Former Warehouse "Nelson House" Including Interiors and Rear Yard | NSW Environment & Heritage

Culture and heritage


Former Warehouse "Nelson House" Including Interiors and Rear Yard

Item details

Name of item: Former Warehouse "Nelson House" Including Interiors and Rear Yard
Other name/s: Nelson House
Type of item: Built
Group/Collection: Commercial
Category: Commercial Office/Building
Location: Lat: -33.8740844958242 Long: 151.204331415573
Primary address: 283-285 Clarence Street, Sydney, NSW 2000
Local govt. area: Sydney
All addresses
Street AddressSuburb/townLGAParishCountyType
283-285 Clarence StreetSydneySydney  Primary Address

Statement of significance:

Nelson House a is ten storey load bearing brick and steel framed warehouse building constructed in the Federation Warehouse style and located within the Clarence and York Streets warehouse precinct. The building has high historic significance as the earliest highrise contribution to the warehouse precinct and a building which exemplifies an early use of steel framing. It has moderate aesthetic significance as one of the earliest buildings designed by architect Louis Spier Robertson's in New South Wales. The building has aesthetic significance for its early use of a 'modern' glazed facade which is largely intact above first floor and includes many innovative elements such as the large spandrel fenestration. The building has scientific significance as a rare and early example of the use of steel frame construction.
Date significance updated: 30 Dec 05
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: Louis Spier Robertson
Builder/Maker: G B Holt & Co
Construction years: 1910-1910
Physical description: Nelson House is located within the Clarence Street warehouse district in the western corner of the CBD. The building is a Federation warehouse. The facade is divided into three panels with unadorned fenestration providing a "glass wall" to the facade. The original two storey base featuring arched timber panel doors and arched windows has been removed. The middle floors feature a decorative pressed metal bay window from the second to fifth floor. The building is topped by three arched windows and a classical cornice. The majority of original interiors have been removed.
Category: Individual Building. Style: Federation Warehouse. Storeys: 8 + basement. Facade: Rendered Brick. Side/Rear Walls: Rendered Brick. Internal Walls: Rendered Brick. Roof Cladding: Reinf conc slab. Internal Structure:Steel frame. Floor: Steel frame. Roof: Steel and timber (original) reinf conc. Ceilings: susp plasterbd. Stairs: 2. Fire Stairs: 2. Sprinkler System: Yes. Lifts: 1.
Physical condition and/or
Archaeological potential:
The 1910 facade has been re-rendered and all windows replaced. The lower two storeys have been refurbished with glazed shopfronts. Internally all original finishes have been removed. Original arches can be seen in some tenancies.
AirConditioned: Yes FireStairs: 2
Date condition updated:06 Dec 05
Modifications and dates: 1910-1911
Further information: High Significance:All the intact original fabric of the Clarence Street façade which remains above ground level. Medium Significance:All intact original fabric of the other facades. Low Significance:All interiors. Was a heritage item in 1989 and remains an item 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: Commercial Offices Retail
Former use: Commercial Offices Warehouses


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 )

Nelson House was built for Eveline Ina Nelson and her sister Miriam on land purchased in October 1907 when Eveline was 28 and Miriam 26. Their father Henry held power of attorney for the sisters and it was for Henry Nelson that architect Louis Spier Robertson drew up plans for a warehouse on the site. The plans were approved in April 1910 by the Council "subject to the steelwork being of requisite strength". The Sydney Morning Herald reported that the building was to be of "steel constructional work" with "steel stanchions in the walls, thus forming a complete grid" and that the architect was being permitted by the Council to deviate form the wall thickness requirements of the City of Sydney Improvement Act by using steel work in every storey. The building was first listed in Sand's Sydney Directories in 1911 as the premises of the American Manufacturing Company Limited to whom the Nelson sisters had leased the building. Sub-tenants included Michelin Company with a rubber tyre depot, and the workshops of Commonwealth Government Telephones. The architect of Nelson House, Louis Spier Robertson (1868-1932), was born in Sydney but established his reputation as an architect in Rockhampton, returning to Sydney in 1905.

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]
Nelson House is the earliest high-rise contribution to the Clarence Street/York Street warehouse precinct. This building reflects, through the discussion it generated about steel framing and wall thicknesses, some of the issues relating to regulation which modern high-rise building techniques forced on the Sydney City Council in the early twentieth century. One of the earliest of architect Louis Spier Robertson's New South Wales buildings. The building is rare for its early use of the modern aesthetic of its glass wall fenestration.
Has historic significance locally.
SHR Criteria c)
[Aesthetic significance]
The building contains a rare and early example of the use of steel frame construction. Has aesthetic significance locally. Cultural:The building is rare for its early use of the modern aesthetic of its glass wall fenestration.
SHR Criteria f)
It is a rare example of innovative steel construction in a twentieth century high rise building.
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 overall form of Nelson House should be retained and conserved. As the original building is a significant feature within the Clarence Street streetscape the addition of further floors should not be contemplated. The facade finishes which were never intended for painting notably face brickwork should continue to be unpainted and appropriately maintained. Painted surfaces which were originally painted should continue to be painted in appropriate colours. Exterior: Any future development should preserve the existing form, external surfaces and materials of the facade and door and window openings should not be enlarged or closed in. All remaining intact original fabric on the external facades should be retained and conserved. Future refurbishment should attempt to recover significance by reinstating the facade at ground level. A Conservation Plan is required prior to any proposal for new works which may impact on the exterior form and finishes above the first floor in particular the fenestration. Interior: As the interiors have been extensively remodelled and there is little of significance remaining, further alterations could be carried out provided that future work does not compromise the facades of the building. 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 2012I172714 Dec 12   
Heritage study     

References, internet links & images

TypeAuthorYearTitleInternet Links
Written  Sydney Morning Herald 12.4.1910 p6 Standard Waygood Ltd Architecture as exhibited in Sydney 1911 p129 Architecture January March 1954 pp 21-23, 26
WrittenAnita Heiss Aboriginal People and Place, Barani: Indigenous History of Sydney City

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

(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: 2423990

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