View of Perth, Western Australia, 1842, held by Mitchell Library, NSW
The City of Perth in Western Australia has always been changing.
It started as a collection of tents occupied by settlers from Britain in 1829. They lived at Boorloo on Wadjuk country alongside Noongar inhabitants, and then tried their best to transform the place into the image of the English rural village many of them had been desperate to get away from not long before.
This stage of the town’s progress (for it was not yet designated a city) lasted until about 1850 when the British colony for which it was the capital, was abruptly transformed into a penal settlement. The inflow of Imperial Government money for public works, even more than the convicts sent to build them, transformed the village into a town — Even if it was now formally designated a city.
During the 1890’s the settlement was transformed yet again when gold was discovered in the Colony’s hinterland. With a few notable exceptions, most of what had been evolving gradually over previous four decades got abruptly replaced within a few short years with new and shinier structures once the money started flowing in. This was the birth of the modern city that might be recognised today.
Perth before the gold
Post-goldrush era Perth was been transformed again and again in the decades up to the present — every period of boom marked by knocking down as much as what was constructed before as the developers could get away with. Yet it is nostalgia for the city in its early to mid twentieth century phases that dominates most of today’s cultural remembrance of the past. Whether what exists today is better or worse than what was knocked down to make way for it, is a question for another site. Visualising the city of Perth from about 1850 – 1880 is the focus of the Perth before the Gold project.
Rebuilding the pre-1880 city out of cardboard so it lasts, this time.