Kings CrossTo Places
Originally the land of the Eora people, following the arrival of the First Fleet in 1788 the land on the hills just beyond Sydney city would be known as Woolloomooloo Heights. These fertile hills were used as farming land and by the 1800s five windmills along the ridge of the hills marked the wheat fields that are now the Sydney suburb of Kings Cross.
As the population of the colony grew, the farming land on the fringes of the city was subdivided into large residential lots and this elevated area with views of the Blue Mountains became popular with wealthy merchants and business owners looking to build grand homes with sprawling manicured gardens away from the polluted, overcrowded city. By the late 1800s Woolloomooloo Heights and neighbouring suburb Potts Point were amongst the most prestigious in Sydney and to mark the jubilee celebrations of Queen Victoria in 1897 the suburb was officially named Queens Cross. It would change again in 1905 to Kings Cross due to its common confusion with Queens Square in the city.
The close proximity of this upper class suburb to the wharves below at Woolloomooloo would eventually change the demographic of Kings Cross as the large estates were subdivided to make way for smaller houses and terraces to house the working population. The legacy of these grand estates remained in the trees and greenery which continue to line streets of Kings Cross today. Crime, prostitution and poverty soon became distinguishing features of Kings Cross with illegal liquor operations and brothels lining the streets.
As one of the cheaper suburbs in inner Sydney, Kings Cross would attract a large migrant population of primarily Maltese and Italian heritage who would establish fishing fleets from the Woolloomooloo wharves. They would also instigate the beginnings of a cafe culture at a time in Sydney's history when coffee drinking was fairly uncommon, setting up late night coffee shops and by the 1940s and 50s long standing institutions such as the Piccolo Coffee lounge on Roslyn Street would open. The cheap living conditions would also attract a distinct artistic community which saw the suburb become the bohemian heartland of Sydney, with many distinguished members of Australia's arts community including painter William Dobell and poet Kenneth Slessor living in the area.
With jazz clubs and a plethora of bars and nightclubs Kings Cross was considered Sydney's 'cosmopolitan' precinct and drew comparisons with Montmartre in Paris, parts of downtown New York and even Budapest. By the 1960s the suburb was one of Sydney's key tourist attractions, with its strip clubs such as the now closed iconic Les Girls drawing large numbers buoyed by the constant influx of sailors from the Woolloomooloo wharves on rest and recreation leave from the Vietnam War. It was also the time when organised crime and corruption began to play a very significant role in the daily routine of Kings Cross. Prominent underworld figure Abe Saffron was commonly referred to as the 'Boss of the Cross' and he allegedly ran several illegal casinos and drug rings in the suburb whilst the local police turned a blind eye. Drug related crime would increase dramatically and has continued to be one of the biggest social crises in Kings Cross.
Although one of several inner Sydney suburbs undergoing gentrification aimed at reducing the crime in the suburb, Kings Cross remains Sydney's red light district with bars and clubs continuing to offer revellers a good time on any night if the week. Arguably no longer as dangerous and rough as decades past, Kings Cross remains a popular residential choice and is today the most densely populated suburb in Australia.