Observatory Park, located on Observatory Hill, lies immediately west of the Bradfield Highway and is bounded by Watson Road (north), Upper Fort Street (east), the Cahill Expressway cutting and Fort Street Primary School (south) and properties in Kent Street (west).
Observatory Park contains four separate and distinctive clusters of Moreton Bay Figs (Ficus macrophylla) with a total of nineteen trees. The figs are highly significant components of the Millers Point landscape and are clearly visible from many vantage points around the harbour foreshores (west of the bridge), North Sydney, the Bradfield Highway and adjoining streets.
These figs are in generally fair to good condition and health with dense canopies, little dead wood present and only minor psyllid insect damage. Some trees however display a higher level of stress, defoliation, fig psyllid damage, heavy pruning and overall decline. The trees range in height 9-22 metres, with canopy spread 12-32 metres and trunk diameter 0.9-4.0 metres at 1.0 metre above the ground.
The overall planting scheme has group significance while a number of figs are significant as individual specimens in terms of their outstanding visual,
aesthetic and historic values. Observatory Park is scheduled in the City of Sydney Local Environmental Plan 2012,
Sydney City Heritage Study and classified by the National Trust of Australia (NSW). The park contains four separate and distinctive clusters of large Moreton Bay Figs (F. macrophylla) with a total of nineteen trees. The figs are highly significant components of the Millers Point landscape and are clearly visible from many vantage points around the harbour foreshores (west of the bridge), North Sydney, the Bradfield Highway and adjoining streets.
This historic location, with its commanding hill-top position, was the site of Fort Phillip in the early years of colonial settlement. In later years, this Crown land became known as Flagstaff Hill and in 1875, Trustees were appointed to manage the establishment of a new park. The boundary fence-line of adjoining Sydney Observatory and its gardens was established around this time. In 1884, Flagstaff Hill Reserve was dedicated as a public park for the purposes of public recreation and in 1887 the name was changed by proclamation to Observatory Park. The management of the park was taken over by the Municipal Council of Sydney in 1909 (State Records New South Wales).
It is likely that the Observatory Park fig trees were planted soon after the park’s establishment in the late 1800’s. An historic photograph taken by Henry King c.1880-1890 shows these figs as immature specimens, possibly up to 6-7 metres in height (refer to Figure 2.2.3: Observatory Park – Millers Point, State Library of NSW – Small Pictures Files (Sydney Suburbs – Millers Point).
The original planting scheme used only a single species – the Moreton Bay Fig. These magnificent trees have become iconic features of the Sydney city landscape. The silhouettes of figs at dusk and expansive views of the city sky-line are a memorable feature of the park. The figs are integral components of the city’s cultural heritage of civic planting schemes dating from the mid-late nineteenth century. Some of these figs have achieved exceptional proportions and are amongst the largest of this species to be found in the City of Sydney LGA.
The use of this species is a characteristic of many other Sydney parks including The Domain, Moore Park/ Anzac Parade,Wentworth Park, Victoria Park and Jubilee Park. These figs also continue a lush, native evergreen/ rainforest theme and have associations with Charles Moore (Director, Sydney Royal Botanic Gardens) and other pre-eminent botanists, plant collectors and gardeners of this time.The park and its significant trees have close associations with a range of other Listings in this Register (refer to Harbour Bridge Stairs/ Ramp, National Trust of Australia (NSW) & S H Ervin Gallery, Argyle Street, Argyle Place Park and Agar Steps/ Kent Street).