Parramatta Road Commercial Precinct Heritage Conservation Area | NSW Environment, Energy and Science

Culture and heritage


Parramatta Road Commercial Precinct Heritage Conservation Area

Item details

Name of item: Parramatta Road Commercial Precinct Heritage Conservation Area
Other name/s: Parramatta Road Commercial Precinct Heritage Conservation Area - HCA 5
Type of item: Conservation Area
Group/Collection: Urban Area
Category: Townscape
Primary address: , Petersham, Stanmore, NSW 2049
Local govt. area: Marrickville
All addresses
Street AddressSuburb/townLGAParishCountyType
 Petersham, StanmoreMarrickville  Primary Address

Statement of significance:

The Parramatta Road Commercial Precinct HCA is of historical significance due to its ability to continue to demonstrate the changing role and expectations of retail and commercial development of land adjoining Sydney’s main arterial corridors since the first period of Colonial settlement. The Area includes a variety of retail and commercial built forms; some of which (for example the former drive-under petrol station) are now rare in the Sydney Metropolitan area. Its built forms provide evidence of the final subdivision of the South Annandale Estate in 1906 as well as evidence of the effect of later road widening on the built environment.
The aesthetic significance of the Parramatta Road commercial precinct heritage conservation area is derived from its ability to demonstrate the changing role of retail centres along major arterial roads and the ability of the fabric of these buildings to adapt to these changing needs and commercial imperatives. The buildings are predominantly representative of the period 1906 to 1940 and include some rare examples of their type. The streetscape of shops has retained their original configuration as individual bays with glazed shopfronts with direct access to the public footpath. Upper levels are used for commercial or residential purposes although high levels of traffic noise and pollution have affected the desirability of premises for many uses in recent years.
Date significance updated: 16 Jan 12
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.


Construction years: 1906-1940
Physical description: LOCATION

This conservation area is by its nature linear. It consists of the shops and commercial buildings that abut the northern edge of Marrickville local government area as it follows the alignment of Parramatta Road.



Commercial in character, the historical role of this conservation area is strongly expressed through its fabric and function today. Its earlier historic role as the northern boundary of George Johnson’s Annandale Farm Estate is also able to be interpreted through the subtle differences in the fabric today.
The former Stanmore Theatre and Olympia Milk Bar were the last to be built and mark the position of the driveway entry to the Estate.

The character and quality of the existing buildings along the commercial strip vary considerably from the high-quality and intricately detailed to the very plain and austere. Few original shopfronts have survived with the exception of a single group (numbers tbc).

An early drive-through service station has also survived under a otherwise ordinary commercial building but is showing signs of significant deterioration.

Much of the value of this area is not derived from the quality of the individual buildings, but rather from its historic role as one of Sydney’s major shopping strips that used to line the arterial roads of Sydney.
Its contemporary character is mixed, and its environmental quality poor due to the proximity and volume of traffic only metres away on Parramatta Road, but the area continues to demonstrate powers to act as a comparison shopping destination for such diverse purchases as electric guitars and bridal outfits.

Access to car parking remains a problem for many businesses. Some major demolition and new infill development construction has occurred with vehicular access from the rear lane to car parking, with retail activity at ground floor level and residential above. The design of these has not always been successful, but the outcome of retaining active use to Parramatta Road is consistent with its demonstrated heritage values.

As Parramatta Road follows a ridgeline, there are views to north and south from intersections, as well as views along Parramatta Road. Corner buildings are prominent.


- Commercial land uses
- buildings built to the street alignment (zero setback)
- orientation to Parramatta Road
- active street frontage at ground level
- vertical separation of land-use with retail at ground floor and commercial/residential above
- traditional shop-top late 19th Century commercial designs
- individual shops with high-quality detailing including arched openings to verandahs and high quality detailing to brickwork: quioining etc
- early drive-through petrol court with commercial activity above
- division of larger buildings into vertically proportioned bays
- two-storey street frontage with parapets
- vertically proportioned windows above ground floor level
- detailed building typology appropriate to architectural type
- surviving original shopfronts
- surviving land uses from the key period of significance, including the Olympia Milk Bar at Stanmore
- signage appropriate;
- scale, materials, location and content related to business


- Modernised shopfronts;
- buildings developed after the Key Period of Significance which do not reflect the subdivision pattern, scale and form of buildings from the Key Period of Significance.
Physical condition and/or
Archaeological potential:
Generally good
Date condition updated:23 Jun 09
Modifications and dates: Many shopfronts have been altered, and some 1st floor facades. A few sites have been redeveloped in the late 20th century (for the example the site of the former Stanmore Cinema is now occupied by a 1980s residential flat building).


Historical notes: The original owners of the land within the Marrickville Council area were the Cadigal and Wangal clans of the coastal Eora people. They spoke Eora, which may have been a dialect of the Dharug (Darug) language, though sources differ on this point. With the establishment of the penal colony at Sydney Cove in 1788 the dispossession of the original inhabitants was begun. In 1789 a smallpox plague decimated the Aboriginal population, though descendants of the Cadigal and Wangal people still reside within the Sydney metropolitan area.

Parramatta was established in 1788 and early transport was via the Parramatta River, though a track soon joined Sydney and Parramatta. The early track was poorly built and poorly maintained and in 1794 it was reported that a very good road had been made. This was Australia’s first road, but there is no evidence that any bridges were built over the streams.

On 9 June 1805, the Sydney Gazette reported that the road was impassable as the result of heavy rain. Attempts to improve the road continued over the years. Governor Macquarie called tenders for the repair of the road raised a 3 shilling per gallon levy on spirits and levied a toll to pay for the work. This turnpike road was opened on 10 April 1811. The toll barriers were at the present Railway Square and at Becket's Creek (near Parramatta). The road was improved again in 1815. The growth of Sydney caused the toll barrier to be moved to Grose Farm (near the junction with Australia Street) in April 1836.
In May 1793 Captain George Johnston of the New South Wales Corps was granted 100 acres south of Parramatta Road (in the area now known as Stanmore, which became known in the late 19th century as South Annandale), which he named Annandale Farm. Adjacent to what is now Johnstons Creek, it was supplemented by two smaller grants in 1794. Johnston was granted an additional 290 acres in 1798, which extended his holdings north to the shores of Sydney Harbour (covering what is now Annandale, known in the late 19th century as North Annandale). It is believed that Annandale House, which was built south of Parramatta Road in the vicinity of Macaulay Road, Stanmore, was constructed in about 1799. The 430 acres of Annandale Farm became the nucleus of extensive farming interests for the Johnston family, which stretched as far as the Monaro.
When George Johnston died in 1823 his common-law wife Esther Abrahams was left a life interest in Annandale Farm, which would ultimately be inherited by their son Robert Johnston. Esther attempted to lease the property and court proceedings taken against her in 1829 found her to be "not of sound mind". Esther moved to another family property, "Lockwood" while Robert Johnston occupied Annandale Farm, from where he superintended his extensive squatting interests.
As Sydney developed, Annandale Farm, with its stately avenue of Norfolk Island pines (the earliest avenue of Norfolk Island pines in mainland Australia (these grew from seedlings sent by Captain Piper to the Johnstons in 1804) and attractive gardens, was a notable landmark on Parramatta Road. Gates and a gatehouse were constructed on Parramatta Road, probably in the 1850s or 1860s, (architectural analysis of the sandstone of the surviving gate pillars now at Annandale Public School estimates their age as 1850s, an 1870s photograph of the Parramatta Road entrance to the Annandale Farm shows the gatehouse), located at approximately 200 Parramatta Road, Stanmore.
Thomas Moore was a boatbuilder and landholder, who arrived in 1796. He was granted 1170 acres in Petersham, which he extended by purchase to 1920 acres by 1807. Dr Robert Wardell, who had arrived in 1824, purchased Moore’s holdings in the late 1820s and by the time of his death owned about 2500 acres, which was known as the "Petersham Estate". Wardell’s house, "Sara Dell" stood near Parramatta Road, on a site now occupied by Fort Street High School, though most of the "Petersham Estate" was south of Stanmore and New Canterbury Roads, stretching to the Cooks River. Dr Wardell was murdered in 1834 and his estate was divided amongst his relatives. Subdivision of the "Petersham Estate" was begun in 1848.
A portion of the Petersham estate was subdivided as the "Sydenham Estate" in anticipation of the opening of the Sydney to Parramatta railway and advertised for sale, with an auction on 9 October 1854. "SYDENHAM, A most Picturesque and beautiful Village about 3¼ miles from Sydney, immediately opposite to Elswick, the seat of James Norton, Esq., and at the cross roads leading from the CITY OF SYDNEY to Parramatta, Canterbury, Cook’s River, Illawarra and Balmain; and from its gentle elevation above the surrounding country, its local resemblance and also its commanding and panoramic view of Metropolitan City and Suburbs, so justly named after that far-famed spot in our Fatherland, which has been chosen as the site for the wonder of modern times, THE CRYSTAL PALACE: SYDENHAM, from its position and neighbourhood must ere long become a place of considerable importance. The Sydney Railway passes through it and the second station from Sydney, the one which is perhaps next in importance to the main terminus, STANDS IN THE VERY CENTRE OF IT." (Sale Notice, SMH, 1854, no specific date, probably early October)
The "Sydenham Estate" was a subdivision of 205 building allotments, along Parramatta and New Canterbury Roads, with 127 villa sites. Sites ranged from 1/8th of an acre (along Parramatta and Canterbury Roads), to 4 acres for some of the villa sites. The Parramatta Road frontage of the estate stretched from Crystal Street to Palace Street. Some of the blocks along Parramatta Road and were amalgamated, creating larger sites
The importance of the road declined with the advent of the railway in 1855. In 1883, a steam tram line opened to Annandale along Parramatta Road, and was extended to Short Street, Leichhardt via Norton Street in 1884. This line was electrified in 1901. Thereafter, the Sydney Municipal Council set about widening the major routes into the city. The Sydney end of Parramatta Road was widened and improved in 1910-1911, including extensive demolitions in the areas near Cardigan Street and Bridge Road.
By the 1870s much of the land surrounding Annandale Farm had been subdivided. In 1877 subdivision of North Annandale was commenced and shortly thereafter John Young bought the whole of North Annandale from Robert Johnston. A railway station opened at Stanmore in 1878. With Robert Johnston’s death in 1882 the way was clear for wholesale subdivision. The first subdivision, the "South Annandale Estate" was auctioned on Saturday 20 September 1884. It included the area bounded by Bruce Street, Gordon Crescent, Stanley Street and Albany Road. By this time a portion of land had been sold to Petersham Council and dedicated as Weekley Park. The family had earlier refused to sell a site near what is now Stanley and Douglas Streets as a park.
The second sale at South Annandale was on Saturday 21 November 1885. It included Albany Road from Stanley Street to Charles Street, Temple Street and Stanley Street. By then the whole of Douglas Street and Gordon Crescent, from Stanley Street to Bruce Street had been sold. When the "South Annandale First Subdivision" was auctioned on 19 November 1892, it included all of the area bounded by Bruce Street, Albany Road, Percival Road and Gordon Crescent. By then most of the 1885 subdivision had sold. In 1886 Fanny Johnston, Robert Johnston’s widow, donated £3,000 for the construction of an elaborate station building at Stanmore railway station to attract purchasers to the South Annandale subdivisions.
By the early 1890s the area of Parramatta Road between Cannon and Palace Streets was densely built, in stark contrast to the rural character of the South Annandale section, with its avenue of Norfolk Island pines. On 24 March 1906 the remainder of the South Annandale Estate was subdivided. The area was bounded by Percival Road, Macauley Lane, Bridge Road and Salisbury Road. It included the site of Annandale House, which had been demolished in 1905 and its cedar doors, shutters, fittings and bricks had been auctioned. The gates were re-erected at Liverpool Show Ground (where they remained until the 1960s, and they were relocated to Annandale Public School in 1978), while the gatehouse was moved to a site in Corunna Road, one of the few relics from the Johnston holdings still extant on the estate.
In 1937 a "street improvement of a major nature" was carried out in Parramatta Road. Several properties were resumed and Phillip Street (named after Governor Phillip) was opened up between Margaret Street and Parramatta Road (The Story of Petersham, 1793-1948, Council of the Municipality of Petersham, 1948).

Historic themes

Australian theme (abbrev)New South Wales themeLocal theme
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. (none)-

Assessment of significance

SHR Criteria a)
[Historical significance]
The Parramatta Road Commercial Precinct HCA is of historical significance as it represents commercial/retail development of the last subdivision of the South Annandale Estate in 1906, and is also representative of the effect of later road widening in Parramatta Road on the built environment.
SHR Criteria c)
[Aesthetic significance]
The aesthetic significance of the Parramatta Road commercial precinct heritage conservation area is derived from its ability to demonstrate the changing role of retail centres along major arterial roads and the ability of the fabric of these buildings to adapt to these changing needs and commercial imperatives.
SHR Criteria g)
The buildings are predominantly representative of the period 1906 to 1940.
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.


Heritage ListingListing TitleListing NumberGazette DateGazette NumberGazette Page
Local Environmental PlanMarrickville LEP 2011C512 Dec 11 2011/645 
Heritage study     

Study details

TitleYearNumberAuthorInspected byGuidelines used
Marrickville Review of Draft Heritage Conservation Areas2009 Paul Davies Pty LtdRobyn Conroy No

References, internet links & images


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Data source

The information for this entry comes from the following source:
Name: Local Government
Database number: 2030492

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