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Originally occupied by the Gorualgal tribe, St Leonards is named after Thomas Townshend, 1st Viscount Sydney of St Leonards. St Leonards was as an expansive area that encompassed the land from Gore Hill right down to the harbour at North Sydney. The site of what is now referred to as North Sydney train station was originally known as St Leonards station when it opened in the 1890s. It linked St Leonards with the Hornsby line and was instrumental in encouraging settlement in the area. Established in 1868, St Leonard's Gore Hill Cemetery is one of the oldest in New South Wales and many of the area's prominent early settlers are buried there.
In 1910 the large area known as St Leonards was divided into smaller suburbs and the township of St Leonards was renamed North Sydney with St Leonards instead referring to the hills north of North Sydney. At the time, St Leonards was semi-rural, with the medium-size land allotment suitable for orchards. With the exception of a sandstone quarry, the majority of the suburb was residential. With the Harbour Bridge bridge completed in 1932, the area became more accessible from Sydney City, encouraging greater residential development along the lower north shore.
Residential development steadily increased in the period following World War II but the development boom of the 1990's provided the most significant growth. High density sky-scraper apartment blocks have been established in recent years resulting in 50% of the population now living in apartments. Today St Leonards supports a relatively young population of professionals with the area popular with immigrants from New Zealand and the United Kingdom.
SSC11939: St Leonards