Mining Museum (former) | NSW Environment & Heritage

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Heritage

Mining Museum (former)

Item details

Name of item: Mining Museum (former)
Other name/s: Earth Exchange, Sydney Geological and Mining Museum
Type of item: Built
Location: Lat: -33.8566091405 Long: 151.2084635440
Primary address: 36-64 George Street, The Rocks, NSW 2000
Parish: St Philip
County: Cumberland
Local govt. area: Sydney
Local Aboriginal Land Council: Metropolitan
Property description
Lot/Volume CodeLot/Volume NumberSection NumberPlan/Folio CodePlan/Folio Number
LOT2 DP247644
All addresses
Street AddressSuburb/townLGAParishCountyType
36-64 George StreetThe RocksSydneySt PhilipCumberlandPrimary Address

Owner/s

Organisation NameOwner CategoryDate Ownership Updated
Sydney Harbour Foreshore AuthorityState Government 

Statement of significance:

The Mining Museum and site are of State heritage significance for their historical and scientific cultural values. The site and building are also of State heritage significance for their contribution to The Rocks area which is of State Heritage significance in its own right.

The former Mining Museum and Chemical Laboratory site and building is principally significant for its historical and aesthetic significance. It demonstrates the continuous significant human activity of collecting mineral and geological objects of economic and intellectual interest, carried out for almost 90 years on this site. It is an excellent example of the Federation Warehouse style with good proportions and distinctive Romanesque and Art Nouveau detailing. It was designed by a very prominent Federation Period architect, Walter Liberty Vernon, who was the first NSW Government Architect. The design is a well considered and executed approach to the site. The building reflects the early 20th century development phase of The Rocks after the Government resumption. It is significant as an early 20th century museum building illustrating important external and internal design features. It is a very distinctive building with landmark qualities to the local area, The Rocks and Circular Quay. The place is also significant because: It is associated with numerous significant historical events at world, national and state level. It is representative of an educational and research activity that was continuous from the turn of the century to recent times in NSW. The chimney stack is a rare surviving feature in Sydney and has a high level of integrity. The building is a rare example of and inner city building that was originally designed and partially constructed as a power station and then redesigned and completed as a Museum and Chemical Laboratory. The building was associated with electricity generation supply and distribution in Sydney. It is representative of the decision to generally change from direct current (DC) supply to alternating current (AC) supply in NSW.
(Tropman 1996: 15)
Date significance updated: 30 Mar 11
Note: There are incomplete details for a number of items listed in NSW. The Heritage Division intends to develop or upgrade statements of significance and other information for these items as resources become available.

Description

Designer/Maker: Walter Liberty Vernon
Construction years: 1902-1909
Physical description: 1902-1908. Former electrical power station.; Built By: 1902
The principal building on the site is the Former Mining Museum and Chemical Laboratory, consisting of a six storey building and a detached 61 metre high chimney stack, which has been recessed into the side of the rectangular plan of the building. The building addresses two roadways, George Street and Hickson Road. It would appear that considerable bedrock has been excavated to George Street which is approximately three storeys above Hickson Road to facilitate the building on the site. The Former Mining Museum and Chemical Laboratory building has a direct relationship with Circular Quay, George Street and Hickson Road. Positioned between these two important roadways, the building dominates the immediate precinct with its impressive chimney stack, large building scale and its fine proportions. Generally, the building is constructed with a combination of sandstone, brick and rendered facades. The roof is composed of a series of gable roofs, with central sawtooth roof lights. The internal construction is chiefly rolled steel column and beam structure with various sections concrete slab and timber floor construction.
Brick chimney - 200 ft high and foundations.
Style: Federation Warehouse with some distinctive Art Nouveau and Romanesque detailing.; Storeys: Five+ basement; Facade: Combination of sandstone, brick and rendered facades.; Side Rear Walls: Sandstone, brick and recent plasterboard; Internal Walls: Sandstone, brick and recent plasterboard; Floor Frame: Concrete slab and timber.; Ceilings: Plasterboard lining; Sprinkler System: Fire sprinkler system located in roof space.; Lifts: Brick lift well (south end of the building)
Physical condition and/or
Archaeological potential:
Archaeology Assessment Condition: Destroyed. Assessment Basis: Basements below George Street. Terraced into hill slope from Hickson Road.
Date condition updated:03 May 01
Modifications and dates: 1902-1904: the lower part; 1908-1909: the upper levels
1990: Major internal works were carried out for the reopening of the building as the Earth Exchange. (SCRA Annual Report 1990: 19)
Current use: Commercial
Former use: Mining Museum, Chemical Laboratory & The Earth Exchange

History

Historical notes: Late 18th century maps and plans of the area indicate that the site was not occupied by any buildings or other human structures. 1807: Meehan's map includes the site within a larger parcel of land bounded by High Street (now George Street) and the northern end of Sydney Cove, with the reference 'leased to Robert Campbell Esquire' along with two adjoining parcels of land, one to the south, and the other on the western side of High Street. 1902 : The site of an old quarry that had otherwise not been developed before. 1902/04: The lower part of the subject building constructed on the site for a power station and workshops. 1908: Site vested in Mines Department. 1908/09: The upper levels of the subject building constructed for a mining museum and chemical laboratories. 1901: Plan of Sydney in Fitzgerald's Royal Commission indicates the present site boundaries. 1902: Plans drawn by Government Architect Walter Vernon for an Electric Light Station and Workshop. The plan shows six level structure facing George Street and a similar structure facing Hickson Rd., with an octagonal chimney stack on the northern side, and an attic level behind Romanesque style parapets and gabled roofs. 1903: Revised plans drawn by Vernon for the Electric Light Station and Workshop now shows a two level structure facing George Street and a three levels high structure facing Hickson Rd., with an octagonal chimney stack 60 metres in height on the northern side, and simple gabled roofs. 1902/04 - The lower part of the building constructed on the site for a power station and workshops but and left unfinished and roofless, with the generating equipment never installed. 1908: The site is vested in the NSW Mines Department. 1908/09: The upper levels of the subject building constructed for a mining museum and chemical laboratories, and a new entrance into George Street, with the Mining Museum opening in August 1909. 1930: Julian Ashton's Art School moved into the vacant first floor. 1972: Museum shop was established. 1973: Julian Ashton's Art School moved out of the building. 1987: Refurbishment plans launched but later delayed until 1989, when the building was transferred to the Geological and Mining Museum Trust, and the name changed to The Earth Exchange. 1991: The Earth Exchange opened in March. 1996: The Museum closed permanently.
(Tropman 1996: 4-8; Appendix A)
Since 1996, the building has been fitted out for offices.

[Archaeological History - Land occupied by Cunnyngehams shipyard by 1840s. Current structure originally constructed as a DC Electricity Power Station between 1902-07. The building is illustrative of the then debate on electricity supply, DC current being strongly, and stubbornly, supported by Thomas Edison. Generally however AC power was universally adopted and this power station was never put into action. In 1909 it became the Mining Museum and remained so until 1995 (by which time it was known as the Earth Exchange). Since then it has generally been vacant with various proposals by the Ministry for the Arts.]

Historic themes

Australian theme (abbrev)New South Wales themeLocal theme
3. Economy-Developing local, regional and national economies Environment - cultural landscape-Activities associated with the interactions between humans, human societies and the shaping of their physical surroundings Developing local, regional and national economies-National Theme 3
3. Economy-Developing local, regional and national economies Mining-Activities associated with the identification, extraction, processing and distribution of mineral ores, precious stones and other such inorganic substances. Mining for various minerals-
4. Settlement-Building settlements, towns and cities Accommodation-Activities associated with the provision of accommodation, and particular types of accommodation – does not include architectural styles – use the theme of Creative Endeavour for such activities. Adapted heritage building or structure-
4. Settlement-Building settlements, towns and cities Towns, suburbs and villages-Activities associated with creating, planning and managing urban functions, landscapes and lifestyles in towns, suburbs and villages 19th Century Infrastructure-
4. Settlement-Building settlements, towns and cities Utilities-Activities associated with the provision of services, especially on a communal basis (none)-
5. Working-Working Labour-Activities associated with work practises and organised and unorganised labour Working in mines and quarries-
5. Working-Working Labour-Activities associated with work practises and organised and unorganised labour Gold mining-
8. Culture-Developing cultural institutions and ways of life Creative endeavour-Activities associated with the production and performance of literary, artistic, architectural and other imaginative, interpretive or inventive works; and/or associated with the production and expression of cultural phenomena; and/or environments that have inspired such creative activities. (none)-
8. Culture-Developing cultural institutions and ways of life Leisure-Activities associated with recreation and relaxation Going to a museum-

Assessment of significance

SHR Criteria a)
[Historical significance]
The building has historical significance as a place that demonstrates the significant human activity of collecting mineral and geological objects of economic and intellectual interest, and is associated with six significant events and at least one significant person, Walter Liberty Vernon. It is representative of both turn of the century power station and museum buildings, and is rare example of a building especially converted for activities associated with museum for collecting, curating and exhibiting the objects of a particular human activity, mining.
SHR Criteria c)
[Aesthetic significance]
The building is aesthetically distinctive. The building and chimney stack are very distinctive in form, style and detailing. The subject site and building, particularly the chimney stack, is very prominent in The Rocks and Circular Quay an is distinctly a strong visual feature to the local area.
SHR Criteria d)
[Social significance]
The subject site and building have a special cultural, social and educational value as a former Mining Museum an Chemical Laboratories, responsible for collecting, collating, displaying and researching minerals and geological objects. It was also responsible for educating various peoples from Miners to the General Public with different degrees of detail about minerals and geological objects. This association with the site began in 1908 and continued until 1995.
SHR Criteria e)
[Research potential]
It is an important benchmark and reference type. As an original planned D C Power Station and later as a constructed public institution - a mining museum and chemical laboratory.
SHR Criteria f)
[Rarity]
This item is assessed as aesthetically rare statewide.
SHR Criteria g)
[Representativeness]
This item is assessed as scientifically representative statewide. This item is assessed as socially representative statewide.
Integrity/Intactness: Archaeology Destroyed.
Assessment criteria: Items are assessed against the PDF State Heritage Register (SHR) Criteria to determine the level of significance. Refer to the Listings below for the level of statutory protection.

Recommended management:

Above and below ground archaeological remains: An archaeological conservation plan is recommended. Industrial Archaeological Study recommended.

Procedures /Exemptions

Section of actDescriptionTitleCommentsAction date
57(2)Exemption to allow workStandard Exemptions SCHEDULE OF STANDARD EXEMPTIONS
HERITAGE ACT 1977
Notice of Order Under Section 57 (2) of the Heritage Act 1977

I, the Minister for Planning, pursuant to subsection 57(2) of the Heritage Act 1977, on the recommendation of the Heritage Council of New South Wales, do by this Order:

1. revoke the Schedule of Exemptions to subsection 57(1) of the Heritage Act made under subsection 57(2) and published in the Government Gazette on 22 February 2008; and

2. grant standard exemptions from subsection 57(1) of the Heritage Act 1977, described in the Schedule attached.

FRANK SARTOR
Minister for Planning
Sydney, 11 July 2008

To view the schedule click on the Standard Exemptions for Works Requiring Heritage Council Approval link below.
Sep 5 2008

PDF Standard exemptions for works requiring Heritage Council approval

Listings

Heritage ListingListing TitleListing NumberGazette DateGazette NumberGazette Page
Heritage Act - State Heritage Register 0155510 May 02 852865

Study details

TitleYearNumberAuthorInspected byGuidelines used
SCA Register 1979-19981998B027, AR008Sydney Cove Authority (SCA)  Yes

References, internet links & images

TypeAuthorYearTitleInternet Links
Management Plan  Information supplied by Wayne Johnson, SCA
WrittenHigginbotham, Kass & Walker1991The Rocks and Millers Point Archaeological Management Plan
WrittenTropman & Tropman Architects,1996Conservation Assessment Report of The Former Mining Museum & Chemical Laboratory, 36-64 George Street, The Rock

Note: internet links may be to web pages, documents or images.

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(Click on thumbnail for full size image and image details)

Data source

The information for this entry comes from the following source:
Name: Heritage Office
Database number: 5053178


Every effort has been made to ensure that information contained in the State Heritage Inventory is correct. If you find any errors or omissions please send your comments to the Database Manager.

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