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Can our past guide our future

In the early1920's the government knew they were going to build a bridge. A very large bridge. In order to build it they needed to source materials and labour. Moruya gave the Sydney harbour Bridge its granite. But that required vision and preparation. A wharf was built, a tram line constructed, a quarry face opened. Much like building a hospital or a billion dollar bypass it was a given that the project would require workers and specialists. Moruya at the time was a sleepy farming community. They didn't have the required skill sets to do the stone masonry, so new workers were brought into the district. Specialists. But before a single stone could be cut the workers, and their families, need to live somewhere. Granite Town was purpose built. In 2022 there are plans for two major projects in Moruya. In all over a billion dollars to be spent on a new hospital and Moruya Bypass. It is evident to anyone who looks that the region doesn't have the accommodation that will be required. Rentals are a rarity and homelessness is on the increase. Just imagine if someone today had the same vision that those in the 1920's had and recognised that a housing estate could be built, and rather than dismantle it as was done with Granite Town after the Sydney Harbour Bridge was finished, the houses remained and were sold, or otherwise, to those in our community who are in desperate need of affordable housing. But an idea like that would require a visionary. Like they had in the 1920's.

Boom town to ghost town: at its peak Granite Town consisted of 72 cottages, bachelors quarters, a school, hall, a co-op and post office. CREDIT: SYDNEY UNIVERSITY LIBRARY

Above: NSW State Archives

A group of Granite Town workers and residents in 1926. There were 250 employees from 13 nationalities in this now ghost town.CREDIT: SYDNEY UNIVERSITY LIBRARY

Granite Town sat nestled on the banks of the Moruya River. Photograph: photolab/Moruya and District Historical Society

From Wikipedia Moruya is known for its granite stone that was used to build significant Australian landmarks including the Sydney Harbour Bridge. The granite used in the Harbour Bridge pylons was quarried in the area. The proximity of the quarries to the water meant it could be easily transported to Sydney. Quarrying for granite commenced in the district in the late 1850s by the brothers Joseph and John Flett Loutitt who were from the Orkney Islands. Their quarry on the south side of the river produced stone for many Sydney landmarks including the columns of the General Post Office in Martin Place, and the base of the Captain Cook statue in Hyde Park. The Moruya Quarry, also known as the Government Quarry, opened in 1876 on the northern bank of the Moruya River. From 1925 to 1932, the Harbour Bridge works saw 250 stonemasons employed and relocated to Moruya by the contractor to produce 20,000 cu yd (15,000 m3) of dimension stone for the bridge pylons, 173,000 blocks, and 200,000 yards of crushed stone that was used as aggregate for concrete. Moruya granite was also used for the Sydney Cenotaph in Martin Place. During the seven years of this work, a small town of about 70 houses grew up near the quarry called Granitetown; little remains of the town today. The quarry had a tramway that closed in 1931.