Macquarie Street is named after Lachlan Macquarie, an early Governor of New South Wales (1810-1821), and was designed as a ceremonial thoroughfare. Macquarie initiated the construction of Sydney's first public buildings of any real permanence and set the boundaries of Sydney's grid of streets. It became the colony's preeminent residential address.
Macquarie Street was widely known as the Harley Street of Sydney from the late 19th century until recent decades. The Royal Australian College of Physicians Building at 145 Macquarie Street was the Georgian residence of John Fairfax until 1848. The British Medical Association's 1920s BMA House at 135-137 Macquarie St still houses medical chambers and lecture hall.
Today, Macquarie Street is also the location of Parliament House, the State Library of New South Wales, Sydney Mint and the Reserve Bank of Australia. Part of the street is adjacent to the Royal Botanic Gardens, which is the location of Government House and the Sydney Conservatorium of Music.
At the northern end of Macquarie Street is a group of buildings including an apartment block known as "The Toaster Building". "Arguably the most universally disliked development in decades" it also includes offices, restaurants, a hotel and cinema.
Between 61 Macquarie Street the heritage sandstone Moore Stairs (1868) lead down to East Circular Quay.