Former "Farmer & Co" Department Store Façade (436-450 George Street) | NSW Environment, Energy and Science

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Former "Farmer & Co" Department Store Façade (436-450 George Street)

Item details

Name of item: Former "Farmer & Co" Department Store Façade (436-450 George Street)
Other name/s: Farmer and Company, Myer, The Merchant Hotel
Type of item: Built
Group/Collection: Retail and Wholesale
Category: Shopping/retail complex
Location: Lat: -33.8720078823991 Long: 151.205947113436
Primary address: 432-450 George Street, Sydney, NSW 2000
Local govt. area: Sydney
All addresses
Street AddressSuburb/townLGAParishCountyType
432-450 George StreetSydneySydney  Primary Address
436-450 George StreetSydneySydney  Alternate Address
50-78 Market StreetSydneySydney  Alternate Address

Statement of significance:

436-450 George Street is of historic significance for its association with the expansion of large retailing companies in Sydney's centre c1920's. A significant landmark and demonstrative of traditional window display and trading retailing, the group of four buildings are of environmental significance for their contribution to the streetscapes of George, Market and Pitt Street in the heart of the retailing district. The George Street buildings have aesthetic, historic, social and scientific value as a large shopping emporium, for the landmark quality of the building form on the corner, for the shopfronts (amongst the finest in Sydney), for the awning, for the internal spatial layout (now compromised) and for features such as the ballroom. The building has high social value as a major determiner of shopping patterns in the city.
Shopfronts/display windows with surrounding detail.
Awning including curved section in Market Street. Medium Significance:Internal column layout and column treatment with facings and capitols.
Surviving elements of roofscape including ballroom remnants. Original escalators.
Original escalators.
Date significance updated: 31 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: Robertson & Marks
Builder/Maker: Howie Moffat & Co.
Construction years: 1929-1930
Physical description: The George Street building forms a part of a former group of seven buildings, all integrated as the central Sydney Grace Bros retail store. 436-450 George Street is the largest component of the complex. Most of the building has been demolished with facades on small sections of Pitt Street and part of George Street surviving. The column and beam arrangements of the George Street building impart a spatial quality which characterises the large department stores of this era. Elements are of particular importance include all of the facades of the combined buildings, the surviving original display windows, the scalloped footpath awning started as part of the 1930 building, and remnants of the former ballroom on the top storey not uncommon to the large emporiums in the 1930's. It is also interesting that the 1956 addition is almost indiscernible as such, externally as well as internally. (Ref Invent Nos 4057, 4068, 4069.) Category:Group of Buildings. Style:Inter-War Free Classical. Storeys:9 + 2 Basement Levels. Facade:Face brick & concrete construction faced with sandstone cladding. Side/Rear Walls:Face brick and concrete structure, sandstone cladding. Internal Walls:Plastered brick, light weight partitions. Roof Cladding:Corrugated copper sheeting, glazing panels, waterproof membrane. Internal Structure:Concrete encased steel frame. Floor:Reinforced concrete slabs, timber, vinyl, marble, carpet, ceramic tile floor coverings. Roof:Steel framing, reinforced concrete slab. Ceilings:Suspended plasterboard. Stairs:Some original stairs. Many of the public stairs have been removed. Escalators are the main means of travel from floor to floor. Five major stairs are still in use.. Sprinkler System:Yes. Lifts:Original x 3 in place.AirConditioned:Yes
Physical condition and/or
Archaeological potential:
The George Street building was originally a fine and integrated entity. Although it has suffered a great deal of interference, much of its early character, including the impressive facades and some of the mechanical installations, are still evident. It is of great interest that it was constructed in two precisely matching stages more than a quarter of a century apart with the George Street addition previously matching the style of the earlier structure. Intrusive Elements:Changes to ground floor corner of George Street building cover to accommodate arcade including changes to shopfronts..
Later escalators and fire enclosures at each floor.
Monorail against the facade.
Date condition updated:31 Jan 06
Modifications and dates: 1929-1930, 1956
Further information: High Significance:Continuous facade treatment and George Street cover. Comments:Was heritage item in 1989, listing revoked under Central Sydney H-LEP 1998. Now listed under Sydney LEP 2005, Schedule 8: Central Sydney Heritage Items, Part 2: Building Elements.

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, Offices
Former use: 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 )

436-450 George Street is the largest component of the Grace Bros complex, erected in two stages, the first in 1929-30 and the second in 1956 to the design of Robertson and Marks. In between these two stages, the service block, also designed by Robertson and Marks in 1938, was built.

The land at 436-450 comprised three titles. Title 1 was originally occupied by a hotel at least as early as 1830. In 1888 Charles James Roberts built the five storey Roberts' Hotel on the site. Farmer and Co purchased the property in July 1917 for the sum of £35,000, and five months later it was destroyed by fire. Title 2 was occupied by a shop and showroom. The building was sold by Sydney Burdekin (then deceased) to Farmer and Co in 1914. Title 3 was leased by Farmer & Co from c1889 until it was purchased by the company in 1919. In 1919 the company's architects were instructed to prepare plans for a new building on the three acquired titles. In April 1925, a contract was signed with Howie Moffat and Co. to complete the first portion of the new premises from designs prepared by architects Robertson and Marks. In 1926 the company purchased the vacant land behind Bateman's Hotel in George Street, to the north of the building and the company planning the construction of a service building to be used in conjunction with the main building. The first portion of the new building program was completed in 1928. In 1954 the remaining portion of the Old George Street Building was demolished which made way for the completion of the new building (around 1957). This was the building occupied by Farmer & Co in the 1880's. In 1960 Farmer and Co was acquired by the Myer Emporium Ltd. In 1976 the name of the store was changed to Myer. In April 1983 Grace Bros acquired the eleven Myer NSW stores, which became known as Grace Bros. Then in June 1983 Myer acquired Grace Bros. Holdings Ltd, the eleven stores retained their Grace Bros identity.

Assessment of significance

SHR Criteria a)
[Historical significance]
The site of 436-450 George Street is historically significant for its continued use as a major emporium since the 1880's and its association with retailing. It is also significant for its association with major Sydney figures including architects and builders, the longest such association in Sydney, from the earliest occupation of the site. Has historic significance at a State level.
SHR Criteria c)
[Aesthetic significance]
Cultural:436-450 George Street is aesthetically significant for the quality of the facades and their landmark status on the corner of George Street. It is also significant for the skill in combining the two stages of the building to provide a coherent facade and for the high quality and unique design of the shopfronts and awning.
SHR Criteria d)
[Social significance]
436-450 George Street is socially significant for its strong social and cultural links with the NSW community and for its ability to blend entertainment and merchandising as early as 1848. It is also significant for its retailing value to country NSW both in visiting the city and in mail order and for is continued social value despite changes in ownership and shopping patterns. Has social significance at a State level.436-450 George Street is aesthetically significant for the quality of the facades and their landmark status on the corner of George Street. It is also significant for the skill in combining the two stages of the building to provide a coherent facade and for the high quality and unique design of the shopfronts and awning.
SHR Criteria f)
436-450 George Street has rare significance for its continued use as a major retailing centre, the largest to survive in Sydney.
SHR Criteria g)
436-450 George Street is representative of large scale shopping emporiums that defined city shopping most of which have now disappeared. The building is also representative of the work of Robertson & Marks.
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 George Street building should be conserved as a building, not only as a facade. The existing conservation plan should be updated as required and used to guide the future use and maintenance of the place. Exterior: All the facades above awning facade should be retained intact, and any altered or missing elements should be reinstated. The display windows and surrounds to the ground floor should be retained. The awning should be retained in its planned form as a unifying element around the complete building. Allow adaptation of the covered entry to recover the more significant form of the building. Interior: Significant internal fabric such as the column layout, finishes and details should be retained. The lifts should be retained if possible. Connection of retail spaces to windows at all levels should also be retained. Adaptation of the interiors of the buildings to accommodate current retailing should be acceptable provided significant fabric is retained. 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 2012I178514 Dec 12   
Heritage study     

References, internet links & images

TypeAuthorYearTitleInternet Links
WrittenAnita Heiss Aboriginal People and Place, Barani: Indigenous History of Sydney City
WrittenGodden Mackay1998The Merchant Court Hotel ballroom, 436-450 George Street, Sydney : heritage impact statement

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: 2424013

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