A collective REPHOTO project
A number of the 1874 photographs of Sydney show the harbour and its bays and headlands. Although many of the headlands around the harbour are now distinguished by man-made features, especially built structures, that was much less the case in 1874. As a result, identifying the exact location from which some photographs were taken can be difficult. An example of this is shown below.
This is a high-resolution version of photo 647 which Gary kindly obtained from the Natural History Museum and which shows far more detail than the low-resolution image on the website. The photo is simply described as a view of Sydney Harbour. It shows a bay in the foreground, a point of land with a few buildings at right centre, and a low hill with many buildings in the far distance. At the top of the distant hill is a structure with a tower and it was that feature which, after a deal of searching through other archived photographs, provided the clue. It is the tower at the Sydney Observatory on Observatory Hill, around 45 metres above sea level. The photograph was taken from the head of Lavender Bay on the north side of the harbour and the point of land on the right is McMahons Point. This is what the view is like today.
Observatory Hill is dwarfed by the tall city buildings, and Dawes Point, where the hill runs left to the sea in the original photo, is where the southern pylons for the Sydney Harbour Bridge now stand. Only McMahon's point on the right shows a clear resemblance to the 1874 photo. And if anyone reading this still wonders about the Observatory tower, here it is on zoom from the same point.