Ballarat House | NSW Environment & Heritage

Culture and heritage


Ballarat House

Item details

Name of item: Ballarat House
Type of item: Built
Group/Collection: Commercial
Category: Commercial Office/Building
Location: Lat: -33.8810458825922 Long: 151.208953198876
Primary address: 68-72 Wentworth Avenue, Surry Hills, NSW 2010
Local govt. area: Sydney
All addresses
Street AddressSuburb/townLGAParishCountyType
68-72 Wentworth AvenueSurry HillsSydney  Primary Address

Statement of significance:

Ballarat House, 68-72 Wentworth Avenue is listed on the Heritage Streetscape Map in the Heritage LEP 2000. Ballarat House is an early example of the Inter-War Chicagoesque style designed by an eminent firm of Sydney architects, Morrow & DePutron, as spacious, flexible rental accommodation with minimum structural obstructions. It demonstrates in its history the changing demands of city occupancy such as the rise of trading in motor vehicles and parts. Its street appearance is austere and elegant, expressing its minimal construction and presaging the development of fully framed structural systems. It also has significance for its contribution to the Wentworth Avenue streetscape.
Date significance updated: 12 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: Morrow & De Putron
Builder/Maker: Unknown
Construction years: 1915-1915
Physical description: Ballarat House is 3 bays wide and 6 bays deep. The facade being notable for its slim brick piers and spandrels and its expansive windows, conspicuous features, evidencing the Chicagoesque style. In mainstream examples of this style, appearing in Australia a few years later, the facade expressed fully framed construction, emphatically more void than solid. Here, however, the basic structure comprises two rows of timber posts and long timber girders, relying greatly on the mass of its side walls for stability. Ballarat House must therefore be seen as an innovatively minimal structural design. The only decoration on the facade is towards the top, where cement rendered detailing including cartouches, capped parapet piers and a single arched window, bestow an Arts-and-Crafts character. In the lower storeys the posts have with round shafts, square bases and caps. The longitudinal girders rest on rolled steel I-beam bolsters. None of the lateral floor joists is visible. Category:Individual Building. Style:Inter-War Chicagoesque. Storeys:6. Facade:Brick piers & spandrels; timber windows; suspended metal awning. Side/Rear Walls:Brick, plastered. Internal Walls:Plastered brick; concrete block; plaster on studs. Roof Cladding:Corrugated metal. Internal Structure:Heavy timber posts & long-span timber girders. Floor:Timber joists and flooring. Roof:Not accessible but believed to be timber beams and rafters. Ceilings:Acoustic panels; plasterboard; ripple iron. Stairs:Timber. Concrete, modern. AirConditioned:Yes FireStairs:2. Sprinkler System:Yes. Lifts:One, modern; One goods.
Physical condition and/or
Archaeological potential:
On most levels the unobstructed `rooms' can be seen. At upper levels there are windows along the rear wall facing Foster Street. The floor-to-floor height in the lower levels is considerable; the height from ground floor to first floor is 17 feet (5.18m). The suspended footpath awning has a corrugated steel roof and, surprisingly, brackets with wrought metal decoration having a simple Art Nouveau motif, identical with Nos 74-78 next door. Intrusive Elements:Air-conditioning units in Wentworth Avenue facade, suspended ceilings.
Date condition updated:12 Jan 06
Modifications and dates: 1915
Further information: High Significance:All original elements of the Wentworth Avenue facade scale and contribution to streetscape. Medium Significance:Timber structure, especially timber posts and beams, original ceilings. Streetscape:Ballarat House is listed as part of the Wentworth Avenue Heritage Streetscape in the LEP.

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: Motor cycle showroom; garment manufacture; offices; vacant floors
Former use: Commercial uses of various types


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 )

Wentworth Avenue was created after the Wexford Street Resumptions 1906-08. The land on which this building stands was owned by the Municipal Council and leased to J N Grace. Drawings for the design of this building were prepared by the architects Morrow & DePutron for Mrs J N Grace in 1915 and the building was probably completed in that year with the name Ballarat House. The first occupants were the printers Samuel E Lees Ltd, assumed to be the company of Alderman and Lord Mayor Lees, MLA. Drawings for additional female toilets give an indication of the greater proportion of female employees working in the building. The S E Lees company vacated the building in 1923 and were replaced by the Hunter Motor Services Co. From then on occupancies varied, but the Singer Sewing Machine Co manufacturing depot was a constant presence in the building until at least the 1950s. In the life of the building there have been several fires that required reinstatement, the most recent recorded in 1948. The variety of alterations proposed to the building over the years indicates the changing demands of the city and the perceived flexibility of the simple planning and structure of Ballarat House. Tenancies have included clothing manufacture, carpet and leather good sales, photographic and arts studio, furniture and fine arts auctioneering and training facilities for the School of Audio Engineering.

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]
It demonstrates the city's evolving needs for speculative rental accommodation, and accommodation for businesses associated with the emerging motor car industry, concentrated in this part of the city. Has historic significance locally.
SHR Criteria c)
[Aesthetic significance]
The structural system of tall, widely-spaced timber posts and long-span timber girders is unusual for a building of this period. Has aesthetic significance locally. Cultural:Its minimal, wide-span structure and austere facade design is unusual in having a very high proportion of window to wall. The design presaged the architectural expression of fully-framed construction such as was soon to be seen in Chicagoesque and other Inter-War styles. It has additional significance for its scale and contribution to the character of the streetscape.
SHR Criteria f)
Examples of the Chicagoesque style of warehouse design are now rare. An example as early and confident as this is exceptional.
SHR Criteria g)
Ballarat House is a representative utilitarian building characterising the development of this part of the city between the wars.
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, scale and facade configuration of Ballarat House should be retained. A vertical extension would adversely affect the significance of the streetscape and would therefore be inappropriate. Exterior: Existing door and window openings on the Wentworth Street facade should not be altered, enlarged or filled in. Original or early facade elements, including the face brickwork, cement render spandrels and detail and window and door joinery should be conserved with appropriate maintenance. The Ballarat House sign on the parapet should be conserved. Previously painted surfaces should continue to be painted in appropriate colours. Previously unpainted surfaces such as the external brickwork should not be painted. Air conditioning unit should be removed from the Wentworth Avenue facade. The suspended awning and wrought metal brackets should be conserved. Interior: As much of the original structure and spatial arrangements as possible should be conserved and remain unobstructed. Further adaptation of the interior is possible provided this does not involve removal of original or early structural elements such as the timber posts and beams or substantial areas of loadbearing brickwork. Original or early ceilings should be retained and, where possible, should not be obscured by new suspended ceilings. 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 LEP 2012I164914 Dec 12   
Heritage study     

References, internet links & images

TypeAuthorYearTitleInternet Links
Written  National Trust Listing;
Written  SCC Building Cards;
Written  Sands Directories;
Written  Sydney Cityscope;
WrittenAnita Heiss Aboriginal People and Place, Barani: Indigenous History of Sydney City
WrittenH.J. Gibney, Ann G  'A Biographical Register 1788-1939,
WrittenHowells, Trevor; O'Donnell, Mark1995Survey of warehouses and woolstores within the city of Sydney
WrittenShore, Harvey.1981From the quay

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: 2424345

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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