The site of the first permanent Anglo Saxon settlement
Based on the western-most bank of what would later become Circular Quay, The Rocks district and its control was established in March, 1788. Originally built using the readily available wattle and daub structural building method, the area was quickly established with storehouses and essential services to assist The First Fleet in unloading and creation of a new nation.
As an interesting piece of trivia, the first official permanent (and stone) structure built in Sydney (and from a British point of view, Australia) was Governor Phillip House, then just known as the Governor's House.
After landing in Circular Quay, the first task was to find a suitable quarry and establish permanent housing. Due to the nature of the region, sandstone was readily available in the surrounding areas, and this formed the basis of all permanent structures in the new colony. Hence the name "The Rocks". Also, due to the lack of a town planner, and the constant flux of its inhabitants, its adjacency to the docks of the new colony and the nature of said docks inhabitants, the area quickly became the seemier side of the newly formed town.
Riddled with plague, treachery and brothels, The Rocks were quickly regarded as the worst place to live in colonial Sydney. Partially ruined in many uncontrolled fires during the establishment of the town, in modern times there are actually very few original structures left. However, historically many governors and later mayors saw to rebuild the area with traditional architecture.
Today The Rocks serves as one of the main tourist destiantion for visitors to Sydney, and hosts a large number of opal and other tourist memorabilia shops. It also hosts a traditional farmers market and goods market on Sundays, and also is home to some top notch restaurants like The Palisade Restaurant. Also, the renaissance of the colonial period has led it to become a cultural centre for the arts and crafts of "traditional" Sydney.
Administratively, The Rocks was originally under control of The Port Authority from c. 1800-1906, then The Rocks Authority from 1907-1945, then The Sydney Cove Authority from 1946-1996. Currently it is under the new "super Authority" of the Sydney Harbour Foreshore Authority, an amalgamation of The Sydney Cove Authority and The City-West Development Corporation.