Newtown Post Office including interior | NSW Environment & Heritage

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Heritage

Newtown Post Office including interior

Item details

Name of item: Newtown Post Office including interior
Type of item: Built
Group/Collection: Postal and Telecommunications
Category: Post Office
Primary address: 292 King Street, Newtown, NSW 2042
Local govt. area: Sydney
All addresses
Street AddressSuburb/townLGAParishCountyType
292 King StreetNewtownSydney  Primary Address

Statement of significance:

The former Newtown Post Office has local historic and aesthetic significance. The site was the location of a Post Office from the 1850s until 2013. The construction of the extant building in 1893, dates from the key period of development for King Street and Newtown as a direct result of the subdivision, growth of the area and the development of King Street as a major commercial strip during the late 19th century. The building is a fine example of the Federation Anglo-Dutch style applied in an inner city context which, with its tall clock tower, is a prominent element within the streetscape. It was one of the earliest buildings in the career of NSW Government Architect Walter Liberty Vernon, and marks a change from the classical style of architecture of his predecessor, James Barnet.
Date significance updated: 25 Oct 16
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.

Description

Designer/Maker: Walter Liberty Vernon
Construction years: 1891-1897
Physical description: A two storey Federation Anglo-Dutch Style building with clocktower located on a prominent corner site. The building is constructed of face brickwork with sandstone basecoursing and details with timber windows and door and Queen-Anne style ornate detailing. Entry is via a splayed corner, with a oriel window with decorative stone carvings above. The King Street elevation features a brick parapet with a central gable with an oculus and sandstone coping and apex. Below the gable on the first floor is a Diocletian window flanked by semi-circular sash windows and two Diocletian windows and a former secondary public entry door on ground level.

The Erskineville Road facade is similarly detailed but with a gabled parapet and sandstone coping with a centred oculus. At first floor level are two semi-circular arched sash windows and another diocletian window.

Internally the building has been modified over time but does retain the following significant elements:
• the main timber stair near the south- western corner of the building
• cast iron columns and large arched masonry “girders” on the ground floor
• bricked up chimney stacks on ground and first floors
• stairs to, and structural walls of the clock tower, and clock mechanism originally made by RB Smith in 1896
• decorative pressed metal ceiling on the first floor
• first floor offices along the Erskineville Road frontage
• surviving timber joinery – skirtings, architraves, doors

At the rear of the site, a four storey extension was completed in 2016. The design was modelled, scaled and detailed to relate to the massing, character and clean lines of the original post office building and retain the prominence of the tower.
Date condition updated:03 Feb 03
Modifications and dates: 1908: Externally, the balcony on the first floor of the King Street elevation was enclosed with a Diocletian window. Internally, alteration were made to suit the inclusion of a telegraph station to occupy the former residential space on the first floor.

1935 - 1936: New public telephone boxes and counter rearrangement at ground floor

Inter -war and post-war period: Some changes to the three ground floor Dioclatian windows such as news sills and replaced brick under the sills.

1962 - 1964: Demolition of the former stables and lavatories at the southern end of the site.Conversion of side entrance to a window at the middle section of the Erskineville Street facade. Various internal alterations to the public and working spaces.

A small, single storey brick structure was constructed at the southern end of the site (corner of Wilson Street and Erskineville Road) to accommodate private boxes.

1999/2000: The lower section of the three existing Diocletian windows were elongated to provide larger dispay windows. The brick footings under the window sills were replaced by faux sandstone.

2016: A four storey mixed use extension constructed at the rear. It occupies part of the former loading area at the rear of the site and resulted in the demolition of a small storage shed and a single storey structure containing private Post Office boxes. Conservation works to the Post Office building including to the stone work, main stairs and to the clock also carried out
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.
Current use: commercial and residential
Former use: Post Office, Postmaster's Residence, Telephone Exchange

History

Historical notes: This site forms part of the land of the Gadigal people, the traditional custodians of land within the City of Sydney council boundaries. For information about the Aboriginal history of the local area see the City’s Barani website: http://www.sydneybarani.com.au/

The King Street area was first surveyed for land grants in 1793 with the first grants being made to officers of the NSW Corps by Governor Phiillip prior to his return to England. By 1810 much of the land in the area had been distributed and a track established along the boundary of the grants. This track eventually became a road and was first known as Bulanaming Rd from 1789 to 1820 when it then became known as Cooks River Road, and then Newtown Rd in 1855 when the railway from Sydney to Parramatta was opened with a station at Newtown. By the 1850s the area had developed in to an established community. In the 1860s there was lobbying to establish a local council which occurred in 1862. From the 1870s the character began to change with light industry being established in the area resulting in a substantial increase in the population as workers moved to be in close proximity to their workplace. This included the nearby Eveleigh railway yards etsablished in 1879 and expanded in1885. The rapid increase in poulation resulted in the subdivision of the larger estates and the establishment of shops and services. By the 1880s Newtown had become the most flourishing retail area outside of the city and was well served by public transport.

Entries from Sands Directories indicate that there have been postal services at the corner of King Street and Erskineville Road (formerly called Newtown Road and Erskineville Lane) since at least 1858. They were often conducted through retail stores as the 1866 entry illustrates, which refers to "George West, Stationer and Post Office."

The building dates from the key period of development of King Street and demonstrates the importance of the retail strip in the late 19th century. It was designed in 1890 by NSW Government architect Walter Liberty Vernon soon after his appointment.The foundation stone was laid on 18 August 1892 by John Kidd, Postmaster General. On 14 August 1893, the Governor, His Excellency and Lady Duff, opened the Newtown Post Office. It carried more mail than any other office in the state that year apart from those at King Street in the city and Haymarket.

The first floor residence, most likely for the Post Master, contained five bedrooms, a drawing room, dining room, kitchen, bathroom, four balconies and a central corridor accessed from the staircase located at the southern end of the building.

It was not until 1896 that steps were taken to obtain a public clock for the Post Office tower. The ceremony of starting the newly erected clock was performed in April 1900.

In 1908 a telephone exchange was installed on the first floor requiring the demolition of most of the internal walls of the residential accommodation and the enclosure of the upper floor balcony with a Diocletian window. Plans for the alterations were prepared by the Government Architect, W. L. Vernon.

In 1912 there was a staff of 70, increased to 90 ten years later, dealing with post, telegraph and telephone work and paying out old age pensions. Over a quarter of a million pounds was paid out each year.( GBA, 2013)

Newtown Post Office was auctioned and became privately owned in 1990. Australia Post vacated the building at the end of 2013. A four storey mixed use addition at the rear of the site, to the design of Legge Architects, was completed in 2016.

Historic themes

Australian theme (abbrev)New South Wales themeLocal theme
3. Economy-Developing local, regional and national economies Commerce-Activities relating to buying, selling and exchanging goods and services (none)-

Assessment of significance

SHR Criteria a)
[Historical significance]
The site was the location of a Post Office from the 1850s until 2013. The construction of the extant building in 1893, dates from the key period of development for King Street and Newtown as a direct result of subdivision, growth of the area and the development of King Street as a major commercial strip during the late 19th century. It demonstrates the provision of supporting services for the local area at that time.
SHR Criteria b)
[Associative significance]
The building is associated with the work of NSW Government Architect Walter Liberty Vernon and marks a change from the classical style of architecture of his predecessor, James Barnet.
SHR Criteria c)
[Aesthetic significance]
The building, with its tall clock tower, is a prominent element in the streetscape and is a fine example of the Federation Anglo Dutch style, with Queen Anne detailing, designed by Government Architect Walter Liberty Vernon.
SHR Criteria d)
[Social significance]
The building is held in high esteem by the local community for its public service function for over 100 years.
SHR Criteria e)
[Research potential]
The area is not identified in an archaeological zoning plan and the area has been well researched and it is unlikely that the site would reveal further information that would contribute to the significance of the area.
SHR Criteria f)
[Rarity]
The building is not rare but is a good example of its type.
SHR Criteria g)
[Representativeness]
The building is a representative example of a Federation Anglo Dutch Style Post Office building found in the inner suburbs of Sydney.
Integrity/Intactness: High externally, medium internally
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:

The building should be retained and conserved. A Heritage Assessment and Heritage Impact Statement should be prepared for the building prior to any major works being undertaken. The existing face brickwork and stone detailing shall not be rendered, coated or painted in any way. There shall be no alterations to the façade of the original 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, cast iron columns, internal arches and chimney stacks should be retained and conserved. Additional floors should not be permitted. 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. The clean lines of the dominant parapet/street wall of the original building and the setting of the distinctive clock tower and its landmark character should be retained.

Listings

Heritage ListingListing TitleListing NumberGazette DateGazette NumberGazette Page
Local Environmental PlanSydney LEP 2012I100814 Dec 12   
Heritage study     

Study details

TitleYearNumberAuthorInspected byGuidelines used
South Sydney Heritage Study1993 Tropman & Tropman Architects  Yes

References, internet links & images

TypeAuthorYearTitleInternet Links
WrittenAnita Heiss Aboriginal People and Place, Barani: Indigenous History of Sydney City View detail
WrittenBrian McDonald1998Heritage Impact Statement
WrittenGraham Brooks and Associates2013Newtown Post Office - Statement of Heritage Impact
WrittenJohn Sands P/L Sands Sydney Directory 1858-1932/3
WrittenWeir Phillips Heritage2016Heritage Impact Statement

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: 2420855


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