Potts Point Heritage Conservation Area | NSW Environment, Energy and Science

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Potts Point Heritage Conservation Area

Item details

Name of item: Potts Point Heritage Conservation Area
Other name/s: Kings Cross
Type of item: Conservation Area
Group/Collection: Urban Area
Category: Townscape
Primary address: Refer To Map, Potts Point, NSW 2011
Local govt. area: Sydney
All addresses
Street AddressSuburb/townLGAParishCountyType
Refer To MapPotts PointSydney  Primary Address
 Elizabeth BaySydney  Alternate Address

Statement of significance:

The Potts Point Conservation Area provides evidence of the subdivision of the early land grants and the consolidation of development in Potts Point during the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, reflecting the evolution of the locality from a district of substantial nineteenth century villas, to one characterised by terraces of late nineteenth and early twentieth century interspersed with early to mid twentieth century apartment housing and several surviving grand houses. Together with adjoining Elizabeth Bay and Rushcutters Bay, no where else in Australia were apartments built to this height or level of density. This creates streetscapes of strong urban form and Victorian, Federation and Inter - war character.

The area provides building types which represents the last 150 years of development and coexist in a harmonious way. Despite the intrusive nature of later high rise towers, whose impact is disproportionate to their proportion of built area, the area provides a highly cohesive character although the towers visually dominate the background of low scale streetscapes.

The commercial strip along Darlinghurst Road, together with Fitzroy Gardens and the El Alamein Fountain, provide a continuing civic and visual focus for the area.
Date significance updated: 28 Feb 13
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: Sodersten, Joseland & Gilling, Magoffin, Dellit, Crick & Furse, Ward,Hamilton, Halligan & Wilton etc
Builder/Maker: Various
Physical description: The Conservation Area adjoins Garden Island Naval Depot to the north. The boundary follows roughly the rear of properties that front the western side of Victoria Street whilst Kings Cross Road forms its southern boundary. Ward Avenue and the rear of properties fronting Macleay Street are along its eastern boundary.

The area slopes north along Victoria Street and Macleay Street which is the highest point. The area has a dense urban character. Around Victoria Street and Tusculum Street the scale is predominantly three storey Victorian Terraces. Around Rockwall Crescent, Manning Street and Onslow Place high early twentieth century apartments cluster around the original villas, Rockwall and Tusculum, on subdivided allotments.

There are some fine examples of grand terraces in particularly in Challis Avenue and parts of Victoria Street and Rockwell Crescent.

Macleay Street provides a mixture of ten storey high-rise early twentieth apartment and late nineteenth three storey residential and commercial. Significant 20th century apartment blocks in the street include 4 Macleay Street, Macleay Regis at Nos 10-12, Seldson at No 16, 20 Macleay Street, Manar at Nos 40A -42, Kingsclere at No 48, Werrington at No 85, Byron Hall at Nos 97-99 and Cahors at 117 Macleay Street.

The north- western side of Wylde Street, which falls within the conservation area, is a continuation of Macleay Street and is characterised by a number of 20th century residential flats, mainly two to three storeys with the exception being the post - war International Style building at No 17, and a number of grand villas including Bomera at No 1 and Tarana at No 1A.

Darlinghurst Road forms part of a "bright light" entertainment and commercial strip, and features various forms of commercial and retail enterprises along with cafes, take away food shops, gaming venues, bars, hotels and adult entertainment venues. The built form is predominantly 3-4 storey commercial with some residential.

Important institutional sites include the St Vincent's School Group in Victoria Street, which includes a Victorian Gothic style chapel, and the Wayside Chapel.

There are patches of open space provided at Springfield Gardens at the northern end of Springfield Avenue, Arthur McElhone Reserve in front of Elizabeth Bay House and Fitzroy Gardens.

Darlinghurst Road: Predominantly3-4 storey commercial / residential development of mixed character. Strong street alignment and continuous awning. Detracting shopfronts. Rating B
Macleay Street: Predominantly turn of the century and Inter - war residential development, symmetrical masonry construction, intact foyers. Fine street planting. Detracting shops. Rating A.
Wylde Street ( north-western side) : Predominantly 2-3 storeys inter-war flats, the Post War International Style flats at No 17 and some early villas, Bomera and Tarana. Rating A
Victoria Street: Predominantly low scale Victorian residential development, grand villas, 2 storey. Detracting high rise hotel development at south end, detracting development at 117 (render), 113 (screen) 107, 95 71, 40, additions to St. Vincent's. Views to city at low end. Development at 40 "Gemini" outside of significant streetscape. Fine street planting. Rating A
McDonald Street: 3-4 storey Victorian terraces and post WW II flats. Central street planting. Detracting unit development. Rating A
St. Neot Avenue: Variety of styles, open view to rear, private plantings give leafy character. Detracting No.13. Rating A
Grantham Street: Rear lane character, garages Rating B
Challis Avenue: Victorian terraces and inter- war flats, street tree planting, landscape rear of school. Detracting development at No. 2 (render). Central street planting. Rating A
Rockwall Crescent: Detracting large scale contemporary development surrounding 'Rockwall', 3 storey Victorian terraces. Master Plan for St. Vincent's required. Tree planting recommended around Rockwall. Central street planting. Rating A/B
Manning Street: ' Tusculum', St. Vincent's College, Contemporary infill development face brick. Detracting development at corner Hotel Nikko. Central street planting. Rating A/B
Tusculum Street: Victorian, Federation and inter-war residential. Fine street planting. Central street planting. Rating A
Hughes Street: Varied scale, terraces Rating A/B
Orwell Street: Low scale, park. Detracting development at No 7 Rating B
Llankelly Place: Large scale 7-12 storey. Masonry structures built to street alignment. Street closure. Rating C
Roslyn Street: Inter-war flats, Contemporary infill. Rating B
Barncleuth Lane: Rear properties. Rating C
Bayswater Road: 3-4 storey Federation. Detracting development at No. 33. Detracting contemporary flat buildings. Rating B
Kings Cross Road: Multi- storey Federation and Inter-war flats , detracting development 80 " Altair" excessive scale, lack of detail. Rating B
Penny's Lane: Post WW II development.. Rating C
Greenknowe Avenue: Large scale flat building detracting glass balconies . Rating B
Kellett Street: 2 storey Victorian grand terrace development. Good street planting. Some Art Deco development. Rating A
Springfield Avenue: Fine grand Inter - war residential development enhanced by road closures, rear lane access poor. Rating A
Earl Street: Rear of properties . Rating C
Physical condition and/or
Archaeological potential:
Generally good
Date condition updated:21 Sep 12
Modifications and dates: Site amalgamation prior to 1950 has resulted in intensive development that provided settings for retained villas.

Site amalgamation after 1950 resulted in intensive development although this position is being addressed with sympathetic contemporary buildings.
Further information: This Conservation Area, listed under the provisions of LEP 2012, was previously part of the larger Elizabeth Bay Conservation Area listed under SSLEP 1998 which has now been subdivided into two - the Potts Point Conservation Area and the Elizabeth Bay and Rushcutters Bay Conservation Area.

The area, while evidence of a dramatic change in scale was by no means a complete transformation of the area whether due to site availability or planning, the variation in height is a characteristic of the area. Part of its aesthetic qualities relates to the mixture of building scale and topographical height which creates reasonable amenity and access to view. The area has already reached a high level of density and increased density should be discouraged. Improvements to façade treatments could be encouraged by slight increased development potential.

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: Residential, commercial and institutional
Former use: Residential, commercial and institutional


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 http://www.cityofsydney.nsw.gov.au/barani )

In 1809 Colonel William Patterson granted 30 acres of land to Patrick Walsh, a convict who arrived from Ireland in 1801. This area encompassed today’s Potts Point. Potts Point, became known as Paddy's Point, due to its association with Patrick Walsh. In 1810, after the arrival of Governor Macquarie it was reported that all Grants or Orders of Occupancy of Land given by Colonel Patterson would be cancelled and Patrick Walsh waited to be informed if the land he held was to be given up. Patrick Walsh occupied the land at Paddy's Point (Potts Point) until the early 1820s during which time he cleared part of the land and erected fences and a hut.

In 1822 Patrick Walsh’s land grant was revoked and the land granted to Mr Drennan. Governor Macquarie had built huts for the Aboriginals at Paddy’s Point and requested the successor of Mr Drennan to let him have the land back again in exchange for other land, as he was interested in what could be done in the way of "civilising the adult natives" who still remained on the point. The land was given back and besides building more huts for the local Aboriginal population, Macquarie provided a fishing boat, fishing tackle and salt and casks to salt their fish with, and so established the Cove as a native village. He gave the village the name of Elizabeth Town, in honour of his wife.

The Aborigines had disappeared from the area after the departure of their Patron Governor Macquarie and his successor, Governor Brisbane, decided on Potts Point as the site for an asylum. Nothing came of this plan and after the departure of Brisbane, Elizabeth Town was granted to important public servants in the Colony who were encouraged to build grand villas.

One of the first of these land grants was made to Sir John Wyle Judge Advocate in 1822 who was Director of the Bank of NSW. The grant was for eleven acres and was situated at the entrance end of Potts Point. The largest of the grants was made to Alexander Macleay, then Colonial Secretary, who received 54 acres in 1826 from Governor Darling. This land grant stretched from the present Macleay Street down to the water’s edge.

By 1831 seventeen grants of land had been made on Woolloomooloo Hill to a selection of the most politically and economically powerful men in the colony. The purpose of the grants was to establish a stylish area of housing, and for this reason there were certain provisos on them. Residences were to be erected within three years, the house was to cost in excess of £1,000 and had to face Government House across the bay.

The final name of the area Potts Point comes form its association with Joseph Hyde Potts, a Clerk with the Bank of NSW, who was appointed Accountant to the Bank of New South Wales and purchased six and a half acres.

Major subdivisions of Macleay’s Estate included the Elizabeth Bay Estate, 1865 allotments on Macleay Street, Elizabeth Bay Road and Roslyn Gardens, Macleay’s Estate 1882 (Billyard Avenue, Onslow Avenue) and Elizabeth Bay House 1927 and 1934, (Onslow Place).

In 1891 the Municipal Council of Sydney, decided to mark the Diamond Jubilee of Queen Victoria by naming the Junction of Victoria Street, Darlinghurst Road and upper William Street as Queen’s Cross. Eight years later the City Council decided to remove duplications of names in the city area. Queens Square, in Macquarie Street, named at the time of Victoria’s Golden Jubilee in 1888, clearly had precedence, so Queens Cross became Kings Cross, in line with the gender of the ruling monarch.

West of Macleay Street, the Challis Estate 1889, and various smaller subdivisions along Victoria Street represent the earliest layer of intensive residential development. Subdivision of the Mansion Estates occurred in the early twentieth century with Tusculum 1901, Campbell Lodge 1910, Grantham Estate, 1922 and Orwell House 1921. Many of the grand houses of the period remained until the 1930s when many were replaced by flat buildings. A further group were demolished in the 1960s such that only two of the original grand villas remain today (Rockwall and Tusculum).

The spread of flats in the 1920s and 30s was one of the most marked developments in Sydney housing. It was accompanied by large population increases in the municipalities it affected. Flats were the antithesis of suburbia and nowhere was that more evident than in Kings Cross. . William Street was again widened in the 1930s to relieve the traffic pressure. The idea of a tunnel, making a direct route from St. Mary’s Cathedral to the junction of New South Head and Beach Roads was put forward but never realised.

One of the biggest war-time construction operations was the Captain Cook Graving Dock at Garden Island. The growing naval strength and expansionist policy of Japan in the late 1930s led to a request from the Admiralty in 1938 that a graving dock be built in Sydney. Work began in July 1940 but was not finished until early 1945. Sydney Metropolitan Water, Sewerage and Drainage Board reclaimed 33 acres of the sea bed between Potts Point and the southern shore of Garden Island.

During the 20th century the area evolved into a bohemian enclave populated with Sydney’s artists, writers and other like minded individuals. The Americanization of the Cross, the growth of night clubs and strip clubs, black market trading and rampant prostitution, dates largely from the second World War. The unique character of this area was all but lost by the 1960s as the American soldiers and sailors on "rest and recreation" leave in Australia during WWII and the Vietnam War sowed the seeds of its present character. The area became home to Sydney’s sex industry, was populated with gambling venues and was notorious during the 1980s for its stories of corruption and underworld crime. Recently the sex industry has started to move to the suburbs and the Casino in Pyrmont has removed much of the gambling activity.

In 1969 a roadway linking William Street and Bayswater Road via a tunnel under Victoria Street was constructed. A total of 118 properties were involved in the acquisition and many of the landmarks of the Cross disappeared forever. On 15 December 1975, the Premier of New South Wales, Tom Lewis, officially opened the Kings Cross tunnel.

During the 1970s Potts Point became the focus of the green bans over development plans for Victoria Street which were lodged in October 1971. Many residents on the city side of the street had already moved out, as the principal developer, Frank Theeman’s, Victoria Point Pty. Ltd., offered them favourable terms. Those who wanted to retain the street’s historic buildings for low and middle income earners were not prepared to do so. The New South Wales Builders Labourers Federation indicated that it would block demolition of the buildings with a green ban and hosts of other sympathisers engaged in a protracted battle with the developers. The battle waged on until 1976 when a fifth plan which called for restoration of 22 of the 32 houses on the building site with a 10 storey complex behind them was approved, and the "green bans" lifted.

The late twentieth century saw increasing property prices in Potts Point and a revived interest in the 1920s and 1930s Art Deco buildings.

The Kings Cross / Potts Point precinct is listed on the Australian Heritage Commission Register because it is the only place in Australia with Art Deco development of that scale and in such a high concentration.

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)-
4. Settlement-Building settlements, towns and cities Accommodation-Activities associated with the provision of accommodation, and particular types of accommodation – does not include architectural styles – use the theme of Creative Endeavour for such activities. Residential-
4. Settlement-Building settlements, towns and cities Land tenure-Activities and processes for identifying forms of ownership and occupancy of land and water, both Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal Villas-

Assessment of significance

SHR Criteria a)
[Historical significance]
The area illustrates the developmental overlays that follow the incremental subdivision of Darlinghurst’s villa estates. It provides evidence of the subdivision of the early land grants and the consolidation of development in Potts Point during the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, reflecting the evolution of the locality from a district of substantial nineteenth century villas, to one characterised by terraces of late nineteenth and early twentieth century interspersed with early to mid twentieth century apartment housing and several surviving grand houses.

Historically the area has been home to many of Sydney’s counter-cultural communities including Sydney’s bohemian or urban artistic community during the early to mid 20th century and those associated with the sex industry, organised crime and Sydney’s drug culture in the later half of the 20th century.
SHR Criteria b)
[Associative significance]
Associated with a number of significant architects including Sodersten, Joseland & Gilling, Magoffin, Dellit, Crick & Furse, Ward,Hamilton, Halligan & Wilton.

The name of the area, "Kings Cross" is in reference to the King of England and was originally named "Queens Cross" in honour of Queen Victoria's Jubilee.
SHR Criteria c)
[Aesthetic significance]
The area possesses a coherent and strongly urban form deriving from two distinct characters. The intact Victorian and Federation residential development on narrow lots and narrow streets, with some villas, and amalgamated Victorian and Federation sites to create larger sites supporting 3-12 storey apartment subject to location.

Its own architectural uniqueness lies in a thorough mix of samples and of generous buildings. A strong identity, "sense of district", created by topography, by contrasting fringes and by homogeneity (despite interruptions) within. The identity is reinforced by its continuing use being predominantly residential.
SHR Criteria d)
[Social significance]
The area is held in high esteem by the local community. The commercial strip along Darlinghurst Road together with Fitzroy Gardens and El Alamein Fountain, provide a continuing civic and visual focus for the area. Particular sites have high significance for identifiable groups, including St. Vincent’s College, Wayside Chapel, the Piccadilly Hotel and Darlinghurst Road entertainment and commercial strip.
SHR Criteria f)
Together with adjoining Elizabeth Bay and Rushcutters Bay, no area in Australia possesses the extent of concentration of Inter- war apartments.
SHR Criteria g)
The area is representative of the residential expansion of the Colony in the mid nineteenth century and subsequent Victorian, Federation, Inter-war and late twentieth century development.
Integrity/Intactness: Mixed
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:

POLICY RECOMMENDATIONS (Generic Conservation Area policies) 1. Protection of Significance (a) Subdivision - Retain Victorian subdivision - Do not allow amalgamation of sites (b) Key Period Significant (Contributory) Development: - Retain 1-2 Storey Victorian terraces - Retain Victorian / Federation / Inter - war Public Buildings - Retain Victorian-Federation Commercial development. - Retain Interwar apartment buildings - Retain Scale - Maintain building alignment - Retain form - Retain finishes and details particularly face brick and now rare slate roofing - Reinstate verandahs, front fences, lost detail - Protect intact rear lane - Additions to rear of low scale building not to exceed ridge height and retain original roof form - Discourage front dormers to terrace 2. Redevelopment of Non Contributing Sites - Encourage reinterpretation of earlier Subdivision on amalgamated sites by facade treatment - Retain small scale of development in low scale areas - Respect scale and form of significant development - Respect building line of significant development - Encourage rendered and painted finishes. Face brick finishes need to be carefully selected and detailed. - Encourage contemporary detail - Limit car parking access from street - Do not allow car parking forward of building line - Do not allow additions forward of building line - Rationalise existing additions forward of building line 3. Enhance Significance of Area - Reinforce the existing landscaped character - Provide landscape screening to detracting sites 4. FSR and Height Controls Controls to reflect desired future character of area. - Revise height controls to reflect 3-storey scale of significant development to terrace area. - Revise FSR controls to encourage retention of significant development patterns of high-rise adjacent to low rise dwelling. As the area is already densely populated revise FSR to restrict further development 5. Other Recommendations: - Investigate for possible heritage listing: Francis Hall, 16 Kings Cross Rd, 8 storey, Federation period flats - Provide detail height and topography analysis and assessment of view sheds. Identify sites with potential for redevelopment to address their detracting nature by a FSR bonus. - Contributory buildings should be retained and conserved. A Heritage Assessment and Heritage Impact Statement should be prepared for contributory buildings prior to any major works being undertaken. There shall be no vertical additions to such buildings and no alterations to the façade of the building other than to reinstate original features. 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. - Neutral and detracting buildings should where possible be enhanced. Replacement of such buildings should be of sympathetic scale and character and in accordance with the infill provisions of the relevant planning controls.


Heritage ListingListing TitleListing NumberGazette DateGazette NumberGazette Page
Local Environmental PlanSydney Local Environmental Plan 2012C5114 Dec 12   
Heritage study     

Study details

TitleYearNumberAuthorInspected byGuidelines used
South Sydney Heritage Study1993 Tropman & Tropman Architects  Yes
South Sydney Conservation Areas2003 Architectural Projects P/L  Yes

References, internet links & images

TypeAuthorYearTitleInternet Links
WrittenAnita Heiss Aboriginal People and Place, Barani: Indigenous History of Sydney City
WrittenINHeritage2007Heritage Assessment Report of Wylde Street at Potts Point
MapNSW Department of Lands Metropolitan Detail Series of Maps

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: 2435711

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