Issue 2 • 2022
© 2022 The Royal Australasian College of Physicians
‘Behind these doors’ A virtual video tour of the history of the RACP at 145 Macquarie Street, Sydney
When COVID hit and we all isolated at home, our beautiful building at 145 Macquarie Street – the home of the Royal Australasian College of Physicians – was largely forgotten and the doors firmly closed. But what is behind these doors?
Catherine Storey OAM MB BS MSc FRACP Chair Library Collections and Cultural Heritage Committee
Some fellows may have never visited the building, and some passers-by may often have wondered what lay within, so COVID provided the perfect opportunity to take a camera inside and show off the College’s home. The rooms and the treasures within revealed some of the College’s remarkable history.
The building was the original home of John Fairfax, co-proprietor of the Sydney Morning Herald. When the Association of Physicians decided in 1937 that the ‘time was ripe’ to form a College, the RACP purchased this lovely building as its headquarters. The College moved in, in 1939, just at the commencement of the Second World War, and into only a few vacant rooms – tenants occupied the rest of the building until the 1970s.
Over the years, there have been many ‘renovations’. The last major overall by heritage architect Clive Lucas ensured that the building was restored to its former (if not improved) glory. The outhouses and small garden were replaced by a state-of-the-art lecture theatre – Stawell Hall (now demolished). The basement still contains remnants of the old kitchen and service rooms. The gracious ‘Fellows Room’, once the administrative staff's office, is on the ground floor. The Ford Room, the original dining room of the Fairfax home, now houses a considerable part of the valuable collection of rare books given to the College by Sir Edward Ford, Professor of Public Health at Sydney University.
On the first floor is the Council Room, dominated by the magnificent meeting table gifted by the RACS in 1938, and more rare books from the Ford Collection. The small anteroom, once the librarian’s office, is now the President’s room, displaying various gifts from visitors to the College. Portraits of past Presidents grace the walls of the building.
The main corpus of the library’s collection resides in a later addition, following acquisition of the ‘house next door’ at 147 Macquarie Street.
While the video meanders through these lovely spaces, the history of the College and the treasures in these rooms all come to life. So, if you are coming to Sydney, please consider a visit to 145 Macquarie Street, but otherwise, the video is an excellent way of finding out exactly what is ‘behind these doors’.