Evolution of the Swan
THE banks of the Swan River have changed drastically over the past 150 years.
In the city’s earliest days most of the land within the proposed master plan area was underwater.
In 1870, St Georges Terrace was near the edge of the Swan and the Perth CBD site contained a collection of wetlands that required draining, including Lake Kingsford, which sat on the current site of Forrest Place. Long jetties stretched out from the edge of the city to where it was deep enough for boats to dock. Beginning in the 1870s, extensive land reclamation projects between those jetties led to the foreshore as we know it today.
The space between the Barrack and William street jetties — Esplanade Reserve — was the first cab off the rank, and over the next 50 years the modern-day Supreme Court Gardens, Langley Park and Point Fraser were all filled in to create a continuous strip of land to the Causeway.
Perth’s first sewage pump house, commissioned in 1914, is on the northern side of Langley Park. During the early 1920s Langley Park added another first: Perth’s first airstrip, which welcomed the city’s first airmail service in 1921 and housed WA Airways until 1925 when Maylands Aerodrome was established.
According to the RAAFA WA Aviation Heritage Museum, planes arrived at Langley Park when Perth airline pioneer Norman Brearley persuaded Kimberley MP Michael Durack to allow him to construct a hangar at the bottom of his garden on the Esplanade.
After the completion of the final land reclamation at Point Fraser, Riverside Drive was constructed in the 1930s — nearly 30 years after it was first planned.
Heirisson Island was then reclaimed during the two decades up until 1950 and the riverfront received a makeover with the addition of the Narrows Bridge in 1959. More than 50 years later, Elizabeth Quay returned some of the riverfront back to the Swan River.