The Royal Sovereign Hotel has stood on the corner of Darlinghurst Rd and Liverpool St since the 1880s. The current building dates to the 1920s. To the old school it will always be the Sov. But for Gen X and younger it’s best known as the Darlo Bar. What the punters in the pub might not realise, is that the upstairs has been home to generations of Darlinghurst locals. Paul Solomon’s Russian émigré grandfather bought the pub in the 1930s. Where once the rooms above the pub accommodated Paul’s large extended family, by the 1990s they were affordable long-term lodging for local people including down and out journalist Jack Darmody. During the 1970s, over one hundred buildings in Darlinghurst-Woolloomooloo were purchased by the NSW Department of Main Roads and earmarked for demolition to make way for the proposed Eastern Distributor. But the gargantuan road-building project was dogged by delays and construction would not commence until 1986. For over a decade, a colourful community of artists and activists was able to thrive in about seventy buildings in East Sydney. The Darlinghurst Squats nurtured the practice of many significant Australian artists and musicians. This community argued the case for new models of housing, kinship, art-making and community co-operation. Theirs is a memory of Darlinghurst from 'before the money moved in.' Given the density of the area today, it is easy to forget that in the mid-nineteenth century, the elevated ridge at the apex of Darlinghurst boasted some of the colony’s grandest houses. Stoneleigh on Darley Street is one of the last remaining grand houses in Darlinghurst. By the 1980s when broadcaster Phillip Adams lived at Stoneleigh, the mansion stood at the heart of a busy, inner-city neighbourhood that came alive after dark.
This audio story is a production of the Australian Centre for Public History in partnership with the Paul Ramsay Foundation.
Producer: Catherine Freyne
Sound engineer: Judy Rapley