casey & Lowe on behalf of Lendlease from 2017 to 2019 at the 182 George & 33-35 Pitt Streets site, currently known as Circular Quay Tower. It is bounded by Underwood Street to the south, Pitt Street to the east and George Street to the west.
British occupation of New South Wales commenced at Sydney Cove in January 1788 in part due to the presence of a fresh water source, a small creek that would become known as the Tank Stream. The Tank Stream provided life to the early colony in addition to demarking space between the convicted and the free in the layout of early Sydney. Circular Quay Tower occupies land originally granted to James Underwood, an emancipated convict, and Major George Johnston, eventually Colonel of the New South Wales Corps.
Underwood used his land for shipbuilding. Despite having no prior experience in boatbuilding before he arrived in the colony, he successful laid the keel of the first private ship, the Contest in 1798. His boatyard grew in size and repute throughout the early decades of the 19th century with Underwood becoming involved in a multitude of business ventures including whaling, and rum distilling. He increased the size of his grant by 1807 by reclaiming into to the Tank Stream providing a better area for his ships to be launched.
George Johnston initially took little interest in his grant, to the north of Underwood’s. In the 1810’s it was leased for a garden with areas on George St being developed in the and 1820s. By the 1840s, George Street was fronted by a selection of large brick and stone dwellings and businesses. On Johnston’s grant was a successful barrel-making factory (cooperage) was founded before 1845 and continued to flourish into the 1860’s. A series of tenement buildings to house the poor of Sydney were also built. The configuration of buildings within the property constantly evolved throughout the 19th century with structures of stone wood and brick barely surviving a decade before the remodelling of space occurred anew. A series of shops graced the more permanent structures along George Street with restaurants, tobacconists, butchers, confectioners and others all leasing the commercial premises at one time or another. One of the most enduring of which was the Blue Anchor Hotel, which remained in operation for close to 100 years and eventually gave its name to the lane that runs along Jackson’s on George.