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Bank of NSW Former Head Office Including Interiors

Item details

Name of item: Bank of NSW Former Head Office Including Interiors
Other name/s: Bank of New South Wales Former Head Office
Type of item: Built
Group/Collection: Commercial
Category: Bank
Location: Lat: -33.8688370415055 Long: 151.205450836774
Primary address: 341 George Street, Sydney, NSW 2000
Local govt. area: Sydney
All addresses
Street AddressSuburb/townLGAParishCountyType
341 George StreetSydneySydney  Primary Address

Statement of significance:

The site of the former Bank of NSW Head Office is historically significant as the location from 1853 to 1970 of the principal office of Australia's largest private bank. The building itself is associated with the period of commercial optimism that preceded the Great Depression, and also with the prominent architectural firm of Robertson & Marks who have worked on the building since its construction. It also has associations with General Douglas Macarthur who held a series of meetings in the Board Room during World War II. The Bank of NSW is aesthetically significant as an excellent and substantially intact example of the Inter-War Commercial Palazzo style. It contains a remarkable and richly detailed banking chamber, with original light fittings and lavish use of marble, scagliola and pressed metal. Other key areas within the building, including the Executive Floor, the Board Room, Common Stairways and Safe Deposit area have retained their opulence and quality of early finishes. Together with the adjoining former CBC Bank Head Office (inventory no 2077) it terminates the western vista of Martin Place and forms part of the precinct of historic public and private commercial buildings near the junction of Martin Place and George Streets. The building also forms the southern enclosure to the Wynyard Street plaza.
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.

Description

Designer/Maker: Robertson & Marks
Builder/Maker: Howie Moffatt & Co
Construction years: 1927-1932
Physical description: The former Bank of New South Wales Head Office sits at the corner of George Street and Wynyard Street. On these street frontages it has an imposing trachyte base extending to the height of the first floor internally, and sandstone walls above, with projecting balconies at third and sixth floors. Internally, the banking chamber has a highly decorated interior with marble floors, marble and scagliola walls and columns, and painted pressed metal ceilings. The mezzanine floor within the space extends along the sides of the chamber with a central bridge. At the western end of the building is the main lift lobby and stair, which have terrazzo floors and tiled walls. The main corridors and lavatories on each typical office floor are similarly decorated, although all floors have lost at least some of their original fabric; the fifth floor is the best preserved. Apart from the banking chamber and mezzanine, significant interiors which have survived include the safe deposit area in the basement, the lobbies, corridors, General Manager's Office and Board Room on the first floor, and senior staff lunch rooms on the ninth floor. At roof level, several new enclosures for services have been introduced, although a number of the original structures such as the lift motor rooms survive. A painted lion-and-unicorn emblem salvaged from the previous building on the site is also mounted at roof level.

Category:Individual Building.
Style:Inter-War Commercial Palazzo.
Storeys:11+ two basements. Facade:Granite, sandstone.
Side/Rear Walls:Granite, sandstone, rendered masonry.
Internal Walls:Plastered brick, ceramic tiles, Marble fencing, Scagliol.
Roof Cladding:Waterproof membrane. Internal Structure:Concrete encased steel frame. Floor:Reinforced concrete slab, Terrazzo.
Roof:Reinforced concrete slab, Waterproof membrane.
Ceilings:Pressed metal, set plaster on soffit, suspended acoustic tiles.
Stairs:2 original tiled stairs with wrought iron balustrades.
Fire Stairs:Yes - existing stairs.
Lifts:7 lifts in 3 banks, all modernised.
AirConditioned:Yes
General Details:Refer to Archaeological Zoning Plan.
Physical condition and/or
Archaeological potential:
Most areas of the building are in fair to good condition. Many upper floors have been refitted for modern offices.
Date condition updated:03 Jan 06
Modifications and dates: 1932
Further information: Exceptional Significance:Facade to George Street and Wynyard Street, significant interiors including the banking chamber and mezzanine, common stairways, lobbies and corridors, first floor reception and board room, general manager's office and safe deposit area, remnants of original services. Medium Significance:Façade to vacant land at rear, exterior of original roof level elements including lift motor rooms.
Low Significance:Modern fitout and services including light boxes under banking chamber mezzanine. 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: Bank, Offices
Former use: Bank

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 block on the west side of George Street between Wynyard and Barrack Streets has been dominated by two major banks since the 1850s. The oldest bank in the colony, the Bank of NSW, founded in 1817, had its offices in George Street near Martin Place until it built a 3-storey stone building on the corner of George and Wynyard Streets in 1853. On the George and Barrack Street corner, the Commercial Banking Co. of Sydney built its head office in the same decade. The banks each occupied initially two of the six lots on George Street and each bought the adjacent lot in the 1870s and expanded its office, so that the banks adjoined. Each bank also expanded to the west, NSW along Wynyard Street in 1876 (lots 7-9), 1915 (lots 10-12) and 1934 (lots 13-16).

The Depression of the 1890s inhibited any bank building, which did not resume until after World War I. In 1925 the CBC built new 10-storey offices on their site and later that year the NSW board resolved to build something comparable next door. Plans from Robertson and Marks, architects, were adopted in 1926, tenders were called in 1927, Howie Moffat and Co Ltd were appointed contractors and work began on the west section in Barrack Street, which was occupied in 1930. The George Street frontage was then demolished and the east section of the new nine-storey building opened in 1932. It matched the bulk and height of the CBC building as the pride of the NSW board demanded, although the contrasting George Street entrances to the two banks aroused controversy.

Initially the middle floors were occupied by tenants, with a residential caretaker on floor 8, a staff restaurant on 9 and bank offices on 1 and 2. Major internal adjustments in contemporary style were made to various floors over the year; the caretaker was ejected in 1952; floors 3 and 7 became bank offices in the 1950s. In 1970 341 George Street ceased to be the bank’s Head Office and it lost its last tenant. Thereafter it has been the premier CBD branch of NSW, now Westpac. Internal partitioning has continued and in 1980 air-conditioning was installed.

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 of the former Bank of NSW Head Office is historically significant as the location from 1853 to 1970 of the principal office of Australia's largest private bank. The building itself is associated with the period of commercial optimism that preceded the Great Depression,. Staff dining and recreation areas on the ninth floor represent early efforts to improve the working environment of bank staff. Has historic significance at a State level.
SHR Criteria b)
[Associative significance]
Associated with the prominent architectural firm of Robertson & Marks.
SHR Criteria c)
[Aesthetic significance]
The Bank of NSW is aesthetically significant as an excellent and substantially intact example of the Inter-War Commercial Palazzo style. It contains a remarkably richly detailed banking chamber, with original light fittings and lavish use of marble, scagliola and pressed metal. Together with the adjoining former CBC Bank Head Office (inventory no 2077) it terminates the western vista of Martin Place and forms part of the precinct of historic public and private commercial buildings near the junction of Martin Place and George Streets. The building also forms the southern enclosure to the Wynyard Street plaza.

The building has potential to yield further information about Inter-War building services, through surviving elements of pneumatic tube system, fresh air ventilation, hydraulic operation of main gates, and safe deposit security devices. Has aesthetic significance at a State level.
SHR Criteria f)
[Rarity]
The former Bank of NSW is the location for over 100 years until 1970 of Australia's oldest private bank. It contains a banking chamber of rare quality. Is rare at a State level.
SHR Criteria g)
[Representativeness]
The building is a fine representative example of the work of Robertson & Marks, and of the Inter-War Commercial Palazzo style. Is representative at a State level.
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 building should preferably remain occupied and used as both bank branch and offices by its present occupant. If Westpac vacates the banking chamber, the preferred alternative would be a similar use by another bank or financial institution, rather than a non-banking use. The whole of the surviving original fabric 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, which should be regularly reviewed and updated. Exterior: All facades and early external features of the building should be retained and conserved. Surfaces never intended for painting, notably sandstone and copper, should remain unpainted, while surfaces such as wrought iron 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. Some adaptation of interiors is acceptable to enable the building fulfil its original function, provided it does not detract from the significance of the facade or significant interiors including the banking chamber, common stairways, board room, executive floor and safe deposit area. 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 Local Environmental Plan 2012I176914 Dec 12   
Heritage study     

References, internet links & images

TypeAuthorYearTitleInternet Links
Written  City Council street cards and BA plans
WrittenAnita Heiss Aboriginal People and Place, Barani: Indigenous History of Sydney City
WrittenGazzard & Partners,1984Martin Place Civic Design Study Ken Maher, Schwager Brooks and Partners PL, ‘Westpac Head Office, 341 George Street, Sydney: Heritage Analysis and Conservation Guidelines’, report to Westpac, 1989. City Council street card
WrittenKen Maher, Schwager Brooks and Partners PL1989Westpac Head Office, 341 George Street, Sydney: Heritage Analysis and Conservation Guidelines

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: 2423769


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