Try to find the spot where the photographer was standing.
This building (opened 1863) is still there, though hidden behind a 1926 George Street facade / extension. The roof was flattened. www.marinerswelfare.com.au/index.htm
I wonder about the unusually large skylight windows. They must have been very hot in summer and cold in winter.
c.1890 - the clock tower at the Lands Department Building is half built (see right background).
'Now' - http://www.flickr.com/photos/29029178@N03/5471054106/
More history -
"The Sydney Sailors' Home at 106 [sic] George Street (North) was dedicated on 16 July . Architects were Weaver & Kemp who produced a four-storey design said to be similar to that of the Royal Brunswick Maritime Establishment in London built some years earlier. Its location in the context of proximity to the wharf areas of the port and to the Mariners' Church, a short distance to the North on the same street, was seen as a benefit to the Home and the Mariners' Church alike. The adjacent Cadman's Cottage, formerly occupied by the Water Police, served from 1865 until 1926 as accommodation for the Superintendent of the Sydney Sailors' Home."
From "1863" in timeline - www.sydneybethelunion.com.au/milestones.htm
It is the Soudan Hotel (cnr Argyle and George Sts) at right, a favourite hotel for Coroner's inquiries in the 1880s - trove.nla.gov.au/newspaper/result?q=%22soudan+hotel%22&am... . After June 1888 there is little mention, implying a name change, and also implying this photo is before 1888. Which doesn't quite tally with the Lands Department clock tower, completed in 1891 ..,
Thanks to [http://www.flickr.com/photos/anmm_thecommons/] for the prompt here -
Interesting to compare with c.1871 photo by Charles Pickering, particularly the buildings behind -