ASN Co Building | NSW Environment & Heritage

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Heritage

ASN Co Building

Item details

Name of item: ASN Co Building
Other name/s: Australian Steam Navigation Company Building / Ordnance Stores (Commonwealth)
Type of item: Built
Group/Collection: Maritime Industry
Category: Warehouse/storage area
Location: Lat: 33 50'S Long: 151 12'E
Primary address: 1-5 Hickson Road / 35-45 Circular Quay West, The Rocks, NSW 2000
Parish: St Philip
County: Cumberland
Local govt. area: Sydney

Boundary:

Eora
All addresses
Street AddressSuburb/townLGAParishCountyType
1-5 Hickson Road / 35-45 Circular Quay WestThe RocksSydneySt PhilipCumberlandPrimary Address

Owner/s

Organisation NameOwner CategoryDate Ownership Updated
Sydney Harbour Foreshore AuthorityState Government 

Statement of significance:

ASN Co Building and site are of State heritage significance for their aesthetic, historical and scientific cultural values. The site and building are also of State heritage significance for their contribution to The Rocks area which is of State Heritage significance in its own right (see item no. 4500458).

The former ASN Co warehouse and office building was built in 1884. The site has a long history because of its prominent location in the Rocks area, situated on the edge of the Quay and adjacent to the various wharfs, within the main commercial maritime centre. It is associated with the famous early merchant, Robert Campbell. No later store of this construction type was built in the area.

The building was designed by the very prominent architect, William Wilkinson Wardell, who chiefly practiced in Victoria. He was an outstanding architect of the nineteenth century who was prolific and best known for building churches, including St Mary's Cathedral in Sydney, public buildings, including the Treasury building, the Mint and Government House in Melbourne, banks including the English Scottish and Australian Bank in George St, The Rocks as well as warehouses.

The architectural style of the building is a rare intact example of the Pre-Federation Anglo Dutch style. It is a very rare and fine Victorian example of an office and warehouse development in Sydney. The mix of office and warehouse, each exhibit the same architectural style to varying degrees which forms a pleasant whole. Wardell allowed the site shape to partially dominate his design, which is an excellent example of his style. Each bay was a different length, stepping down the site. Although there were other buildings of similar style that existed in Sydney, none of them incorporate such picturesque facades with this type of layout nor do they mix office and warehouse design together. When it was completed it was one of the most prominent buildings in Sydney, and remains an extremely prominent landmark, being visible from Port Jackson and the North Shore and being part of an important vista from Circular Quay to Campbells Cove and beyond. (Tropman 1990: 15- 21)

It was one of the last substantial warehouses with a timber structural system built in Sydney, from 1885 cast iron columns were used instead of timber. The construction method of the building is possibly the earliest surviving example of the use in Sydney of steam cranes imported from England. The importance of steam shipping to the colony's economy is strongly reflected through the high architectural style and the prominent waterfront location of the building.

The building is significant as a Landmark building, from its original construction to the present day in Sydney. It holds significance in its associations with The Rocks, Campbell Cove and Circular Quay and is part of a historical precinct that includes Cadmans Cottage, Mission to Seaman Chapel and the Sailors Home which together strongly illustrate this former maritime neighbourhood. It contributes strongly to the character of The Rocks and is an area that is well visited by residents and tourists. Its inclusion on the registers of the National Trust and the National Estate demonstrate the esteem the building is held in by the broader community.

It is a benchmark building form capable of providing information about the special relationship between its design and function, being a very rare example of a mix of office and warehouse. It has research and scientific potential in the information that its fabric displays and retains, including the very early sprinkler system. It is possible that the sprinkler system is a rare surviving example, with cast iron pipework and 1929 sprinkler heads still intact. The remaining early sprinkler pipework is probably part of the original sprinkler system, possibly being installed when the water tower was constructed between 1892 and 1894.
Date significance updated: 26 Jun 02
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.

Description

Designer/Maker: William Wilkinson Wardell
Builder/Maker: WJ Jennings
Construction years: 1884-1885
Physical description: The original building, a five storey - four bay warehouse with an attached single bay of four stories of office space. The design is a 'Romantic composition in polychrome brick and sandstone capped by picturesque Dutch gables'. The four bays of warehouse are structurally defined as separate areas. Evidence uncovered on the ground, second, third and four floor indicates that the four warehouse bays were linked by a single arched opening, except Bays 4 and 5 which had two openings. The building is described in the Sydney Morning Herald on the date of opening, 25 July 1885, as:

'The new buildings are five storeys high, the first storey being of stone and the remaining ones of brick. Among the offices is a spacious board room, available for public meetings of the share-holders. The lowest floor of offices, level with the wharves, and entered there from, comprises the shipping office, marine superintendents office. the traffic superintendent's office and an apartment for the reception of Carter's tickets and general wharf business'. (Tropman 1990: 8-9)

The timber framed Directory Board of the former Commonwealth Government tenants in the AS&N Co Building is also of heritage significance. It comprises a shallow box made of timber, with side hinged central opening glass doors, and is headed in gold lettering "Australian Government Offices 1950-1989: Directory Commonwealth Offices". (from Archaeology: 1883 warehouse complex. Former offices of the Australasian Steam Navigation Company at northern end.; Built By: 1802)

Style: Pre Federation Anglo Dutch; Storeys: Four; Facade: Stone and polychrome brick facade including copper roofed bay and ornate stone capped gable ends.; Internal Walls: Original set plaster and rendered brick walls with Victorian colour (Bay 1); Lathe and plaster walls (Bay 1); Roof Cladding: Slate; Internal Structure: Original timber post and beam construction with cast iron capitals to the columns (Bays 2-5); Floor Frame: Timber floor; Ceilings: Barrel vaulted brick ceiling (Bay 1); Stairs: Timber staircases and balustrades; Fire Stairs: Bay 2-5- (1949-50); Bay 1- Fire stair to exterior of building (1961) & Steel fire doors c1950 and original hardware.; Sprinkler System: Some sprinkler heads date back to 1929 , some of the original cast iron pipework is still intact.

(from Archaeology: The ASN building was one of the earliest in Sydney to be fitted with a water sprinkler system to combat fire (c1894), and is possibly the earliest surviving in Sydney. Remains of hoist pulleys and other features of the warehouse were also noted.)
Physical condition and/or
Archaeological potential:
Archaeology Assessment Condition: Mostly disturbed. Assessment Basis: Warehouses cut into hill slope from Circular Quay West. Basements below George Street / Hickson Road level. Investigation: Industrial survey. The building contains significant original fabric.
Date condition updated:23 Mar 04
Modifications and dates: In 1892-94 the water tower was constructed. As Wardell was alive at this time it is possible that Wardell or Vernon designed the tower. (Tropman 1990: 9). In the 1950s the building was converted to offices which introduced openings through the load bearing walls, and introduced materials such as plywood and fibrous plaster to create offices, concealing the structure. Both the early water tower to Bay 3 (1892-94) and the 1950s lift to Bay 4 additions involved some structural alterations to the fabric.
(Tropman 1990: 8-14, 39)

In 1990 Bay 5 of the building was adapted for use as part of The Story of Sydney. This use ceased in 1991. In 1992-3, the building was restored to its original 1880s appearance both inside and out, including the reinstatement of the large timber windows and doors and removal of the 1950s office partitions, at a total cost of $5.7m. (SCRA Annual Reports 1992: 32 & 1993: 21-22)
Further information: The building is in a reasonably sound condition, having been extensively renovated and conserved in the 1990s. The structure of Bays 1-4 is very much intact with only minor changes, displaying evidence of various alterations, such as fire stairs and lifts in the 1950s.
The integrity of the interior of Bay 5 of the warehouse component, however, has been seriously compromised by the removal of most of its internal fabric and adaptation to a cinema complex in 1990. (Graham Brooks and Associates 2004)
Current use: Exhibition, studio, galleries, office accommodation.
Former use: Warehouse/ office use related to shipping industry, Commonwealth offices

History

Historical notes: The land was originally leased to John Baugham by acting Governor Grose in 1794. Baugham sold the lease to Robert Campbell in 1798, who erected Sydney's first private wharf in 1800. Campbell then erected Wharf House behind the wharf as a home for himself and his wife Sophia in 1802. The site continued to be used by the Campbell family until 1876, when the ASN Co acquired part of Robert Campbell's grant. In 1884, construction started on the ASN Co Building which was opened in 1885. It was designed by William Wilkinson Wardell, who had formed a partnership with WL Vernon in 1884. It is an excellent example of his style.

The Australasian Steam Navigation Company was formed from the Hunter River Steamship Company in 1851 to appeal to a wider market and expand their services. The company approved free or assisted passages for worthy causes, these included Caroline Chisholm going to Moreton Bay to obtain employment for immigrant women and Dr Leichhardt also going to Moreton Bay for an expedition in Queensland, and they shipped plants and specimens for the Botanic Gardens in Melbourne for free.

In 1887, the government purchased the land between Campbells Stores and Sydney Cove, and demolished all buildings on the site. Later that year the Crown acquired the ASN Co building to be administered by the Sydney Harbour Trust. The company moved out of the building in 1889. In 1890, it was being used as Government Ordnance Stores and by 1892 a number of tenants were in the building. In 1906, the building was handed over to the Department of Defence. Since 1950, it has been occupied by the Australian Commonwealth Offices, when conversions by the Department of Works and Housing made the building suitable for office use. In 1989 the ASN Co building was acquired by the SCRA.

In 1990, Bay 5 of the building was adapted for use, together with the Mariners' Church, for The Story of Sydney, an exhibition of the foundation and development of Sydney. This use ceased in 1991. In 1991-92, the building was restored to its original 1880s appearance both inside and out, and following that has been leased for galleries facing George Street, retail on Circular Quay West and commercial uses on the upper floors. (SCRA Annual Reports 1990-1993)

Previously, the address of the ASN Co Building was 5-7 Hickson Road, but was renumbered to 1-3. The Park Hyatt Hotel is numbered 7 Hickson Road.

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)-
3. Economy-Developing local, regional and national economies Transport-Activities associated with the moving of people and goods from one place to another, and systems for the provision of such movements (none)-
7. Governing-Governing Government and Administration-Activities associated with the governance of local areas, regions, the State and the nation, and the administration of public programs - includes both principled and corrupt activities. (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]
The former ASN Co warehouse and office building was built in 1884 by W W Wardell. The site has a long history because of its prominent location in the Rocks area, situated on the edge of the Quay and adjacent to the various wharves, within the main commercial maritime centre. It is associated with the famous early merchant, Robert Campbell. No later store of this construction type was built in the area. Although there were extensive storage facilities built during the 1910 to 1920's period, they were of timber construction, generally single-storey, and nothing like this 1884 building. (Tropman 1990:13)

The ASN Co Building is part of an historical precinct, which includes Cadman’s Cottage, the Mariner’s Church and the City Coroner’s Court that relates strongly to the maritime usage of the precinct and to the history of The Rocks. Designed by one of Australia’s prominent Victorian architects the building reflects the boom era in Australia’s early shipping companies.
(Graham Brooks & Associates 2004)
SHR Criteria b)
[Associative significance]
The former ASN Co warehouse and office building was designed by WW Wardell, an outstanding architect of the nineteenth century who was prolific. He was best known for building churches, including St Mary's Cathedral in Sydney, public buildings, including the Treasury building, the Mint and Government House in Melbourne, banks including the English Scottish and Australian Bank in George St, The Rocks as well as warehouses. The building also has associations with Robert Campbell, the famous early merchant. The building holds strong association with the importance of steam shipping to developing the colony's economy. (Tropman 1990)
SHR Criteria c)
[Aesthetic significance]
The architectural style is a rare intact example of the Pre-Federation Anglo Dutch style.

Wardell allowed the site shape to partially dominate his design, which is an excellent example of his style. Each bay was a different length, stepping down the site. Although there were other buildings of similar style that existed in Sydney, none of them incorporate such picturesque facades with this type of layout nor do they mix office and warehouse design together. When it was completed it was one of the most prominent buildings in Sydney, and remains an extremely prominent landmark, being visible from Port Jackson and the North Shore and being part of an important vista from Circular Quay to Campbells Cove and beyond. (Tropman 1990: 15- 21)

It was one of the last substantial warehouses with a timber structural system built in Sydney, from 1885 cast iron columns were used instead of timber.

The architectural style of the building is a rare intact example of the late 19th century Anglo-Dutch style. It is a very rare and fine Victorian example of an office and warehouse development in Sydney. The combination of office and warehouse, each exhibiting the same architectural style to varying degrees, forms a pleasant whole.
The importance of steam shipping to the colony’s economy is strongly reflected through the high architectural style and the prominent waterfront location of the building. The vista and streetscape inspired by the ASN Co Building is one of great interest and variety. When the building was first built, in 1885, it was one of the most prominent buildings in Sydney, due to its size, location on the Quay, and its architectural style, particularly the clock tower. Today, the building remains a prominent landmark in the panorama of Sydney Cove. It forms part of an important vista from Circular Quay to Campbell’s Cove and beyond. The construction method of the building is possibly the earliest example of the use in Sydney of the steam cranes imported from England, which transported materials on site.

The building includes highly significant remnants of one of Sydney’s first fire sprinkler installations. Their continued use indicates the soundness of the original design. The integration with successive 1929, 1949/50s and 1970s components represents the evolution of sprinklers. (Graham Brooks and Associates 2004)
SHR Criteria d)
[Social significance]
The building is significant as a Landmark building, from its original construction to the present day in Sydney. It holds significance in its associations with The Rocks, Campbell Cove and Circular Quay and is part of a historical precinct that includes Cadmans Cottage, Mission to Seaman Chapel and the Sailors Home which together strongly illustrate this former maritime neighbourhood. It contributes strongly to the character of The Rocks and is an area that is well visited by residents and tourists. Its inclusion on the registers of the National Trust and the National Estate demonstrate the esteem the building is held in by the broader community.
SHR Criteria e)
[Research potential]
The easily comprehended structural system is an outstanding example of typical commercial building construction in New South Wales from the mid- nineteenth century onwards. The next structural development was the introduction of internal cast iron columns from about 1885 onwards. (Tropman 1990: 18)

The building has research and scientific potential in the information that its fabric displays and retains, including the very early sprinkler system. It is a benchmark building form capable of providing information about the special relationship between its design and function, being a very rare example of a mix of office and warehouse.
SHR Criteria f)
[Rarity]
The column-to-beam connections of the structural frame, which represent an elegant marriage of timber and cast iron building technique, is an unusual, but efficient-looking method, which does not seem to exist elsewhere in Sydney. The architectural style of the building is a rare intact example of the late 19th century Anglo-Dutch style. It is a very rare and fine Victorian example of and office and warehouse development in Sydney. It is a very rare and fine Victorian example of an office and warehouse development in Sydney. The architectural style is a rare intact example of the Pre-Federation Anglo Dutch style. The construction method of the building is possibly the earliest surviving example of the use in Sydney of steam cranes imported from England. (Graham Brooks and Associates 2004)

It is possible that the sprinkler system is a rare surviving example, with cast iron pipework and 1929 sprinkler heads still intact. The remaining early sprinkler pipework is probably part of the original sprinkler system, possibly being installed when the water tower was constructed between 1892 and 1894.
SHR Criteria g)
[Representativeness]
ASN Co Building is one of the last substantial warehouses with timber structural system built in Sydney. The joinery detailing in the office building is a fine example of Victorian detailing and the staircase is an early example of this style of architecture. (Graham Brooks and Associates 2004)
Integrity/Intactness: Archaeology: Mostly disturbed. Much of the original fabric of the building is intact.
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:

Conservation Policy: The building should be restored and reconstructed to its c1884 form and detailing The office building and warehouse bays should be restored and reconstructed in such a way as to demonstrate their significance The windows and doors in the warehouse bays should be reconstructed. The 1950 period alterations and additions that detract from the appreciation of the warehouse should be removed. (Tropman 1990: 34-38, also 39-50) Above and below ground archaeological remains: An archaeological conservation plan is recommended.

Listings

Heritage ListingListing TitleListing NumberGazette DateGazette NumberGazette Page
Heritage Act - s.170 NSW State agency heritage registerSydney Harbour Foreshore Authority    

Study details

TitleYearNumberAuthorInspected byGuidelines used
SCA Register 1979-19981998B008, AR019Sydney Cove Authority (SCA)  Yes

References, internet links & images

TypeAuthorYearTitleInternet Links
WrittenDoring, C. and Co.  
WrittenGraham Brooks and Associates2004ASN Co Building Conservation Management Plan
WrittenLester Tropman & Associates Architects1990Preliminary Conservation Plan for Former Australasian Steam Navigation Company Building at the Rocks
WrittenSCA1986Building Data Sheet CP/06

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: State Government
Database number: 4500008


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