Former " Phoenix Chambers" and Soul Pattinson Store Including Interior | NSW Environment, Energy and Science

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Former " Phoenix Chambers" and Soul Pattinson Store Including Interior

Item details

Name of item: Former " Phoenix Chambers" and Soul Pattinson Store Including Interior
Other name/s: Phoenix Chambers
Type of item: Built
Group/Collection: Retail and Wholesale
Category: Other - Retail & Wholesale
Location: Lat: -33.8711212410862 Long: 151.207480418567
Primary address: 158-160 Pitt Street, Sydney, NSW 2000
Local govt. area: Sydney
All addresses
Street AddressSuburb/townLGAParishCountyType
158-160 Pitt StreetSydneySydney  Primary Address

Statement of significance:

The Soul Pattinson building is noteworthy for its continuity of ownership and use, and it association with an important and well-known company reflects the major redevelopment of the city during the later decades of the nineteenth century.

The Soul Pattinson building is a good example of the Victorian Italianate style, retaining the original signs and winged phoenix motif at parapet level. The 1929 awning is in character with the building but the shop front diminishes its aesthetic value at ground level. Elements of the original Victorian era internal structure survive including cast iron columns with elaborate Victorian capitals to the retail area. Timber joinery to the upper level offices remains intact but are considered unexceptional. The building is an important contributor to the historic townscape quality of the Pitt Street Mall precinct.
Date significance updated: 18 Nov 11
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: Mansfield Bros (attributed)
Builder/Maker: Unknown
Construction years: 1886-1886
Physical description: The Soul Pattinson building located on Pitt Street Mall is a restrained example of the Italianate style with a simple, symmetrical facade. Three stories high, it is one of a series of Victorian/Federation retail buildings in the area. The lower level is defined by a steel awning, erected in 1929, with modern glazed shopfronts behind. The mid section has five round arched windows with stucco moulding and keystones. The upper section has five double-hung windows with similar stucco detailing and flat curved heads. The edges are defined by attached pilasters with restrained detailing. The facade is finished off with a deep entablature which reads "PATENT MEDICINES - W H SOUL 1886 - DRUGGIST SUNDRIES". A statue of a phoenix with spreaded wings is located centrally with a flag pole mounted behind. The ground level retail area is an open space with the original Victorian cast iron columns and mosaic tiles extant (now under carpet.) The upper level offices are accessed from front and rear timber stairs. They are arranged about a central corridor. Category:Individual building. Style:Victorian Italianate. Storeys:3. Facade:Rendered brickwork, stucco detailing, timber framed window, glazed shopfront, steel awning. Side/Rear Walls:Face brickwork. Internal Walls:Plastered brickwork, Victorian arches to central corridor, contemporary laminate partitions (GL). Roof Cladding:Pitched corrugated metal sheet. Internal Structure:Encased steel frame, circular cast iron columns with Victorian capitals (Ground level). Floor:Timber, carpet (glass bricks underneath), original ceramic tiles under carpet (GL ). Roof:Timber scissor trusses (exposed to corridor). Ceilings:Pressed metal, plaster ceiling & cornices, suspended p'board. Stairs:Timber frame, balusters and handrail, carpet. AirConditioned:Yes Fire Stairs:2. Sprinkler System:Yes. Lifts:No, old goods lift now used as a store room.
Physical condition and/or
Archaeological potential:
In general, the internal spatial quality and external facade of Soul Pattinson building have been retained. A typical Italianate style building, it is one of a series of late 19th century/ early 20th century retail premises in the Pitt Street Mall precinct. The ground floor has been heavily modified over the years but its usage as a pharmacy has remained. Intrusive Elements:Shopfront, internal alterations, window air conditioning units.
Date condition updated:10 Jan 06
Modifications and dates: 1886 (Parapet), 1929 (Awning replaced)
Further information: High Significance:Overall building form and scale, facade: render detailing, timber windows, original signs, Ground floor cast iron columns. Medium Significance:Internal structure and surviving finishes, roof structure, pressed metal ceilings.
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: Chemist, offices
Former use: Chemist, Retail, offices


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 )

Washington H. Soul Pattinson & Co. first occupied a shop at 177 Pitt Street. In 1873 the business moved to larger premises at 158-160 Pitt Street where it remained until the building burnt down in 1886. By 1887 the building was replaced with a new store named Phoenix Chambers (attributed to a design by the Mansfield Bros). This remains the company's head office. The building contained several innovative measures including an American style soda fountain (which was retained until 1948) and a Ladies Department run by a nurse.

The earliest recorded change to the building occurred in the 1920s with alterations to the shopfront and fire escape. Mechanical ventilation was introduced in 1959, and was upgraded in 1991. Alterations to the shopfront were made in 1994.

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 Soul Pattinson building is part of the process of centralised commercial development in central Sydney. It is noteworthy for its continuity of ownership and use as a pharmacy for over 100 years and its association with an important and well-known company. Has historic significance locally.
SHR Criteria c)
[Aesthetic significance]
Has aesthetic significance locally. Cultural:The Soul Pattinson building is a straightforward expression of the Victorian Italianate style. It is well proportioned with items of interest including the winged eagle at parapet level and original lettering to signs on the entablature. The 1929 awning is in keeping with the building. It is an important element in the Pitt Street Mall townscape though not as flamboyant as immediately adjacent buildings. The shopfront detracts from significance.
SHR Criteria f)
The Soul Pattinson building records continuity of use and ownership. Original signs and the winged phoenix motif at parapet level are rare detail elements to survive.
SHR Criteria g)
The Soul Pattinson building is representative as an example of Victorian Italianate 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: Given the rareness of a surviving Victorian Italianate building in continuous ownership, a detailed heritage assessment, including the interiors, is required for the Soul Pattinson building to guide future use and management. Any future development should preserve the overall building form and scale. Given the level of modification required to upkeep the office and chemist areas, adaptive re-use in accordance with the Heritage Assessment is acceptable provided the external envelope and remaining internal structure are not adversely affected by the work. Subject to the heritage assessment, the shopfront, interior finishes and structural elements should be restored or reconstructed as appropriate. Exterior: The facade above awning level including Italianate details, timber windows, signs, winged eagle, and the flag pole should be preserved. Interior: The surviving internal structure and finishes such as cast iron columns and pressed metal ceilings should also be preserved in accordance with heritage assessment. 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 fa├žade 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 2012I192414 Dec 12   
Heritage study     

References, internet links & images

TypeAuthorYearTitleInternet Links
Written   "A Singular Success - Washington H. Soul Pattinson 1872-1993"
WrittenAnita Heiss Aboriginal People and Place, Barani: Indigenous History of Sydney City
WrittenShand, Kathy1993A Singular success : Washington H. Soul Pattinson, 1872-1993

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: 2424035

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