Thursday, 25 February 2021
Ryde Civic Centre
I rise today to talk about the passing of a giant in our community—in her heyday a symbol of modernity, an undisputed icon and a familiar face to everyone in Ryde and almost everyone in Sydney. Next week the once mighty Ryde Civic Centre is being torn down after 60 years at the very heart of top Ryde. In that time it has housed the offices of the council, the Ryde Public Library and the community hall, which has been home for musical performances and thousands of citizenship services.
It has had quite a history. Ryde in the 1960s was a novel place for such a striking building, where parts that are now new suburbs were market gardens, growing fruit and vegetables and our locally developed Granny Smith apples. At time it was built it was the tallest building in Sydney, although its position on the top of the hill certainly helped. Praised for its striking modernistic looks by many, it was derided as an eyesore by those who didn't live in the area—and were jealous. I would recommend any who believe the latter to have a chat with John Booth, the proud mayor who commissioned the building back in the 1960s. John Booth led the council in deciding to establish the Macquarie University, set aside land for our leading medical hub in Macquarie Park and brought the 2000 Olympic Games to Ryde as the proprietor of The Weekly Times.
Sadly, the years have taken their toll and concrete cancer has meant that it has been standing empty for the last couple of years. But land at the heart of top Ryde with views to the Blue Mountains and to the city was never going to remain idle for long. Soon after the building's destruction, a new centre will rise from the rubble. The New Heart of Ryde will make a significant, positive contribution to the Ryde town centre and will be centred around the Edna Wilde Performance Centre. This replaces the old community hall, where countless people have stood at their citizenship ceremonies eagerly anticipating the promise of new life in our community. Love it or not, our civic centre for decades has become part of the landscape and the cultural identity of the area. There will be a hole in the skyline from next week, but the memories that we have all formed from inside its walls and from the shadow will ensure this iconic, modernistic building will live on in our memories.
I also should say that John Booth worked seven day as week at the editor of TWT still and we all celebrated his 89th birthday last week.