A striking example of Darling Point’s post-war building boom, ‘Thornton Place’ is a sought-after address at 21 Thornton Street.

But before the high rise apartments were built it was a different type of property and home to Woollahra council’s very first mayor.

A death sentence commuted

George Thornton was born in Sydney’s Macquarie Street in December 1819, the son of Samuel and Sarah Thornton.

That George was born at all came down to one crucial moment in his mother’s life. Appearing in court at London’s Old Bailey for larceny in 1813, Sarah initially received a death sentence. This was, however, commuted to transportation for life and she arrived in the colonies in 1814. Her husband would later join her as a free settler.

At the age of 16, George joined the customs department as a storekeeper. Just four years later he set himself up as a Customs House agent and in the same year married Mary Ann Solomon.

The Chairman of Woollahra

Next was a move into politics, with George elected to the Sydney Municipal Council for Cook Ward in 1847.

With his career progressing, George and Mary purchased a home in the relatively new area of Mrs Darling’s Point. Allotments were increasingly opening up along Yarranabbe Road, and it was here the Thorntons found a home – ‘Longwood’, for which they paid £2500. ‘Longwood’ backed onto the street that would eventually bear George Thornton’s name. Nearby neighbours in the already-desirable suburb included the Hordern retail family at Retford Hall.

Thornton’s life at ‘Longwood’

During his career, Thornton would hold positions on the Legislative Assembly and Legislative Council. And in 1860 he became embedded into the life of his own neighbourhood, becoming the first mayor of Woollahra Council, a position then known as Chairman.

In 1862 Thornton worked with architect William Weaver on renovations and extensions to ‘Longwood’. Ten years later he made yet more changes to the home, this time with G. Allen Mansfield at the architectural helm.

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There are few clues to tell us what ‘Longwood’ looked like. We know, however, that Thornton left the home in 1876 and moved to Manly, before selling ‘Longwood’ in the 1890s.

Old newspapers make occasional mention of ‘Longwood’ after Thornton’s time. The Daily Telegraph reported on the death of Dr Carl Ludwig Sahl, Imperial German Consul, who lived at ‘Longwood’ until he died there in 1897. A year later a Mrs Mylne, resident at ‘Longwood’, hosted her daughter’s wedding breakfast there after a ceremony at St Mark’s, an event that made the society pages of The Sydney Mail.

Apart from that, little survives of ‘Longwood’. The house was eventually demolished and in 1967 the first of a number of high-rise apartments – ‘Thornton Place’ – was built on the land. A neighbouring tower is called Longwood.

‘Thornton Place’: the sensational seventies and beyond

‘Thornton Place’ exemplifies the building boom that took place in Darling Point during the 1950s and 60s.

The 20-story building was typical of Darling Point high rises at the time in delivering both stunning views and modern, luxury touches. And in 2016 buyers got a rare glimpse into just what this might have looked like when Apartment 18a, on ‘Thornton Place’ 18th floor, came up for sale for the first time since undergoing a sumptuous refurbishment in the 1970s. Remarkably, it had remained untouched since the 1970s – features included bright blue shag pile carpets, boldly patterned wallpapers and a circular bed in the master bedroom. It would almost be enough to make you ignore the panoramic harbour views.

But the views from ‘Thornton Place’ are unsurpassed, no more so than from apartment 4a/21 Thornton Street, which is currently on the market. This spacious, light-filled three-bedroom apartment overlooks the Harbour Bridge, Opera House, city and surrounds. Call me today to arrange an inspection of this fabulous find.