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Rare Glimpse Inside One of Watson Bay’s Oldest Buildings

Step inside a fascinating part of Australia’s history as one of Sydney’s most intriguing buildings, the Marine Biological Station, opens to the public Sunday 29 October, 11am – 3pm. The one-off open day provides the opportunity for the public to tour inside this fascinating building, built over 130 years ago, and discover the architecture from the 18th century.

Built in 1881 as a laboratory for eminent Russian scientist and explorer Nikolai Nikoleavich de Miklouho-Maclay, the Marine Biological Station was the first of its kind in the southern hemisphere. Maclay had a world-renowned reputation as an authority on marine animals. The property was designed by architect John Kirkpatrick who also designed the Carrington Hotel in Katoomba and Sydney Hospital.

In 1889, the building was acquired by the Australian Army and housed army officers including a number of senior defence personal. Today the building is managed by the Harbour Trust and leased as a private residence.

“The Marine Biological Station is an important and unique part of Australia’s history. It was one of the first buildings at Watson’s Bay, purpose built for the renowned Russian Scientist, Nikolai Nikoleavich de Miklouho-Maclay,” said Harbour Trust CEO, Mary Darwell.

“Maclay was a charismatic scientist with celebrity status in Russia.  His fame arose after he spent more than a year living in New Guinea with Indigenous Papuans to test Darwin’s Theory of Evolution.  It was the first time any social anthropologist had done field work to test a scientific theory.

“While studying at the Marine Biological Station he identified at least one new type of Wallaby and was the first to report on the hibernation patterns of Echidnas.

“The open day makes the building available to everyone, so they can discover this interesting part of Australia’s history, with the building not opening to the public since 2014,” said Ms Darwell.

The building has rare Wunderlich pressed metal wall and ceiling panels, which are illustrative of interior architecture of the early twentieth century. It is also highly valued by the scientific community in both Australia and Russia in recognition of the achievements of Maclay and his contribution to scientific work.

To allow everyone to make the most of their visit, the Harbour Trust is holding tours of the nearby Macquarie Lighthouse at Vaucluse on the same day. During the guided tour you can learn about the history of Australia’s first and longest-operating lighthouse, which still functions as a fully-automated navigational lighthouse. Tours will take you up the 100 stairs to the top of the lighthouse for uninterrupted views of the city.