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Former Commercial Building Including Interiors

Item details

Name of item: Former Commercial Building Including Interiors
Other name/s: Peapes MeNSWear Store, Beneficial House
Type of item: Built
Group/Collection: Retail and Wholesale
Category: Department Store
Location: Lat: -33.8671196344376 Long: 151.205872552492
Primary address: 285-287 George Street, Sydney, NSW 2000
Local govt. area: Sydney
All addresses
Street AddressSuburb/townLGAParishCountyType
285-287 George StreetSydneySydney  Primary Address

Statement of significance:

Beneficial House is noteworthy for its former lengthy association with "Peapes Menswear" (1923-1970), a particularly well-known Sydney retail store, and its contribution to creating an image for the store. It reflects the importance of George Street as a principal retailing thoroughfare and, generally, an important period of development during the 1920s. The building is of aesthetic significance as one of very few surviving commercial examples of Inter-war Georgian Revival style architecture and the work of Hardy Wilson. It is strikingly similar to British Airways House also attributed to Wilson, Neave & Berry, and has parallels with Lisgar House (refer no 2004). It is a good example of the style and contributes significantly to the streetscape of George Street. The combination of Georgian Revival style in the brick facade, windows and section of tiled roof with a Commercial Palazzo style sandstone base adds to the architectural interest of the building.
Date significance updated: 03 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.


Designer/Maker: Wilson, Neave & Berry (Hardy Wilson)
Builder/Maker: Unknown
Construction years: 1923-1923
Physical description: Beneficial House is a seven storey load bearing brick building originally designed as a department store and offices by Hardy Wilson, of Wilson, Neave & Berry, in the Inter-War Georgian Revival style with a Commercial Palazzo form. Wilson, Neave & Berry were one of the skilled exponents of this rare style in Sydney. The detailing and glazing is Georgian Revival. The ground floor has five stone arches while the rest of the façade is plain with multi-paned timber framed windows. Second floor windows have semi-circular fanlights. Commercial Palazzo devices are utilised such as a stone base, office floors with simple brickwork and fenestration, and a top that is terminated by a projecting cornice. The ground floor interiors feature decorative plaster ceilings with timber panelled walls and columns. The upper level offices have been heavily modified with plasterboard stud walls and suspended acoustic ceiling tiles. Category:Individual building. Style:Inter-War Georgian Revival, Commercial Palazzo form. Storeys:7 + basement. Façade:Face brick, sandstone cladding, alumin./glass shopfront. Side/Rear Walls:Face brick. Internal Walls:Plasterbd. And stud, timber and stud, marble facing. Roof Cladding:Terracotta tiles, waterproof membrane. Internal Structure:Loadbearing walls and conc. Beams. Floor:Reinf. Conc. Slab, carpet, terrazzo, sandstone, timber. Roof:Reinf. Conc. Slab, timber framing. Ceilings:Susp. Acoustic tiles, decorative plaster. Stairs:Reinf. Conc. Stairs, carpet over treads, decorative timber balustrade; Reinf. Conc. Stair, steel balustrade and handrail.. Fire Stairs:1. Sprinkler System:Yes. Lifts:2, AirConditioned:Yes original timber panelled lift cars, new mechanics.
Physical condition and/or
Archaeological potential:
In general, the exterior and ground floor interior of Beneficial House remain intact although new office walls have been introduced. Upper floor offices have been extensively altered and limited original detail remains. The brickwork facing George Street is distinctive. Intrusive Elements:Modern fitouts to upper floors comprising partitions and suspended ceilings.
Date condition updated:07 Dec 05
Modifications and dates: 1923
Further information: High Significance: External building form, scale and façade to George Street including multi-paned windows and tiled roof. Medium Significance: Ground floor interiors retaining original integrity, load bearing masonry walls, concrete floors and beams. Was a heritage item in 1989, and remains so to the present.

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: Retail, commercial offices
Former use: Commercial offices, retail


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 )

In 1922, an application was made for the construction of new business premises, 47' x 92', at 285-287 George Street. The design was prepared by Hardy Wilson of Wilson, Neave and Berry. The building was occupied by Peapes Menswear between 1923-70. The interior of the building was particularly impressive making extensive use of maple and jarrah. The floors originally consisted of a series of mezzanines around a circular light well. During its use as a department store few alterations were recorded, principally changes to the shopfront in 1966 and what may have been the partial infill of a light well in 1954. In 1970 the building was acquired by Equity Property Management Ltd. and Beaver Properties and in 1971 by the Permanent Building Society Ltd. In this year Gergely and Pinter made an application to carry out extensive alterations and a refurbishment to create offices and a restaurant. For the remainder of the 1970s-80s the principal works encompassed the reassignment of space through partitions. In 1980 alterations were made to the ground floor.

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]
Beneficial House is noteworthy for its former lengthy association with a prominent retailer, Peapes Menswear, between 1923 and 1970. The location of the building reflects the prominence of George Street as a retail precinct and, generally an important period of development in the 1920s. It is significant as a rare work of Hardy Wilson in a city context.
SHR Criteria c)
[Aesthetic significance]
Beneficial House is a fine example of Inter-war Georgian Revival architecture with Commercial Palazzo style elements including the sandstone arcaded base. It created an appropriate image for an exclusive menswear department store. The building retains its architectural qualities intact with multi-paned timber framed windows and tiled roof section. It is an important contributor to the streetscape of George Street.
SHR Criteria d)
[Social significance]
Beneficial House has had a long association with a prominent menswear store. Its position is demonstrative of the area as a retail centre in the city. Has social significance locally.Beneficial House is a fine example of Inter-war Georgian Revival architecture with Commercial Palazzo style elements including the sandstone arcaded base. It created an appropriate image for an exclusive menswear department store. The building retains its architectural qualities intact with multi-paned timber framed windows and tiled roof section. It is an important contributor to the streetscape of George Street.
SHR Criteria f)
Beneficial House is one of a limited number of Georgian Revival commercial buildings of the Inter-war period to survive. Grenville House at 177-185 William Street, British Airways House (2045) and Lisgar House (2004) are possibly the only other buildings of this type and style to remain. As such it is a rare and architecturally distinguished example of an unusual building style often attributed to the firm of Wilson, Neave and Berry.
SHR Criteria g)
Beneficial House represents the importance of George Street as the principal retailing thoroughfare in the city centre. It is representative of the former associations with the prominent retailer, Peapes Menswear.
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:

Given the level of significance of Beneficial House a Conservation Plan should be prepared to guide any future development proposals or maintenance works. The external form and scale of the building should be preserved. Exterior: Future development should preserve the George Street facade including timber multi-paned windows, tiled roof section and sandstone arcade (if evidence confirms that it is original). Interior: Any internal alterations to the ground floor should be preceded by an investigation of surviving original spatial characteristics, materials and finishes. These elements should be incorporated and missing elements restored, in future fitout work. The extent of alterations to the upper floors allows scope for future adaptive re-use provided that no external alterations to George Street are required. 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 Local Environmental Plan 2012I176514 Dec 12   
Heritage study     

References, internet links & images

TypeAuthorYearTitleInternet Links
Written  'Peapes Useful and Appreciable Gifts', Mitchell Lib. 658.87105/1, (text).
Written  Council Records (Bas, Das)
Written  Building, p51, Nov. 12 1923, (journal).
WrittenAnita Heiss Aboriginal People and Place, Barani: Indigenous History of Sydney City
WrittenAustralian Heritage Commission National Estate Register listing sheet
WrittenNational Trust (NSW) National Trust listing sheet
WrittenTanner & Cox, Architecture in Australia Tanner & Cox, 'Architecture of Australia', (text).

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: 2423764

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.

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