On a glorious morning in May 2014, John and Patricia Azarias took a stroll in Sydney’s beautiful Botanic Gardens. During their walk their attention was captured by a lovely classical monument in sandstone.
This monument is a replica of an ancient Greek one that still stands in Athens. The original marble monument was erected in 334 BC by a wealthy Athenian arts patron named Lysicrates to celebrate his theatrical troupe’s victory in the annual Dionysia Festival. The antipodean replica was commissioned in 1868 by Sir James Martin—classical scholar, Attorney-General, three times Premier, and Chief Justice of NSW—and erected in his garden at Potts Point. Seventy-five years later it was re-located to Farm Cove.
John and Patricia were struck by the poor condition of the monument. After decades of exposure to wind, rain and salt, the monument’s carvings were crumbling away. They decided on the spot to raise the funds for its restoration.
The project captured the imagination of the NSW treasurer, Dominic Perrottet. The NSW Government came to the party, and with the help of some private donors, the necessary funds were there.
Stonemasons from the NSW Public Works Advisory and Heritage Stoneworks, led by Paul Thurloe, undertook the meticulous conservation work required to restore and, where necessary, replace elements of the monument’s fine carvings.
Sydney’s Lysicrates monument now stands proudly in the Botanic Gardens in its restored glory. As well as giving pleasure all year round to hundreds of thousands of visitors to the Gardens, once a year it is the site of the presentation of the annual Lysicrates Prize for playwriting.