Hyde Park is the oldest public parkland in Australia, in the middle of the city, boarded by Elizabeth Street and College Street. The site was originally swampy marshes where the Aborigines hunted ducks. It is also understood to have been the site of an Aboriginal contest ground. In 1810 Governor Macquarie formerly reserved it as an open space and named it Hyde Park after the famous park in London. The space was then used as a racecourse through the 1820s. Major planting began in 1837, but in 1850s Hyde Park was still a barren expanse of grass. In 1854 the Public Parks Act was passed. Improvements continued apace from then on.
The park was redesigned by Norman Weekes (1888-1972) and others. It now contains well-kept gardens and some 580 trees, a mixture of figs, conifers and palms. The Archibald Fountain and the Anza Memorial are in the park. There is also a statue of Captain Cook. The park has many benches, statues and fountains. It is famed for its magnificent fig tree-lined avenues.
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