Former Wales House Including Interiors | NSW Environment, Energy and Science

Culture and heritage

Heritage

Former Wales House Including Interiors

Item details

Name of item: Former Wales House Including Interiors
Other name/s: Sydney Morning Herald Building, Radisson Plaza Hotel, Bank of NSW (Former)
Type of item: Built
Group/Collection: Commercial
Category: Bank
Location: Lat: -33.8669132581552 Long: 151.207854313374
Primary address: 64-66 Pitt Street, Sydney, NSW 2000
Local govt. area: Sydney
All addresses
Street AddressSuburb/townLGAParishCountyType
27 O'Connell Sydney   
64-66 Pitt StreetSydneySydney  Primary Address

Statement of significance:

The site of the former Wales House has historical significance through a 99 year association with Australia's oldest surviving newspaper, the Sydney Morning Herald. The present building was designed and used as the Herald offices for 28 years. It is a physical reminder of the prosperity of the publishers, John Fairfax and Sons, and of the importance of newspapers at that time. The building is aesthetically significant as a fine example of the Inter War Commercial Palazzo style, with many intact external elements and some preserved interiors. It has a strong townscape presence on its acutely angled corner site.
Date significance updated: 10 Jan 06
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: Manson & Pickering
Builder/Maker: Stuart Bros
Construction years: 1924-1929
Physical description: Prominent corner location to Pitt, O'Connell and Hunter Streets. Important visual relationship with other historic buildings on Hunter Street. The National Trust records that the original interior decoration survives in the former Boardroom and Director's Office. The main banking chamber has been refurbished. Externally, the building is largely intact with strong simplified classical detailing. The principal feature of the facade is the semi-circular entry porch on the intersection of Pitt, O'Connell and Hunter Streets. Category:Individual Building. Style:Inter-War Commercial Palazzo. Storeys:13 plus 2 basements. Facade:Trachyte, Sandstone, Steel frame windows. Side/Rear Walls:Trachyte, Sandstone. Internal Walls:Rendered blockwork, Plasterbd & stud. Roof Cladding:Copper sheeting. Internal Structure:Reinf. Concrete. Floor:Reinf. Conc. Slab, Carpet, Marble. Roof:Steel trusses. Ceilings:Decorative plaster (ground floor), Susp. Plasterboard. Stairs:Three new stairs. Fire Stairs:Yes. Sprinkler System:Yes. Lifts:Five new lifts. AirConditioned:Yes General Details:Refer to Archaeological Zoning Plan.
Physical condition and/or
Archaeological potential:
The building has recently been fitted out as a hotel, with three additional floors.
Date condition updated:10 Jan 06
Modifications and dates: 1924-1929
Further information: High Significance:Façade comprising original trachyte and sandstone walls, steel windows, bronze awning, doors and show windows, original preserved ceiling, preserved interiors of Fairfax offices and Board Room, and private lift car, original Kahn reinforced concrete structure, steel turntable and floor tiles in basement. Medium Significance:Reconstructed corner columns and cupola, reconstructed ground floor ceiling. Low Significance:Hotel fitout, façade of additional floor and roof structure and covering.

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: Hotel
Former use: Bank, Offices

History

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 http://www.cityofsydney.nsw.gov.au/barani )

The Fairfax family controlled the Sydney Morning Herald for nearly a century and a half: the dynasty played a dominant role in Sydney society and the paper had an exceptional prestige. The newspaper first built offices on the corner of Pitt, Hunter and O’Connell Streets in 1856 when James Fairfax joined his father, the founding John Fairfax, as a partner in the family business.

By 1920 the newspaper had outgrown the 1856 building and when James Fairfax finally died in 1919 his son, another James, demolished his father’s offices and commissioned Manson and Pickering to build the present block. The contractors, Stuart Bros, erected it in three stages, completing the sections in 1924, 1927 and 1929. The 1856 building remained in use until stage I was completed in 1924 and was then demolished.

The sandstone building was clad at the lower levels in trachyte from Loveridge and Hudson’s quarries at Mount Gibraltar, Bowral, and was richly caparisoned internally with Caleula marble. It was largely used by the Sydney Morning Herald staff, but also had a number of tenants as well as, after 1934, both the SMH Art Gallery and the offices of Art in Australia.

In 1954-5 a new SMH building was erected off Broadway and the 1922-9 building was sold to the Bank of NSW (now Westpac), which took possession in 1956, opening a public branch-office in 1958. Various internal changes took place and a car-park was inserted in the sub-basement where the SMH had been printed for thirty years.

Assessment of significance

SHR Criteria a)
[Historical significance]
The site of the former Wales House has historical significance through a 99 year association with Australia's oldest surviving newspaper, the Sydney Morning Herald. The present building was designed and used as the Herald offices for 28 years. It is a physical reminder of the prosperity of the publishers, John Fairfax and Sons, and of the importance of newspapers at that time. Has historic significance at a State level.
SHR Criteria c)
[Aesthetic significance]
The building is aesthetically significant as a fine example of the Inter War Commercial Palazzo style, with many intact external elements and some preserved interiors. It has a strong townscape presence on its acutely angled corner site. Has aesthetic significance locally.
SHR Criteria f)
[Rarity]
The building is associated with Australia's oldest surviving newspaper.
SHR Criteria g)
[Representativeness]
The building is an excellent example of the work of its architects, Manson & Pickering, and of the Inter-War Commercial Palazzo style
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:

General: The association of the building with the Fairfax newspaper group should continue to be interpreted. The whole of the original facade should be retained. No further addition should be made to the building which would adversely affect the aesthetic value of the facade or the streetscape generally. Future use and changes to the building should be guided by the conservation plan. Exterior: All facades and early external features of the building should be retained and conserved. Surfaces never intended for painting, notably stone and bronze, should remain unpainted, while surfaces such as steel windows and timber which were originally painted should continue to be painted in appropriate colours. Interior: The significant interiors and artefacts of the building should be preserved intact. All preserved interiors should be retained. Some adaptation of interiors is acceptable to enable the building fulfil its original function, provided it does not detract from the significance of the façade or significant interiors. 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.

Listings

Heritage ListingListing TitleListing NumberGazette DateGazette NumberGazette Page
Local Environmental PlanSydney LEP 2012I191514 Dec 12   
Heritage study     

References, internet links & images

TypeAuthorYearTitleInternet Links
WrittenAnita Heiss Aboriginal People and Place, Barani: Indigenous History of Sydney City
WrittenG. Souter Company of Heralds
WrittenJackson Teece Chesterman Willis & Partners1991 "The Wales House". Volume 1 : conservation plan : supplementary assessment of interiors
WrittenJackson Teece Chesterman Willis Pty Ltd1990Conservation plan, Wales House, 66 Pitt Street, Sydney Caroline Simpson, ‘Fairfax, Sir James Reading and Sir James Oswald’, Australian Dictionary of Biography 8, Carlton 1891, 460-1
WrittenTim Shellshear1997Wales House, corner Pitt, Hunter and O'Connell Streets Sydney : heritage impact statement

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

rez
(Click on thumbnail for full size image and image details)

Data source

The information for this entry comes from the following source:
Name: Local Government
Database number: 2423710


Every effort has been made to ensure that information contained in the State Heritage Inventory is correct. If you find any errors or omissions please send your comments to the Database Manager.

All information and pictures on this page are the copyright of the Heritage Division or respective copyright owners.