Petersham Town Hall, including interiors | NSW Environment & Heritage

Culture and heritage


Petersham Town Hall, including interiors

Item details

Name of item: Petersham Town Hall, including interiors
Type of item: Built
Group/Collection: Community Facilities
Category: Hall Town Hall
Primary address: 107 Crystal Street, Petersham, NSW 2049
Local govt. area: Marrickville
All addresses
Street AddressSuburb/townLGAParishCountyType
107 Crystal StreetPetershamMarrickville  Primary Address
Frederick StreetPetershamMarrickville  Alternate Address

Statement of significance:

This is a good example of Art Deco civic architecture of the late 1930s. The strong vertical elements and exposed brickwork make it a dominant element within the area which developed as the municipal centre of Petersham from the 1880s. The Town Hall has been associated with a stream of influential people and continues to be an actively used and recognised resouce to the local community. It is considered by the NSW RAIA to be an important twentieth century civic building.

Petersham Town Hall is held in high esteem by the local community for its aesthetic appeal and community associations. Its stately Art Deco design, its location opposite the Marrickville Council administration building and Council Chambers make the Petersham Town Hall building an identifiable and actively used landmark within the municipality.
Date significance updated: 21 May 15
Note: The State Heritage Inventory provides information about heritage items listed by local and State government agencies. The State Heritage Inventory is continually being updated by local and State agencies as new information becomes available. Read the OEH copyright and disclaimer.


Designer/Maker: Rudder & Grout
Builder/Maker: Hutcherson Bros
Construction years: 1937-1938
Physical description: Built of red brick with rendered string coursing and portico detailing, this is a fine example of Art Deco civic architecture of the late 1930's. The symmetrical façade curves into a recessed entrance from which a square clock tower and circular cap, rises. Strong vertical and curved elements. Much interior has been retained.

Petersham Town Hall addresses Crystal Street, Petersham. This road bears heavy traffic, which alienates pedestrian movement in the immediate area.
Directly opposite the Town Hall is the Council Administration building. Neighbouring the Town Hall along Crystal Street to the North are single storey federation cottages with terrace houses and a shopping strip beyond. The railway line runs perpendicular to Crystal Street to the North. To the South are a few shops with terrace houses beyond.
To the rear of the building is an interesting precinct with a church and park, once intended to be the public centre of Petersham.

There is minimal curtilage around the Town Hall. The building is aligned to each boundary with few metres to spare along each facade.
To the West is the entrance portico of the building, flanked either side by a garden bed. To the South along Fredrick Street there is a garden bed with a brick garden wall fronting the footpath. The beds are planted with Mungo Grass, Clivia and a line of trees. To the East the footpath abuts the service entries of the building. To the North is a narrow service area of sorts bounded by the party wall of the neighbouring house.
Physical condition and/or
Archaeological potential:
Good- Fair
Date condition updated:01 Nov 00
Modifications and dates: Additions and minor alterations.
Current use: Town Hall/ council offices


Historical notes: The first Petersham Town Hall was built on this site in 1882. In 1937 a plan for a new town hall, prepared by architects Rudder & Grout, was accepted and the old hall demolished. The new building was opened in July, 1938. It is now used by Marrickville Council for offices, meeting rooms and a public hall.

Petersham and Marrickville Town Halls

Both the town halls at Petersham and Marrickville are impressive structures. Neither serves its original purpose but both still contribute to the life of the combined municipality. The heyday of the erection of administrative centres for what are now inner- suburban regions was the decade of the 1880s. Elaborate Victorian buildings were the order of the day. Marrickville and Petersham municipalities followed this trend. But they differed from most others (but not from nearby St Peters) in that they replaced their town halls in the inter- war period. The present buildings are fine and worthy of special attention.

First Petersham Town Hall

Petersham became a municipal borough in 1871. The first meeting of its Council was held on 26 February 1872 in a Crystal St building, on the Stanmore Rd corner. By the next year, proposals were being made to buy a permanent site. In early 1879, several distinct locations for a ‘School of Arts and Council Chambers' (the grouping is important) were discussed, leading in April to the choice of the present Crystal and Frederick Sts block. In August, the nearby area, adjoining the former All Saints school, was acquired. The site was further extended by the purchase of two rear parcels, belonging to the Rev C. F. D. Priddle. This action allowed the new hall to be set back from Crystal Street.

Thomas Rowe, President of the Institute of Architects, secured the post of architect for a town hall to cost up to 3000 pounds. Rowe, a major practitioner of his time, was just completing Newington College, Stanmore; there is a vague similarity to his Petersham design. Henry Franklin was the builder. The foundation of the two-storey hall, in Renaissance style was laid on 18 December 1880 and the building was opened in 1882.

Petersham Town Hall soon became a busy administrative and social centre, adjacent to the rebuilt railway station. Although not an official school of arts, it came to house a number of cultural institutions. A large addition, in comparable style, was made on the Frederick St side in 1892. With the passage of time, various internal changes were effected, not always sympathetic, for the overworked building. By the early 1930s it was clear that further action was required.

Present Petersham Town Hall

What followed was a period, unusual even for municipal affairs, of controversy and indecision. The options were to renovate the existing hall, to replace it in totality or to erect some modified version (perhaps without the auditorium). Successive Councils took differing stances and the issue was not resolved until 1937.

In August 1932, in the midst of the Depression, the Council decided to pull down the existing structure and replace it with a new buIding, holding offices and a Council chamber only. Two forms of architects submitted sketches but neither were accepted. In 1933 a referendum, with a thin attendance, rejected the option of demolishing the hall. Robertson and Marks were commissioned to suggest ways of improving the existing building, Government pressure to modernise the auditorium being an important factor. The architects much preferred a totally new structure but reluctantly submitted (at great trouble to themselves) a series of alternatives. By 1935, it had become evident that none of the Robertson and Marks schemes were acceptable and the architects withdrew gracefully, leaving behind a plan, of aldermanic origin, for a rejuvenated Town Hall. This plan, in turn, was condemned as useless by a fresh set of architects, Justelius and Fredrick, in 1936. Their scheme of remodelling proved to be too expensive and the whole issue was once again dropped. Divided opinions, a reluctance to submit the matter to a referendum and the great difficulty of bringing the old building up to date led to an impasse.

In 1937, a new Council tried again, spurred on by improved economic conditions and the imminence of the Sesquicentenary celebrations. The remodelling- versus- demolition controversy was revived but now there was no thought of a truncated new building. Finally, two Council officers came forward with a fresh plan. Since it embodied features of that submitted in 1932 by architects Rudder and Grout, the two were combined. Rudder and Grout were commissioned to submit several new proposals; the cheaper was accepted. The decision for an entirely fresh Town Hall had finally been made. Hutcherson Bros were the successful tenderers and, armed with a loan of 25 000 pounds, the Council made a start.

The foundation stone of the new Town Hall was laid on 27 November, the Council held its final meeting in the old building on 5 December and Petersham’s second Town Hall was opened on 16 July 1938, amid Sesquicentenary celebrations.

Given that it was a composite design, the Town Hall was a remarkably unified building. A brick building with a high clock tower, it dominated the area without oppressing it. The influence of Marrickville Town Hall (1922) was evident in the general design and layout. But, at Petersham, there were significant changes. Being on flat land, the bulk of the structure was lessened; the tower was the dominant feature. There was an unusually high proportion of office space on the ground floor (much of this has been added to and rearranged), necessitating a wide access passage to the auditorium. This, indeed, led onto a foyer, running at right angles and with a roof whose form caused much controversy. Hall and office were thus empathically separated. Basement space was relatively small. The modest staircase led to an impressive Chamber with further offices. The auditorium itself was a splendid creation, in the full flight of 1930s Art Deco. The total cost was 32,363/2/0 pounds.

Even after the foundation stone had been laid, there were further discussions about the interior layout, the furnishings and decorations. On the whole, there was to be the maximum of effect with a minimum of expense. Except for the foyer, the carpet was British Imperial Axminster rather than the dearer British Gobelin Super Axminster; the curtains were cottage weave, save for the Council Chamber’s chenille and the Mayor’s velour. Anthony Hordern’s total furniture and fittings bill came to less than 1000 pounds. There were economies- the auditorium floor was not sprung- but there were gains- the supply of electricity was placed underground so as not to disturb the Hall’s appearance.

Petersham Council remained in occupation until 31 December 1948. The Local Government (Areas) Act, which came into force on the following day, created the new Municipality of Marrickville. Petersham Town Hall was used as the legislative and administrative centre of the enlarged unit of local government until 1974, when the Fisher Street complex was opened. It remains operative and includes an archival resource, opened as a Bicentennial project in 1988. In 2013-14 façade conservation works were undertaken to the east and south elevations. Works included stabilisation and restoration of the brickwork to the fly tower and parapet and structural strengthening works.

Assessment of significance

SHR Criteria a)
[Historical significance]
State- The Petersham Town Hall is representative of the late 19th century and early 20th century tradition of housing Council functions within a grand town hall. The building is associated with a stream of people who have been politically significant in shaping the community and form of the area. The hall, along with other town halls in the present municipality are reminders that the municipality was once a number of municipalities, each with their own town hall.

Petersham Town Hall is historically significant at a state level. It is representative of the late 19th century to early 20th century tradition of attempting to instill a sense of order to the local government area in the form of a grand town hall to house council functions. The building is associated with a stream of people who have been politically significant in shaping the community and built form of the area. The building continues to be associated with council functions and community groups, perpetuating its historic role as a community facility. When considered with other town halls in the Marrickville Municipality, it demonstrates that the municipality was originally formed by the amalgamation of smaller municipalities.
SHR Criteria c)
[Aesthetic significance]
State - A fine and rare example of a well detailed Art Deco town hall. The bold symmetric massing, grand entrance, foyer and hall are representative of town hall design while its Art Deco detailing is rare. The bulding is of particular interest for retention of both exterior and interior design elements.

Petersham Town Hall is aesthetically significant at a state level as a fine example of an Art Deco style town hall. It has strong street scape character with a symmetric façade, bold mass and clock tower aligned to the street. It is a representative example of town hall design with bold symmetric massing, grand entrance, foyer and hall, yet is rare in the region because of its Art Deco style.
SHR Criteria d)
[Social significance]
Local- The Petersham Town Hall is an important meeting place and resource centre for a diverse section of the local community.

Petersham Town Hall is socially significant at a local level as it is held in high esteem by local community groups and individual members of the community. The building is important to the sense of place of the local community due to its bold form, cultural associations, community focus and locality opposite the Marrickville Council building. It is important for its associations with past and present political, council and community uses. It has particular associations for Council staff and community groups which meet in the hail regularly. As such it is recognised as a landmark to the local community and passers-by.
SHR Criteria e)
[Research potential]
Local- The building yields Council and cultural information as it displays evidence of past and present Council use and decision making, community involvement and past municipality boundaries. Under the bulding is evidence of walls from the original town hall.

Petersham Town Hall is of technical/research significance at a local level. It continues to yield council and cultural information as it displays evidence of past and present Council use and decision making and community involvement. As part of a group it also displays evidence of the locality being a past municipality with borders different from today. Under the building is evidence of walls from the original town hall. It is also important for its rare Art Deco style and late period of construction.
SHR Criteria f)
State- A rare example of a well detaied inter-war period Art Deco town hall. Most town halls were built at an earlier stage and not of Art Deco design.
SHR Criteria g)
Local- Representative of town halls built in the Sydney in the late 19th century and early twentieth century.
Integrity/Intactness: The building is intact and retains its integrity.
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:

Continue general maintenance


Heritage ListingListing TitleListing NumberGazette DateGazette NumberGazette Page
Local Environmental PlanMarrickville Local Environmental Plan 2001 18 May 01 86 
Local Environmental PlanMarrickville LEP 2011I18812 Dec 11 2011/645 
Within a conservation area on an LEPwithin draft cons. area Marrickville LEP 2001    
Heritage study     

Study details

TitleYearNumberAuthorInspected byGuidelines used
Marrickville Heritage Study19861.20Fox and AssociatesNovember 1984 No
Marrickville Heritage Study Review19972030016Tropman & Tropman Architects1997-1999 Yes

References, internet links & images

TypeAuthorYearTitleInternet Links

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

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Data source

The information for this entry comes from the following source:
Name: Local Government
Database number: 2030016
File number: 1.20

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