Elizabeth Bay House Staircase

Elizabeth Bay House Sydney

Elizabeth Bay House Sydney is a historic Colonial style home in the suburb of Elizabeth Bay in Sydney, New South Wales, Australia. Built between 1835 and 1839, Elizabeth Bay House was known as ‘the finest house in the colony’. Elizabeth Bay House is a home in the Regency style, originally surrounded by a 54-acre (22 ha) garden, but now situated within a densely populated inner city suburb. It is managed by the Historic Houses Trust of New South Wales as a museum that is open to the public.

Elizabeth Bay House is a superb example of Australian colonial architecture, best known for its central elliptical saloon with domed lantern and geometric staircase.

Elizabeth Bay House was built for Colonial Secretary Alexander Macleay (1767–1848) between 1835 and 1839 on land granted in 1826 by Governor Ralph Darling. The designer of the house is uncertain, with recent research suggesting that the accomplished colonial architect John Verge (1788–1861) was the main designer, but that he was presented with an imported scheme that he modified for Macleay. The fine detailing demonstrates the role of Verge’s partner John Bibb. The house’s facade is severe, owing to its incomplete nature: like many colonial houses begun in the late 1830s, the house is unfinished, the victim of Macleay’s growing financial distress and the severe economic depression of the 1840s. It was originally intended to have an encircling single-storey Doric colonnade (included in several views by Conrad Martens, and akin to the colonnade at Vineyard, designed by Verge for Hannibal Hawkins Macarthur); the small portico was only added in the early 20th century.

The main axis of the house is aligned with the winter solstice. Though no documents are known to discuss this feature, it is not likely to be an accident.

A rear service wing (since demolished) contained a kitchen, laundry and servants’ accommodation, and a large stables (also demolished) was sited elsewhere on the estate. A design for a proposed bathing pavilion imitated the Tower of the Winds in Athens.