Redfern Telephone Exchange Including Interior | NSW Environment & Heritage

Culture and heritage


Redfern Telephone Exchange Including Interior

Item details

Name of item: Redfern Telephone Exchange Including Interior
Type of item: Built
Group/Collection: Commercial
Category: Commercial Office/Building
Primary address: 103-109 George Street, Redfern, NSW 2016
Local govt. area: Sydney
All addresses
Street AddressSuburb/townLGAParishCountyType
103-109 George StreetRedfernSydney  Primary Address

Statement of significance:

The former Redfern Telephone Exchange buildign has significance for its hisotirc associations as well as its individual aesthetic qualities and contribution to an imprtant civic group. Completed in 1913 it was one of the earliest eight main exchanges in Sydney and the centre of communications for the lcoal community for over sixty years, continuing the exchange services initially provided by the Post Office and providing an insight into the developpment of telecommunications throught NSW. It also provides insight into the development of Redfern and the Sydney area and evokes a sense of place for the community. The former Redfern Telephone Exchange is a fine example of intact public architecure designed in the Italianate architectural style during the late Federation period to complement and visually link to the adjacent Post Office. It is a prominent building in an important civic group which includes the Post Office, which is identified as having State heirtage significance, the adjacent St vincent Paul Church group and the Court House. It is representative of the work undertaken by the Commonwealth Government development of Home affairs Works Dvision.
Date significance updated: 03 Apr 09
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.


Physical description: Two storey Victorian Italianate style building fronting Redfern (No. 15).
Physical condition and/or
Archaeological potential:
Internally, all telecommunication operation devices have been removed; The internal stairs, shown timber newels and handrail but iron balusters still remain intact. The pressed metal ceiling and ground tiles at the stair well and the tea room are intact. A generator, serving the new tower building remain at the southern section of the ground level. The floors are of concrete construction. The timber trusses of the roof remain but the ceiling has been altered (false ceiling were added under the original batten and plaster ceiling). A fireplace breast remains at ground and first level but the chimney was removed.
Date condition updated:03 Apr 09
Modifications and dates: The building was altered some time after 1941. One window at ground level and first level was removed from the west of the front façade.. The front façade was originally presented 5 evenly poisitioned windows to the first level and a central doorway and symetircally flanked winodws to the ground level. There was also a vent dormer at middle of the front pitch of the roof and another vent dormer at south elevation.. In 2008 a DA was lodged to council to subdivide the building from the Telephone Exchange group at George St.
Further information: Heritage Inventory sheets are often not comprehensive, and should be regarded as a general guide only. Inventory sheets are based on information available, and often do not include the social history of sites and buildings. Inventory sheets are constantly updated by the City as further information becomes available. An inventory sheet with little information may simply indicate that there has been no building work done to the item recently: it does not mean that items are not significant. Further research is always recommended as part of preparation of development proposals for heritage items, and is necessary in preparation of Heritage Impact Assessments and Conservation Management Plans, so that the significance of heritage items can be fully assessed prior to submitting development applications.


Historical notes: The "Eora people" was the name given to the coastal Aborigines around Sydney. Central Sydney is therefore often referred to as "Eora Country". Within the City of Sydney local government area, the traditional owners are the Cadigal and Wangal bands of the Eora. There is no written record of the name of the language spoken and currently there are debates as whether the coastal peoples spoke a separate language "Eora" or whether this was actually a dialect of the Dharug language. Remnant bushland in places like Blackwattle Bay retain elements of traditional plant, bird and animal life, including fish and rock oysters.

With the invasion of the Sydney region, the Cadigal and Wangal people were decimated but there are descendants still living in Sydney today. All cities include many immigrants in their population. Aboriginal people from across the state have been attracted to suburbs such as Pyrmont, Balmain, Rozelle, Glebe and Redfern since the 1930s. Changes in government legislation in the 1960s provided freedom of movement enabling more Aboriginal people to choose to live in Sydney.

(Information sourced from Anita Heiss, "Aboriginal People and Place", Barani: Indigenous History of Sydney City )

the first land grants in Redfern were made in 1817 to Dr William Redfern by governor Macquarie. However, it was not until the 1840s and 1850s that a suburb began to develop. The construction of the first railway in Sydney with its terminus at Redfern encoraged the growth of the suburb, , with Redfernb being proclaimed a municipality on 11 August 1859. Between 1851 and 1891 the population of the douubled every decade, with the suburb having the second highest density of population per acre in Sydney, exceed only by Darlington. The first post office in redfern was opened in Pitt St on 1 July 1856, following the closure of the Chippendale office. As with most other branches of the post office, during this perod the office was run from a rented premise. On 1 October 1871 a branch of the Government Saving Bank opened at Redfern PO, followed in C1875 by the introduction of money orders to the post office. The allowance to issue money orders saw Redfern announced as an official Post Office. The lot had a 50 ft fronttage to Redfern St and 100ft to George St. Redfern Post office was completed by 29 January 1883 and occupied on 31 January on 16 April 1904 a new telephone exchange room was aded at a total cost of 203 pounds. In 1912 plans were finalised for the new Redfern Telephone Exchange, to repla ce the smal exchange in the Post Office. Situated to the east of the Post Office, with frontage to Redfern St, the exchange was completed in 1913 as one of eight main exchanges in Sydney. Designed as manual exchange, by 1927 Redfern had been downgraded to a branch exchange out of the newer City South Exchange, because of lack of demand during the Depression. During this time the manual exchange was closed to save on telephonists wages and to put spare capacity to use during difficulty times. In 1937 a temprary automatic exchange was installed in the ground floor of the Redfern Street Building to meet local demands, and to ease the increasing pressure on the City South exchange. By the end of 1937 the temporary exchange had 301 services connected, rising to 442 by the end of 1938. In 1939 the temporary exchange was supplemented by a new line finder exchange installed on the first floor of the building. This new exchange allowed the recovery of the temporary exchange equipment for reuse elsewhere. Aditionally, this allowed for almost 2000 lines to be freed up in the City Osuth exchange after the Redfern subscribers were returned to their original exchange. The installation fothe line feeder exchange allowed for the expansion of Redfern's capacity, with 1856 lines in 1939, up to 1948 connctions in 1940 and reaching 2500 by 1945. With the exchange's capacity reached the Redfern exchange eas extended using a uniselector installation, which allowed for a further 500 lines, taking the total to 3000 lines in th eoriginal exchange. In 1957 a new six-storey exchange buildign was erected adjacent to the Post Office facing George St. The new exchange was capable of housing 110000 subscriber lines, 3800 tandern inlets, a broadband radio terminal, pwer plant and Subscribers Distrct Centre. The 1913 building was still used at this time, making the toral line capcity for Redfern 14,000. The 1913 building was finally decommissioned with the opening of a third exchange building at Redfern adjacent to the 1957 George St exchange in c1974. (SHI form by Australian Telecommunications Commission (Telstra Corporation)) March 2001)

Assessment of significance

SHR Criteria a)
[Historical significance]
an early suburban telecommunication facility built in Redfern area. It was part of Redfern Post office.
SHR Criteria c)
[Aesthetic significance]
It is a typical geogian style building and complements the architecture of Post office. Contributing to the character of Redfern St which was a high street.
SHR Criteria f)
purposely built Telecommunication building is rare inSydney close suburb area.
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:

Any future development of the building should not adversely impact the identified significance of the building. The existing elevations and imprtant elements, inlcuding the fenestration, rendered detailing and original internal layout should be preserved and protected.The building should be retained and conserved. A Heritage Assessment and Heritage Impact Statement, or a Conservation Management Plan, should be prepared for the building prior to any major works being undertaken. There shall be no vertical additions to the building and no alterations to the façade of the building other than to reinstate original features. The principal room layout and planning configuration as well as significant internal original features including ceilings, cornices, joinery, flooring and fireplaces should be retained and conserved. Any additions and alterations should be confined to the rear in areas of less significance, should not be visibly prominent and shall be in accordance with the relevant planning controls.


Heritage ListingListing TitleListing NumberGazette DateGazette NumberGazette Page
Local Environmental PlanSydney LEP 2012I131814 Dec 12   
Heritage study     

References, internet links & images

TypeAuthorYearTitleInternet Links
WrittenAnita Heiss Aboriginal People and Place, Barani: Indigenous History of Sydney City

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: 2420820

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