The Queen Victoria Building was completed in 1898, designed as a marketplace by Scottish architect George McRae, with a heavy Romanesque influence. It was named ‘The Queen Victoria Market Building’ in honour of Queen Victoria’s Diamond Jubilee, although the “Market” was dropped after the markets themselves relocated in 1910.
The QVB was continually threatened with demolition after the markets relocated in 1910, and it started falling into decay, until it was declared a Class A by the National Trust in 1974. The company Ipoh, which also owns the Strand Arcade, eventually restored the QVB to its former glory between 1984 and 1986, a project which cost $86 million.
The majority of the tilework inside the building, especially the ones beneath the central dome, is original; the rest were made in its likeness. The ceilings were designed to allow natural light to pass through, protected by cast-iron railings. There was originally a Grand Ballroom on the northern end of the building, which now houses The Tea Room.
QVB also houses two mechanical clock displays: The Royal Clock and The Great Australian Clock. Both depict moments in history using moving figurines and dioramas; the Royal Clock plays Jeremiah Clarke’s trumpet voluntary on the hour, and shows six scenes of English royalty; the Great Australian Clock displays 33 scenes of Australian history from both European and Aboriginal perspectives, with the figure of an Aboriginal hunter continually circling its exterior.
A letter, penned by Queen Elizabeth II in 1986, is displayed on the top floor. It will be opened in 2085 by the future Lord Mayor of Sydney, but until then, its contents remain sealed.
There are two sculptures that stand outside the southern end of QVB, known as the Bicentennial Plaza. One is a statue of Queen Victoria, created by Irish sculptor John Hughes, which had originally been displayed outside the legislative assembly of the Republic of Ireland until 1947. It was interred in Sydney in 1987. The other is a sculpture of Islay, Queen Victoria’s favourite dog, which stands with a wishing well. All proceedings from the well are donated to children who are blind and deaf.