Commercial Building "Minton House" including interior | NSW Environment, Energy and Science

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Commercial Building "Minton House" including interior

Item details

Name of item: Commercial Building "Minton House" including interior
Type of item: Built
Group/Collection: Commercial
Category: Other - Commercial
Primary address: 72-80 Darlinghurst Road, Potts Point, NSW 2011
Parish: Alexandria
County: Cumberland
Local govt. area: Sydney


The curtilage is the parcels contained within the property addressed as 72-80 Darlinghurst Road, Potts Point.
All addresses
Street AddressSuburb/townLGAParishCountyType
72-80 Darlinghurst RoadPotts PointSydneyAlexandriaCumberlandPrimary Address
72-80 Darlinghurst RoadKings CrossSydney  Alternate Address

Statement of significance:

Minton House demonstrates a new way of residential life in Kings Cross that emerged during the 1920s after the sale, redevelopment, demolition or adaptation of Victorian era properties. The extant building fabric is a relatively rare and evocative survivor of 1920s domestic architecture in the inner city. The building is representative of the mixed developments constructed in the City of Sydney during the 1920s, especially along major inner thoroughfares such as Darlinghurst Road and William Street. Minton House is an important contributory item of the streetscape along Darlinghurst Road and at the intersection of Darlinghurst and Bayswater Road. It illustrates the changing character of Kings Cross during this seminal period of its development.

Minton House is representative of the work of the architectural firm of J E and E R Justelius, which was also responsible for the design of neighbouring buildings along Darlinghurst Road. It has retained a relatively high level of original external and internal fabric. Comparison of its existing plan with original architectural documentation establishes that its layout and spaces are largely intact. For most of its life this building has been used by a variety of small businesses and private tenants, in common with much of the rest of Kings Cross. From the 1980s it has become particularly associated with the independent film making community. In this it continues a long association of Kings Cross with the broader artistic community.
Date significance updated: 21 Jul 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: J E & E R Justelius
Builder/Maker: Not ascertained
Physical description: Minton House is a three storey building with shops at ground floor level and commercial suites occupying the first and second floors. A light court is located on the northern side of the building, while a cantilevered awning protects shopfronts. It is understood that parts of Alberto Terrace are incorporated into the building’s fabric. Its exterior is a restrained version of the Inter-War Free Classical style. The façades are substantially intact and are symmetrically designed. The Darlinghurst Road façade consists of alternating bays of paired windows and balconies (since enclosed) while the Bayswater Road façade contains groups of three windows separated and contained by panels of paired windows treated in a decorative manner. The splayed sections of façade at the street corner are also designed in the same way. These various treatments are echoed in the design of the parapet, which steps up above the balconies and decorative panels of windows. Finishes comprise cement rendered walls, timber framed double hung windows (most original sashes still in place), and cement mouldings within and around the decorative window panels, in cornices and as cartouches in some spandrels and at parapet level. Wall tiles have survived at ground floor level on the Kellett Street façade. Remnants of a pavement light are located outside 4 Bayswater Road. Another is located in Darlinghurst Road.

Apart from the ground floor shops, all of which have been altered to greater or lesser degree, the interior of the building is remarkably intact, given the numbers of tenants that have occupied it since 1925. The plan of the first and second floor levels is still very much the same as indicated on the original architectural drawings. Many spaces have retained a substantial amount of original fabric that includes fibrous plaster ceilings and cornices, terrazzo flooring in ground floor and other common areas, and stair fabric including ceramic tile dados, terrazzo stair risers and treads and the wrought iron balustrades and timber handrails. Female toilets at ground floor level have retained ceramic wall tiles and terrazzo flooring. Some suites have retained timber joinery items such as doors, picture rails and in at least on instance a servery and a linen cupboard. Wall tiles from what were formerly bathrooms have survived in some spaces.
Physical condition and/or
Archaeological potential:
The building is in good physical condition, having retained a large amount of original fabric. Intrusive elements such as fire services fitted internally and remnants of signage externally detract from the building’s appearance.
It is unlikely that the site has archaeological potential.
Date condition updated:21 Jul 06
Modifications and dates: A comparison of the facades of Minton House with the original architectural drawings indicates that a great deal of early fabric has been retained, particularly in the first and second floor levels. The shopfronts have been subjected to continual modification as tenants and businesses have changed. Documented modifications include balcony enclosures (1946), alterations to the awning (1960) and change of use from residential to commercial premises (first and second floors), including male and female toilets and tea room (1972).

Modifications for which dates are not known include introduction of wrought metal balustrades and a solid section of balustrade within the balcony openings at first floor level and removal of decorative moulded embellishments in the parapet of the corner section of the façade.
Further information: The building was first listed by Council with the gazettal of Sydney LEP 2012 on 14/12/2012.

Comparative Analysis:

The parameters of the following comparative analysis are comparison with other buildings constructed by the building's architects, J.E. & E.R. Justelius and N.D. Frederick.

Buildings by J.E. & E.R. Justelius and N.D. Frederick:
Identifying buildings by Justelius architects is difficult as few are listed as heritage items and only two are listed on the RAIA Twentieth Century Register. An entry for J.E. Justelius in the "Cyclopaedia of New South Wales" indicates the design of twelve churches and religious buildings, the Turkish Baths in Oxford Street, soup kitchens and a refuge home in Kent Street and hotels, with domestic architecture forming the largest part of their work. No particular examples are identified. Even if identified, their date of construction, before 1907, would provide little assistance for comparative analysis with Minton House. An article in "Decoration and Glass" (1938) on E.R. Justelius and N.D. Frederick identifies hotels as being one of the firms specialties, examples being Adyar House, Crows Nest Hotel, and the Balfour Hotel.

E.R. Justelius is not included in publications such as the Australian Dictionary of Biography, or in Leslie Johnson’s seminal "Australian Architecture 1901-1951". There are no references to the firm or their buildings on websites run by the Art Deco Society of New South Wales or the Twentieth Century Society.

Around the same time as Minton House was designed, the firm conducted alterations and additions to other buildings in the vicinity on the same stretch of Darlinghurst Road, numbers 42, 54, 62a, 62b and 68. No.68, the nearest to Minton House, is very similar in style and detailing to Minton House. No's. 42 is a vaguel Spanish Mission style building while 62a and 62b Darlinghurst Road is a typical Inter-war commercial building of indeterminate style.

Of two hotels which the practice is known to have built within the City of Sydney, the Royal Standard Hotel (1936) has been demolished. The other is the Green Square Hotel at 936-938 Bourke Street, Zetland. This was a three storey Victorian Hotel which was reduced to two stories and altered to an art-deco style by the firm in 1936. The Green Square Hotel is listed as a local heritage item (SSLEP 1998).

Other buildings designed by the firm include:
- Crows Nest Hotel: A large three storey Free Classical style hotel on a prominent corner. Listed as a local heritage item.
- Kirribilli Hotel: An Inter-war Functionalist style hotel designed in 1937. Not listed as a heritage item but entered on the RAIA Twentieth Century Register.
- Blues Point Hotel: An Inter-war Functionalist style hotel designed in 1938. No heritage listing.
- Residential flat buildings on cnr. Blue Street and William Road, and 1 and 3 William Street, North Sydney: each designed in 1939. Typical Inter-war blocks of brick walk up flats with art-deco overtones. No heritage listings.
- E. Warren House, 16 Morella Road, Clifton Gardens: a large Inter-war Functionalist style residence with prominent curved bays and windows. No heritage listing, but entered on the RAIA Twentieth Century Register.

The above examples of buildings by Justelius & Fredericks indicate a competency in the architectural verancular of the 1920s and 1930s in Sydney, from loosely Free-Classical style ornamented commercial buildings in the 1920s, to streamlined Functionalist style buildings in the later 1930s. By the time the firm was designing the latter buildings, the Functionalist style was no longer avant garde.

Kings Cross was a significant centre for residential flat building in the 1920s and 1930s. A quarter of the flats built in Sydney during the 1920s were built in the Kings Cross area. The inclusion of commercial uses on the ground floor of what was largely an apartment building was not unusual in the context in which Minton House was built. It is indicative of the location of the building at an important commercial intersection.

Minton House does not appear to accrue significance on account of the architectural firm which designed it or its intrinsic architectural style and quality. Its significance is related more to its long presence in a landmark location within Kings Cross and its history of use.
Current use: Retail shops on ground floor, commercial tenancies on first and second floors
Former use: Retail shops on ground floor, residential flats and commercial tenancies on first and second floors


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

Site History in the Nineteenth Century:
The site of Minton House is part of somewhat over three acres granted to Deputy Surveyor-General Samuel Augustus Perry on 19 October 1831. Perry’s house was called "Bona Vista", for which he submitted plans for approval during May 1831. He was forced to submit a second set after the documents were rejected, and it is likely that the house was built was to his own design. The house was located approximately where the Hotel Mansions, on the corner of Kellett Street and Bayswater Road, now stands. Perry and his family did not occupy the house for long. It was sold at public auction during 1834 and acquired by merchant, banker, shipowner and Member of Parliament Richard Jones. He renamed it "Darlinghurst House." Jones fell on hard times during the depression of the 1840s and the house was subsequently acquired by Stuart Donaldson, who had taken over the firm of Riley Jones & Walker after Jones retired from it and became New South Wales’ first Premier. Donaldson renamed the property "Kellett House" although it was sometimes known as "Kellett Lodge", and was residing there until the end of the 1850s. The house was then occupied for a short while by William Bray and his family. The estate was subdivided during 1864 and "Kellett House" was demolished in 1877 by W F Buchanan. Its name is commemorated by Kellett Street. Buchanan built a terrace of dwellings known as Bayswater Terrace, which originally incorporated the Hotel Mansions, facing Bayswater Road.

Lots 3 to 17 of the subdivision were purchased by a gold assayer, John Solomon in March 1864. He undertook the construction of a terrace of houses known as Alberto Terrace, which seems to have been constructed in 1865 and originally contained 14 dwellings, along the eastern side of Darlinghurst Road. For a short time it was known as Solomon’s terrace, then by 1866 was given the name Alberto Terrace. One of the houses was occupied by John Solomon. It remained in the possession of his family after he died.

Site History in the Early Twentieth Century:
The block bounded by Darlinghurst Road, Bayswater Road and Kellett Street was acquired by Norman Weekes Burdekin in 1914. By this time individual residences within the Terrace had been converted to boarding houses and "residential chambers." In December 1923 the entire row of buildings from 42 to 76 Darlinghurst Road, including Alberto Terrace, was offered for sale by auction. A couple of individual buildings were sold and in 1924 title to the residual property was transferred to Alberto Limited. In October 1924 the title to that section of Alberto Terrace that was to be developed as Minton House (No’s 74 and 76) was transferred to solicitor Harold Minton Taylor. Taylor mortgaged the property to Burdekin and to William and Sophia Manly shortly after acquiring it. Taylor had already lodged a proposal for redevelopment with Council and received consent for it during July 1924. The development was designed and documented by the architectural firm of J E & E R Justelius.

J E & E R Justelius:
James E Justelius was born in Sydney in November 1859. At age 16 he was articled to architect William Boles, who happened to be his uncle. On the death of Boles the practice was taken over by Justelius in association with another architect, James Henry Bolster and traded under the name of Bolster & Justelius. The practice flourished to the extent that Justelius spent two years managing its branch office in Bathurst. The practice continued successfully until the1880s, when Justelius retired from it due to ill health. He worked for several years in the designing engineer’s department of the Board of Water Supply and Sewerage, then in 1907 resumed architectural practice. His son, E R Justelius, served his articles in the practice and after James Justelius died in 1923 or thereabouts, took over the running of it. Around the same time N D Frederick joined the office as chief draftsman and became a partner in the firm during 1935, at which time it started trading as J E & ER Justelius & Frederick. Minton House was not the only building in Kings Cross for which J E & E R Justelius were responsible. During 1924 the firm also documented alterations and additions to no’s 42, 54, 62a and 62b and 68 Darlinghurst Road.

Ownership of Minton House:
In November 1926 the title to Minton House, which appears to have been completed in 1925, was transferred from Harold Taylor to a company, Minton House Proprietary Limited, which owned the building for many years afterwards. However, in February 1971 the title to the property was transferred once again, to Milchas Investments Pty Ltd. It is understood that it became used exclusively for commercial purposes from this time. The title to the property was transferred to Balrise Pty Limited around 1991.

Context of Minton House:
Residential flats were by no means rare in the locality encompassing Elizabeth Bay, Kings Cross and Potts Point by the time that Minton House was built. Relatively high building densities were already well established because of the terrace housing that came in the wake of early subdivision during the 1860s and afterwards. It is understood that the first purpose designed block of flats in the area was "Kingsclere", located at the corner of Greenknowe Avenue and Macleay Street. Construction of flats continued through the rest of the decade then began to accelerate in the following decade. During the 1920s the City of Sydney experienced more flat construction than any other local government area in the state. Within its confines around half of the blocks of flats were built in Fitzroy Ward, and of these the majority were built in Kings Cross and localities close by. Generally residential accommodation in Kings Cross was relatively modest, unlike that of contemporary blocks of flats erected in Elizabeth Bay.

According to historian and academic Peter Kirkpatrick, during the 1920s Kings Cross began to become a focus for the artistically inclined. Writers had lived in Darlinghurst before but only for convenience’s sake. The popular perception of Darlinghurst was to change with the coming of flats to upper William Street and Potts Point, and the modern high-rise culture they brought with them: a new, ‘free’ style of city living which was perfectly suited to Bohemian habits. The poet Kenneth Slessor called these apartment buildings ‘the Alps of Darlinghurst’.

Kings Cross was associated with influxes of migrants and sophisticated, artistic and cosmopolitan life from the 1930s. During the 1950s many visited it for its restaurants and cafes and the area was a focus of artistic activity. Although it saw decline during the 1970s through the 1980s, there has since been something of a resurgence of creative activity in the locality. The role of Minton House in the returning artistic influx is acknowledged by Mandy Sayer and Louis Nowra "the offices of Minton House...evolved into a kind of unofficial headquarters in the 1990s for various [film] industry professionals." It echoes early associations that the area enjoyed with the film industry. For instance, the McDonagh sisters, important pioneering film makers during the second half of the 1920s and into the 1930s, are known to have lived in Kings Cross Road, while actors such as Peter Finch and Chips Rafferty lived and relaxed in the area during the 1930s and 1940s.

Recent History:
Artist John Coburn had a studio in Minton House between 1986 and 1991 (Klepac, L, 2003; S. Ormandy, 2009). Coburn's works during this period include a series of nine tapestries titled "The Seasons" for the Christensen Fund, a stage set for a ballet ("Voyage Within").

Minton House's previous owner apparently encouraged art and design tenancies within the building. Steve Ormandy of Dinosaur Design occupied space in Minton House from 1987. Other tenants include Jane Campion (writer and film director), Martin Armiger (composer), John Polson (director andTropfest founder), Ann Thomson (artist) and Annabel Ingall (designed). Fim makers Baz Luhrmanm, Jan Chapman and Ken Cameron, artists Gary Sheared and Martin Sharp, and playwright Louis Nowra are also said to have worked in Minton House. The films "Little Fish", "Somersault", "Mullet" and "Walking on Water" were also produced in Minton House.

Jose Ramos-Horta, Nobel peace laureate and President of East Timor, had an office in Minton House in the 1990s. In an ABC television interview ("Enough Rope", 10 May 2004), Mr Ramos-Horta said the following of his time at Kings Cross: "At first, when I first came to Australia in 1991, I had an office at the University of NSW. Then, later in the mid-90s, yes, someone got me that office based in Kings Cross. I knew Kings Cross, and I was not terribly happy, impressed with that brilliant idea. But it was very cheap - $50 per week for a very nice office space there."

In late 2000, a development application (D/2001/1346) was lodged for the conversion of Minton House to a backpackers hostel. The application was refused by South Sydney Council. In 2004, a similar development application was lodged (D/2004/590). This in turn was withdrawn by the applicant. A number of objectors to the proposal cited the use of the building by artists, musicians, and film producers as something of value which would be lost if the building was converted to a hostel. In 2007 a development application was lodged by new owners (D/2007/902) for the external and internal refurbishment of the building. The application was approved, retaining the use of the building (above ground level) for commercial office suites. As part of the building's refurbishment, interpretive panels have been installed in the ground floor entrance hall providing details of former creative tenants and particularly the Australian films produced there.

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)-
8. Culture-Developing cultural institutions and ways of life Creative endeavour-Activities associated with the production and performance of literary, artistic, architectural and other imaginative, interpretive or inventive works; and/or associated with the production and expression of cultural phenomena; and/or environments that have inspired such creative activities. (none)-

Assessment of significance

SHR Criteria a)
[Historical significance]
Minton House provides evidence of the changing patterns of use and residence in Kings Cross during the 1920s. This was accompanied by the sale of Victorian era properties and their demolition or adaptation for residential and retail use during the decade. However, there are other buildings on either side of Darlinghurst Road between Bayswater Road and Macleay Street that can furnish similar evidence.
SHR Criteria b)
[Associative significance]
Minton House was designed by the architectural firm of J E and E R Justelius, which was also responsible for the design of other buildings that formed part of the process of alteration and addition to Alberto Terrace. The firm designed a relatively large number of public houses in New South Wales during the 1920s and then during the 1930s (as Justelius & Frederick) and might be considered a competent though not exemplary commercial architectural practice of the period;

The building certainly has associations with significant individuals who have occupied and continue to occupy spaces in it who are prominent within the film industry. It is understood that the proximity of numbers of such individuals made the building a focus of independent film making from the end of the 1980s onwards;

Numbers of artists are claimed to have occupied parts of the building at some time. However, there is insufficient evidence to prove that this gives the building a high level of heritage significance. Buildings such as the Yellow House at 57-59 Macleay Street have far better claims to have been centres of artistic activity in the area. Certainly Kings Cross has been associated with a high level of artistic activity and endeavour since the 1920s;

Jose Ramos Horta occupied on room in the building while in exile in Sydney. However, while this is of interest in itself, the links between Horta and the building are those of convenience. The association is not one that can necessarily be claimed to have influenced the thoughts or actions of Mr Horta;

It can be argued that the building’s associations have less to do with an intrinsic quality of the building but from its capacity for many years to provide affordable rental that has attracted a large number of well known individuals from the film industry.
SHR Criteria c)
[Aesthetic significance]
Considering the turnover of tenants that a building such as Minton House would have experienced over the years, and the adaptations made to convert its residential levels into commercial space, the building has retained a relatively high level of original external and internal fabric. Comparison of its existing layout with the original architectural documentation prepared in the office of J E & E R Justelius establishes that its layout and spaces are largely intact.

Minton House is an important contributory item of the streetscape along Darlinghurst Road and at the intersection of Darlinghurst and Bayswater Roads.
SHR Criteria d)
[Social significance]
Minton House has been associated with the independent film making industry since the second half of the 1980s, if not earlier.
SHR Criteria e)
[Research potential]
Minton House does not conform to this criterion.
SHR Criteria f)
Minton House does not conform to this criterion.
SHR Criteria g)
The architecture and surviving original building fabric of Minton House is representative of
the mixed developments constructed in the City of Sydney during the 1920s, especially along
major inner city thoroughfares such as Darlinghurst Road and William Street.
Integrity/Intactness: Minton House demonstrates a relatively high level of integrity. Unsympathetic changes are largely capable of reversal.
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:

The buildings external appearance should be retained and conserved. All conservation, adaptive reuse and future development should be undertaken in accordance with the Australia ICOMOS Charter for Places of Cultural Significance (The Burra Charter), 1999. Extant external and internal building fabric that survives from the time when the building was originally constructed should be retained and conserved as a part of future reuse. Changes to the use of the building may occur, but these should not affect the interpretation of its significance. An appropriate use (or uses) should be found for the building that does not compromise its heritage significance. It is preferable for any adaptive reuse of the first floor and second floor to be accommodated to the existing plan configuration as much as possible. These parts of the building have greater heritage significance than the ground floor spaces. Additions to the building should be confined to the light court on the northern side of the site and should be designed so that the configuration of the light court is still evident. There should be no additions at roof level, so that the building’s important contribution to Darlinghurst and Bayswater Roads is not diminished.


Heritage ListingListing TitleListing NumberGazette DateGazette NumberGazette Page
Local Environmental PlanSydney Local Environmental Plan 2012I113014 Dec 12   
Heritage study     

References, internet links & images

TypeAuthorYearTitleInternet Links
GraphicJ E & E R Justelius1924Building Application 583/24
WrittenRod Howard and Associates2004Minton House, Heritage Assessment Rreport

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: 2431094

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