The original building on the site was a simple Georgian sandstone building roofed with slates, the first use of this roofing material in the colony. The numerous brick Victorian additions were made in the 19th century during various ownerships. Under the buildings solid sandstone cellars are covered by massive hand hewn timber beams whilst upper floors are in heavy timber post and beam construction. The roofs are simple hipped forms, now sheeted with corrugated iron. The courtyard is entered via passageways whose entrances are surrounded by articulated sandstone arches and quoins whilst the brick walls and pilasters to the streets are stuccoed.
Note: This building contains a hydraulic hoist which is an important item located within the building.
Style: Georgian; Colonial; Classical; Victorian Warehouse; Art Nouveau Chicago.
Storeys: 3,4 plus basement.
Façade - Stone; Floor Frame - Timber; Roof Frame - Timber; Roof Cladding: Galvanised Iron
Built: East: 1826-1839; West: 1840-45; North: 1881; South: c.1878
South: 1968-69; East: c.1878
(See Orwell and Peter Phillips Conservation Plan 1990: 3-6 for further details)
Conservation and adaptation work was undertaken in the early 1970s for conversion of the store for an antique market and other businesses of an art and craft theme. (SCRA Annual Reports 1973-74)
In 1993, the SCA obtained vacant possession of the Argyle Centre, to enable a major refurbishment and fitout of the Stores by architects Alan Jack & Cottier. The existing fitout was removed to create open floor space to all levels. The Centre was reopened in November 1995. Additional air conditioning was provided to the buildings in 1996-7. (SCRA Annual Reports 1995-1996/7)
2006-07 The building and courtyard were refurbished and the Hydraulic whip restored
The first European development of the site was associated with the extension of Sydney's first Hospital, with the planting of herb and vegetable gardens on the later bond store site. The first building was a house commenced by Captain John Piper in 1826 at what became the east wing of the current stores, who sold it before completion to Mary Reiby in 1828. Frederick Unwin bought it later that year and completed the building in c 1829. Designed by architect Henry Cooper, the three level building had a dressed stone elevation to Argyle Street. Samuel Terry bought the site in 1831. The northern extension to the Customs House was completed by 1835. In 1839, Unwin again bought the site, and work commenced on 'Unwin's Bonded Stores'. These included an addition to the northern side of the Custom House and other buildings forming a courtyard in the middle.
East Wing (20 Argyle St.): In 1826, construction of the East Wing was started under the supervision of Capt. John Piper in his capacity as Naval Officer. As owner of the property, Piper sold the land and partially completed building to Mary Reiby in 1828, who in turn sold it to Frederick Unwin. In 1829 Unwin mortgaged the property and from 1830 the east wing was used as the 'Custom House'. Unwin regained ownership in 1838 and building construction resumed in 1839. Around 1844 goods such as brandy, wine, tea, cheese, tobacco, flour and sugar were stored. In 1845 the City Council Rates Book lists the Custom House as 'two floors in bad repair'. It was about this time that the transfer of the Custom House to Circular Quay commenced.
South Wing (14-16 Argyle St): The South wing appears to have remained vacant until c.1835. The map of 1835 shows a small building at the extreme west end of the wing. It appears that this may have been built at the time Henry Fisher was 'Custom House Agent', and as the City Council Rate Book of 1845 lists this building as a house of three rooms, it may have been built as the residence for the 'Custom House Agent'. Three other small buildings had been built on the site when, in 1876, Isaac Ellis Ives bought the stores and began to expand their capacity. Part of this expansion involved the demolition of most of the existing south wing and the construction of a new wing c.1878.
West Wing (12 Argyle St): The West wing of the stores was built between 1840-1845. In 1845 the City Council Rates Book lists the entire west wing as 'new stores' of '4 floors', tenanted by Henry Fisher and owned by Frederick Unwin. In 1854 the stores were purchased by R & E Tooth, brewers and merchants who occupied the west and north wings. During this period the building was used as a bonded and free store. There have been no major structural changes to the west wing since was built c. 1840.
(Orwell & Peter Phillips 1990: Appendix A : W Thorp - Historical Development Argyle and Cleland Bond Stores, Argyle Street, The Rocks)
See also: Item No 4500099 Cleland Bond Store.