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Crows Nest - suburb of North Sydney

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Crows Nest - suburb of North Sydney
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Crows Nest - from the North Sydney Historical Society

Situated approximately 3km up the Pacific Highway from the northern end of the Sydney Harbour Bridge, the suburb of Crows Nest derives its name from Crows Nest Farm Cottage built in 1820 by Edward Wollstonecraft. A cousin of Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley who in 1818 had written the novel Frankenstein. He was a wealthy bachelor when he died in 1832 aged forty-nine. Edward's sister Elizabeth inherited the property and after she died in 1845 it passed to her husband Alexander Berry. On his death what was by then known as The Crows Nest Estate was left to his cousin Sir John Hay.

Sir John and Lady Hay took up residence in Crows Nest House which had been built earlier for the Berrys and after Lady Hay died in 1929 it was demolished to make way for what was popularly known as Lady Hay School, later to become North Sydney Demonstration School. Fortunately the entrance gates to Crows Nest House were left standing and still front the Pacific Highway today.

In the 1880s there was an urban land boom and Crows Nest had great potential for development, especially by 1893 when it became possible to either catch a train from St Leonards, or cable tram from Crows Nest, to Milsons Point. It was then only a short ferry trip to the city. Much of the eastern side of Crows Nest was owned by Bernard Otto Holtermann who had migrated to New South Wales from Germany in 1858 when he was twenty years-old.

Shortly after he arrived in Sydney he set out for the goldfields at Hill End to join his brother. In 1868 he married Harriet Emmett in Bathurst and four years later on 19th October 1872 he struck it rich. As the major shareholder in a mining company that discovered what became known as Holtermann's Nugget, Bernard's fortunes changed dramatically. The firm's miners had uncovered a 290kg block of reef gold which was the largest known in the world at that time.

Moving to the North Shore in 1874 he built a large house ith a tower that is now part of Shore Grammar School. A dedicated photographer he travelled to America two years later with an impressive photographic exhibition which included the world's largest negative. It was while in Burlington, New Jersey that Harriet gave birth on 24 July 1876 to a son whom they named after that city. Later when Holtermann's land at Crows Nest was subdivided, most of the newly-created streets were given family names. Further, because it was the custom for the rear lanes to take the same name, there is a Burlington Lane as well as Burlington Street. Other streets and lanes were named Holtermann, Ernest, Alexander, Sophia, Bernard, David, Emmett and Myrtle.

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