LaPerouse, Botany Bay NSW 22 Oct, 1878 watercolour by Thomas George Glover Reproduced courtesy National Library of Australia
La Perouse is a place of firsts in Australia’s modern history. Laperouse, his officers, crew and scientists of the expedition were camped on the headland from January 26 to March 10, 1788. In that time they
established the first Observatory, performed the first observations and made recommendations to the English on the establishment of an observatory at Dawes Point;
celebrated the first Christian services (Catholic masses including the requiem mass for Receveur).
The French were the first to build boats, two longboats to replace those lost in the massacre of the Captain of L’Astrolabe and 11 others in Samoa.
The first mail processed in the new colony were the letters and journals of Laperouse, given to Governor Phillip on February 7 : ‘ By Alexander, under care of Lieutenant Shortland, agent for the transports… is likewise charged with a box of letters from Monsieur La Perouse for the French Ambassador’. Lieutenant Shortland sailed from Sydney for England on the convict transport Alexander in company with Friendship on 14 July 1788. See link and details this link
The first Customs Station was established at La Perouse in 1820.
The first telegraph connection between NZ and the rest of the world was through La Perouse in August 1876. The cost of telegrams was 1 shilling and 8 pence per word to Sydney and 15 shillings to England: details this link and this link
It is possible that the French were the first to establish defences as they quickly built a Stockade on their arrival. Almost a century later the English constructed a Fort on Bare Island after the first Royal Commission held to investigate the colony’s defences. Then another Royal Commission was held to investigate the construction of that fort. Substandard materials had been used and the Colonial Architect, James Barnet, was implicated and later forced to resign. The cost of cement together with greed, woeful supervision and the “slovenly and dishonest manner of the contractor” severely minimised the quantity of cement used in the construction so that “the concrete…was so inferior in quality as to hardly deserve the name concrete at all” (Daily Telegraph 1891, quotes from the Royal Commission).
In 1828 the La Perouse peninsula (around 4000 acres) was a Church and Schools estate providing revenue for teachers and clergy. It later became Crown Land. The area was opened up in the late 1800s with the establishment of the Yarra Bay Pleasure Grounds and flourished after the tram was extended from Kingsford in 1902. The tram also brought tourists for the Snake Shows.
In 1930 Bunnerong Power Station was built. In the twentieth century, La Perouse was surrounded by a gaol at Long Bay, which opened in 1901 as the State Reformatory for Women; the Botany Cemetery; Bunnerong Power Station which supplied most of Sydney’s electricity from 1930 to 1976 (it has since been demolished); and the Coast Hospital, established as an infectious diseases hospital in 1884 (it is now a housing development).
The arrival of the tram also encouraged tourism to the area. One of the drawcards for visitors to La Perouse has been the snake show at ‘The Loop’, which has been going since the beginning of the twentieth century. The first snake man was Professor Fred Fox. But since the 1920s, the snake and reptile show has been the purview of the Cann family.