The Hyde Park Obelisk is situated on the intersection between Elizabeth Street and Bathurst Street, just inside Hyde Park. It dates back to 1857, when it was unveiled by the Lord Mayor George Thornton, earning it the nickname Thornton’s Scent Bottle.
The Victorians loved Egyptian artefacts, and incorporated this into the design of the monument; notice the carved Sphinxes sitting on the pedestal. The Hyde Park Obelisk was modelled on Cleopatra’s Needle, one of two twin Ancient Egyptian obelisks that were relocated to London and New York respectively. A third can also be found in Paris, whose twin remains in Luxor, where they all originated.
It was the first sewerage ventilation shaft built in the state, and the only one made of sandstone. It stands at 22 metres tall, and the sandstone base is 6.5 metres high. At the very tip of the structure is a filigreed bronze vent, originally used to allow noxious gases to escape from the sewerage system below.
The obelisk is now part of the Sydney Water system, and ventilates the stormwater system instead of sewerage. It was also part of a week-long 2014 campaign to increase awareness of HIV in the LGBT community, when the AIDS Council of NSW (ACON) draped a giant pink condom over the monument, with the slogan “Test more treat early stay safe = ending HIV” printed on the material.