Esperanza | NSW Environment, Energy and Science

Culture and heritage



Item details

Name of item: Esperanza
Type of item: Built
Group/Collection: Residential buildings (private)
Category: House
Primary address: 27 Jones Avenue, Primbee, NSW 2502
Local govt. area: Wollongong City
All addresses
Street AddressSuburb/townLGAParishCountyType
27 Jones AvenuePrimbeeWollongong City  Primary Address

Statement of significance:

The dwelling is significant for its historical, association and aesthetic reasons. The dwelling is association with the prominent Nicholle family. Esperanza is rare as the oldest surviving residence within the area and a provides a good representative example of its kind. The grounds provide setting for house and give ridge a forested appearance when viewed in a broader context.
Date significance updated: 08 Jan 20
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.


Construction years: 1890-1892
Physical description: Fine Victorian style bungalow with corrugated metal roof, tin ceilings and walls, set within extensive grounds with two interesting gables each with fine fretted barge boards. It is constructed of weatherboard with bay windows and an iron roof. It has a verandah around three sides. The verandah has delicate iron-lace railings with cast iron verandah posts. Landscape contains mature Cinnamomum camphor, Cupressus sp., Deodara sp. And Pinus sp.
Physical condition and/or
Archaeological potential:
Needs restoration. Most trees at maturity and will decline in future.
Date condition updated:02 Mar 00
Modifications and dates: Governess room at front removed
Current use: Residential
Former use: Residential


Historical notes: The source of the name Primbee is uncertain. Farms in the area were owned in the 1860's by James Stewart, David James and Thomas Griffin. An 1893 map for the Parish of Wollongong shows the bay off Purry Burry Point as Primbee Bay. The area was subdivided and the land was offered for sale in 1919, not as Primbee but as "The Lake Suburb".

This area was a farming and dairy farming district in the 1860's. In 1863 land was purchased in the area by Richard Robinson Bothwick, James Stewart, David James and Thomas Griffin. Further purchases were made in 1867 by Eugene Dominique Nicolle, Michael O'Donnell, Patrick Fitzgerald and the Bank of New South Wales. An 1884 Parish Map shows land in Primbee owned by Thomas Griffin, John Stewart, Eugene Nicolle, Francis Axam, M Shannon and the Bank of New South Wales.

Eugene Nicolle is remembered as a pioneering engineer. He worked with Thomas Sutcliffe Mort in the development of refrigeration in Australia during the 1860s and 1870s. He designed the first freezing plant built by the Fresh Food and Ice Company and built the first plant for extracting kerosene from shale at Lithgow.

In 1867 Eugene Nicolle purchased approximately 160 acres of land in the Primbee area as an investment. In 1878 Nicolle move from Sydney to live on his land at Primbee. He built a residence called 'Whiteheath' "on a high sandy ridge with a panoramic view to the west towards Lake Illawarra and the Illawarra escarpment." Apart from some time spent on overseas visits, Nicolle resided at Primbee for the remaining thirty years of his life.

Nicolle was 54 years old when he first settled at Lake Illawarra. While living at Whiteheath he spent a great deal of time in his workshop laboratory which was stocked with lathes, drills, and a blast furnace. He experimented with various machines and worked on his inventions and scientific studies. He tried to grow rice in the swamp at the back of his house. He also had orchards and roses.

(Abridged from Reflections of Primbee, Primbee Writers Group 1988):
An Engineer Dr Nicolle laboured for more then 10 years to invent commercial refrigeration, assisted by Thomas Mort. The first refrigeration he used took salted meat to England but it rusted on the way and broke down. In November 1879, 40 tonnes of frozen beef and mutton was sent to London abroad the "Strathleven". It arrived in February 1880 in good condition.

Dr Nicholle built "Esperanza" for his son. There was a 3 roomed wing in the front but this had to pulled down later due to white ant infestation. . Originally there was a three roomed wing in the front but this had to be pulled down later due to white ant infestation. The name Esperanza is a Spanish word meaning "House of the Wanderers". 'Esperanza' was built on the estate at Primbee. Esperanza was built 100 yards to the south-east of Whiteheath on the crest of Primbee hill. Work on this unique home commenced in 1890 and was completed in 1892. A tennis court was built in 1909.

Stanley Nicolle initially followed in his father's footsteps, pursuing a career in engineering. He was educated at Camden College and Mr Sotheby's, Throsby Park, Moss Vale. On leaving school he spent some time at Mort's Dock, Sydney, training for his chosen profession. He married Catherine C. Watt in 1892 and moved to Primbee in 1895 to be near his father. He remained at Primbee until about 1924 when he moved to Wollongong. He died in Wollongong in 1929.

(Abridged from Reflections of Primbee, Primbee Writers Group 1988):
The laboratory and carriage house were sandstone brick, but the house itself was timber. Our block of land backed onto Esperanza. Esperanza at the present time (1988) only stands on a couple of acres. It used to be somewhere about 20 acres, with tennis courts. Also a huge water tank about 20 feet in diameter and about 7 or 8 feet high. They used to pump water from the swamp which was a haven for snakes.

He had a mill for sawing wood for his steamer to pump water for his garden, he then built a lookout on top of the tank. Apparently the wind whistling in the trees and white bee boxes in the front yard gave the children the idea that it was a haunted house.

A man of many talents Dr Nicholle was a qualified French medical practitioner. He had no licence to practise in Australia, but for some years would treat local people free of charge and those who remember him recall that he always had a rose in his lapel as he tended patients.

Eugene and his son are buried in an imposing vault of cracking grey granite in the Church of England section of Wollongong cemetery.

Esperanza changed hands in 1937.

Assessment of significance

SHR Criteria a)
[Historical significance]
The item has historic value.
SHR Criteria c)
[Aesthetic significance]
The item has landmark, landscape, architectural and aesthetic value.
SHR Criteria d)
[Social significance]
The item has social value.
SHR Criteria f)
The item has rarity.
SHR Criteria g)
The item has representative value.
Integrity/Intactness: The item has integrity.
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.


Heritage ListingListing TitleListing NumberGazette DateGazette NumberGazette Page
Local Environmental Plan"Esperanza"642326 Feb 10 2010-76 
Local Environmental Plan  07 Jan 00 1/200069

Study details

TitleYearNumberAuthorInspected byGuidelines used
City of Wollongong Heritage Study1991B1-SWMcDonald McPhee Rogers Conacher FullartonDon Fullerton & Rob Gansi No
Review of heritage items in Wollongong LGA20136423Zoran PopovicZoran Popovic Yes

References, internet links & images


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Data source

The information for this entry comes from the following source:
Name: Local Government
Database number: 2700547

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