Circular Quay was constructed in 1837-1844 by reconstructing the southern section of Sydney Cove with an artificial shoreline. The mouth of the Tank Stream, which flowed into Sydney Cove at the western end of Circular Quay, was in-filled. The harbour was originally known as “Semi-Circular Quay”, this being the actual shape of the quay. The name was shortened for convenience. Wharves were built on the southern shore. Reflecting Circular Quay’s status as the central harbour for Sydney, the Customs House was built on the southern shore in 1844-5. . . .However, by the 1870s, much of the commercial shipping activities was moving away from Circular Quay. The harbour was becoming too small to accommodate the increasing number of large ships accessing Sydney. Instead, shipping activities moved further westwards to Darling Harbour, which also had the advantage of a railway line. With the absence of commercial shipping, the harbour became increasingly used for passenger transport. The first ferry wharf was built on the southern shore in 1879. From the 1890s, ferry terminals came to dominate the harbour, and Circular Quay became the hub of the Sydney ferry network. The Sydney Harbour Trust was formed in 1900.
By 1890, other prominent names connected with the wool industry – such as Pitt, Son & Badgery, Dalgety & Co and Hill, Clark & Co – had wool stores at East Circular Quay. Expansion in trade, however, stimulated the construction of major wool stores on the Pyrmont-Ultimo peninsula from the early 1880s – the first, built in 1883, was Goldsbrough Mort’s gigantic wool store. These had various situational advantages, such as the Darling Harbour goods railway line. The shift of commercial focus from Sydney Cove to Darling Harbour and the Pyrmont-Ultimo peninsula towards the end of the nineteenth century may, in the longer term, have taken pressure off East Circular Quay for redevelopment.
Dictionary of Sydney