THE PUMPHOUSE was built in 1891 as a pumping station for the Sydney & Suburban Hydraulic Power Company as part of Sydney's power infrastructure, back before electricity provided most of our power needs.
The station powered hydraulic engines, lifts, wool presses, cranes and bank doors in the city and inner suburbs. Water was pumped initially from Sydney's water supply to the pumping station, and stored in a large water tank (which can still be seen in the Pumphouse Bar). The water was then pumped across the city to various destinations which then utilised the water under pressure as a source of power.
Gradually the use of electric power took over, but the pumping station at Little Pier Street, Darling Harbour continued to be used to a limited extent until 1975. At the time of closure, the system was still operating lifts and doors in 35 city buildings including the Queen Victoria Building. Once the system was terminated, the enormous front doors on some banks were left permanently open and no longer operable.
The building was saved from demolition by the Heritage Council of New South Wales and was restored to become the Pumphouse Tavern, owned and operated by the Tank Stream Brewing Company, and selling craft beer at the tavern made by the company at their own brewery.
From its beginnings the Pumphouse played a central role in Sydney's commercial and industrial development by providing power. As a Tavern, the Pumphouse was key to the development of cosmopolitan Sydney's appreciation of the different tastes offered by beer.
Today the Pumphouse Bar honours that tradition by bringing back the infamous Thunderbolt Strong Ale from brewery days and also stocks over 100 other craft beers from Australia and around the world.