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The land that would become the suburb of Chatswood was occupied by the Cammeraygal Aboriginal people of the Guringai nation until the 1820s. With settlement in the area focused around Artarmon and Willoughby, the densely forested area of Chatswood would not have substantial settlement until the land was subdivided into smaller allotments in the 1870s. One of these estates was owned by Richard Harnett and he referred to the forested area of his Estate as 'Chattie's Wood' after the nickname of his wife Charlotte. The name would be shortened to Chatswood when the Post Office sought an official name for the area in 1879.
With a railway line extended through Chatswood in 1890, a township would emerge around the railway station with a small shopping strip established along Victoria Avenue. Following the opening of the Harbour Bridge in the 1930s, access to the lower north shore was expanded along with the train line, a tramline and eventually several bus services, set up to service Chatswood.
Following World War II Chatswood's potential as a residential suburb was recognised and the County of Cumberland Planning Scheme recommended Chatswood for further redevelopment, beginning what would be a series of residential developments in the suburb.
Declared a town centre, Chatswood was the subject of considerable retail and business development becoming the largest business district north of the city. Originally focused west of the station, the opening of department stores Grace Brothers and Waltons east of the station saw retail development subject to a new geographical trend. This would be followed by the closure of Victoria Avenue to traffic in 1989 to coincide with the opening of Westfield shopping centre and several other smaller shopping centres down the Chatswood Mall shopping strip.
High density apartment blocks have seen the population of Chatswood steadily grow in the decade since the 1980s and sit alongside the large federation blocks built in the 1920s and 30s. Chatswood supports a distinctly multicultural population including a high number of immigrants from Asian countries and houses one of the largest Chinese communities on the north shore.