Prior to European settlement, the lower north shore of Sydney was home to the Gorualgal in the east and Cammeraygal around the middle and north shore. The creeks, harbour inlets and mangroves made this an abundant and fertile land for these original inhabitants, but the original European settlers of Sydney found the land too rugged for agriculture or easy settlement.
Early settlers were mainly tree cutters, boat building, and some limited agriculture and orchards in areas of good soil.
Crows Nest was originally part of a land grant to Edward Wollstonecraft in 1821. This grant ran from present day Wollstonecraft through north past Crows Nest. Edward built a house in the area and, according to his business partner Alexander Berry, the called the house “Crows Nest” due to it’s elevated position. A “crows nest” on a tall ship is the enclosure near the top of the mast for the look-out to stand watch.
Alexander Berry built a more substantial house at the site of the original cottage in 1850, taking the name of the original cottage, he called his estate Crows Nest House. In 1880 he added the gates, which still stand at the Pacific Highway at the entrance of the North Sydney Demonstration School.
Settlement of the North Shore was slow, and while the North Shore line was completed in the 1890’s, active settlement of Crows Nest and the surrounding suburbs didn’t really take off until after the completion of the Sydney Harbour Bridge in 1932.