I’ve lived much of my adult life in central Sydney, within a fairly short walk of the Broadway Shopping Centre. For non-Sydney people, this is located on Broadway, in between Central Station and the University of Sydney. It’s a pretty ordinary shopping centre, with supermarkets and department stores and a food court and what have you. But once upon a time, it was the main store for the Grace Brothers department store. Department stores are so common nowadays that we forget that they were once a novelty. The idea arose in 19th century France and spread across the world. Grace Brothers was – along with Anthony Horden’s and Mark Foy’s – one of the first in Australia.
What’s now the Broadway Shopping Centre was once the main Grace Brothers building, their ‘Model Store.’ The company spread first to the Sydney CBD then across suburban shopping centres, and their Broadway store languished, until it was sold and refitted as a shopping centre.
The other day, I was in a second hand store and I happened across this book – a history of Grace Brothers, with a focus on the Broadway store. I always love this sort of history – this reminder that the mundane and the everyday has a past.
Where there are now overpriced takeaways, women used to buy those flowing dresses that only work if you pose in weird angles. Where international students buy cheap plastic fans, there were once heavy cast-iron sewing machines.
It’s an interesting book. I think I might post more pictures from it in the future.