Ultimo Post Office | NSW Environment, Energy and Science

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Ultimo Post Office

Item details

Name of item: Ultimo Post Office
Type of item: Built
Group/Collection: Postal and Telecommunications
Category: Post Office
Location: Lat: -33.8778853437 Long: 151.1989643700
Primary address: 494 Harris Street, Ultimo, NSW 2007
Parish: St Andrew
County: Cumberland
Local govt. area: Sydney
Local Aboriginal Land Council: Metropolitan
Property description
Lot/Volume CodeLot/Volume NumberSection NumberPlan/Folio CodePlan/Folio Number
LOT1 DP770031
All addresses
Street AddressSuburb/townLGAParishCountyType
494 Harris StreetUltimoSydneySt AndrewCumberlandPrimary Address

Owner/s

Organisation NameOwner CategoryDate Ownership Updated
Trustees of the Museum of Applied Arts and ScienceState Government10 May 99

Description

Designer/Maker: Government Architect's Branch, under Walter Liberty Vernon
Builder/Maker: G W Brewer
Construction years: 1901-
Physical description: The former Ultimo Post Office is a single storey brick building with ashlar and moulded stone dressings and a slate clad roof. The Harris Street (western) end has a parapeted gable which has stone coping finishing in segmental shoulders and topped with a frustum apex stone. On the gable there is a quarry faced frieze above a chink with a stone sill. At the eastern end the roof is of gabled hip form (AHC, 1984).

Windows are mainly double hung sashes with highlights above. A major feature is the stone, arched entry porch on the corner. It is double faceted and has ornate impost mouldings and archivolts. Above the corner is an embellished cartouche. The eastern section of the building (lower than the post office due to the falling ground) was originally the postmaster's residence. The former entrance here is flanked by oculi each with stone reveal and label mould. This elevation continues easterly as a stepped brick wall (with stone coping) to the back yard. A corbelled chimney with two pots rises from the roof of the building (ibid, 1984).

The building reflects aspects of both Federation Classical and Federation Romanesque design, elements of the latter being the parapeted gable, the large semicircular opening in the porch and the building's simple massing. The former post office is located on a major intersection in Ultimo and with its styling it forms an important element in the streetscape. Further it emphasises the large scale of the former Power House (now the Power House Museum) behind (ibid, 1984).

The building is constructed of face brickwork with timber double hung and bullseye windows and timber doors with stone sills and lintels and a slate roof. The building is in Federation Queen Anne style with classical and Romanesque elements. The main entrance is through a recessed corner porch, the entry is embellished with a carved cartouche, indicating the high quality of work and craftsmanship available at the turn of the century.
Current use: Childcare centre
Former use: Aboriginal land, farm, post office

History

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 (Anita Heiss, "Aboriginal People and Place", Barani: Indigenous History of Sydney City http://www.cityofsydney.nsw.gov.au/barani).

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 (Anita Heiss, "Aboriginal People and Place", Barani: Indigenous History of Sydney City http://www.cityofsydney.nsw.gov.au/barani).

Ultimo:
The first land grants were made in 1803 and 1806 to Surgeon John Harris who was granted 34 acres and then constructed and named Ultimo House in 1804 ( at the southern end of his property: AHC, 1984). He named it Ultimo (meaning last month) as a result of a clerical error in his charge papers. There were further grants to Harris of 9 and 135 acres in 1806 and another 12 acres in 1818. He moved to his farm at Shanes Park (near St Marys) in 1821 but retained the estate and leased Ultimo House first to Edward Riley and then to Justice Stephen (ibid, 2012).

The peninsula of Pyrmont/Ultimo was, by 1818, consolidated as two major landholdings, with the Ultimo area owned by Harris. The land passed to his two brothers in a complicated bequest which made subdivision impractical until the property passed to the next generation of heirs in 1856. Ultimo was largely leased as farmland until this time, but when residential subdivision occurred the building and occupation of houses was rapid. The Harris family built housing both for sale and for tenancy and a number of industrial concerns also became established in the area. Pyrmont was already a thriving industrial and residential area by the middle of the century (AHC, 1984).

Proposed improvements along the first few miles of Parramatta Rd prompted subdivision by Harris along the Parramatta Rd and George Street frontages, and these were developed into houses, shops and public houses over the next 10 years. The remainder of the estate remained largely undeveloped and following Harris' death in 1838, legal complications prevented further subdivision until 1859. Ultimo was incorporated into the City of Sydney in 1844 and the early 1850's saw a number of major developments in Pyrmont and also in Ultimo to a lesser extent. Its close proximity to the city's expanding central business district, Brisbane Distillery port and transport facilities made it an attractive area for housing. In 1853, the Sydney Railway Company resumed 14 acres of the Ultimo Estate for a railway line to and with a terminus at Darling Harbour. The area was further subdivided in 1860 which established major north/south streets including Pyrmont, Harris, Jones and Wattle Streets although the roads were not fully formed until 1870. The west side of the estate was dominated by quarrying activities and the remainder used for dairying paddocks. Services including water and sewer came to the area in the early 1860's and gas lighting between 1868 & 1872 (ibid, 2012).

The population doubled during this time, and industry began to establish including Castlemaine Brewery in Quarry Street, Atlas Ironworks, and manufacturer and merchant Samuel Freeman in Harris Street. The early 1880s saw a boom in housing in the area followed by Goldsborough Mort's woolstores in 1883 and other substantial warehouse buildings including a large grain and produce store in Allen St, Waite & Bull's woolstore in 1893, Winchcombe Carson No.1 in 1895 (in Wattle St) and Farmers and Graziers (between Wattle and Jones Sts). In 1892 the Ultimo Technical College opened in Mary Ann St. By the early 1880s Union Square was established as a commercial centre and by 1900 most residential development had ceased by which time the Pyrmont and Ultimo Power Houses had opened and the new Pyrmont Bridge had been constructed. Most development in the 20th century was commercial and industrial and included additional woolstores, Pyrmont Incinerator (1934) , flour mills (1940) , additional power stations (1955) and the Government Printing Office (1960s)(ibid, 2012).

The 1880s brought the first woolstores to Ultimo, the 1890s ushered in the Tramway Power House and, by the turn of the century, with the population of the peninsula at its peak, large blocks of housing were being purchased for replacement by the massive woolstores which came to dominate the area in the twentieth century (ibid, 1984).

Ultimo Post Office:
Sited on land resumed in 1900 from Margaret Harris (descendant of Dr John Harris; she received 600 pounds in payment)(ibid, 2012). It was designed by the Public Works Department's Government Architect's Branch under W L Vernon in 1900, the post office was built in 1901. The contractor was G W Brewer of Marrickville and the cost of construction was just over 808 pounds (ibid, 1984).

Walter Liberty Vernon (1846-1914) was both architect and soldier. Born in England, he ran successful practices in Hastings and London and had estimable connections in artistic and architectural circles. In 1883 he had a recurrence of bronchitic asthma and was advised to leave the damp of England. He and his wife sailed to New South Wales. Before leaving, he gained a commission to build new premesis for Merrrs David Jones and Co., in Sydney's George Street. In 1890 he was appointed Government Architect - the first to hold that title - in the newly reorganised branch of the Public Works Department. He saw his role as building 'monuments to art'. His major buildings, such as the Art Gallery of New South Wales (1904-6) are large in scale, finely wrought in sandstone, and maintaining the classical tradition. Among others are the Mitchell Wing of the State Library, Fisher Library at the University of Sydney and Central Railway Station. He also added to a number of buildings designed by his predecessors, including Customs House, the GPO and Chief Secretary's Building - with changes which did not meet with the approval of his immediate precedessor, James Barnet who, nine years after his resignation, denounced Vernon's additions in an essay and documentation of his own works. In England, Vernon had delighted his clients with buildings in the fashionable Queen Anne style. In NSW, a number of British trained architects whow were proponents of hte Arts and Crafts style joined his office and under their influence, Vernon changed his approach to suburban projects. Buildings such as the Darlinghurst First Station (Federation Free style, 1910) took on the sacale and character of their surroundings. Under Vernon's leadership, an impressive array of buildings was produced which were distinguished by interesting brickwork and careful climatic considerations, by shady verandahs, sheltered courtyards and provision for cross-flow ventilation. Examples are courthouses in Parkes (1904), Wellington (1912) and Bourke, Lands Offices in Dubbo (1897) and Orange (1904) and the Post Office in Wellington (1904)(Le Sueur, 2016, 7).

It ceased operations in August 1985 and was acquired for use as a childcare centre by the Museum of Applied Arts and Sciences (now the Powerhouse Museum)(ibid, 2012).

As Ultimo's woolstores and associated wharves and railyards declined in activity after World War Two, its population declined further and by the 1980s, redevelopment of the former industrial sites for office, commercial and residential purposes became the most visible activity of the area (ibid, 1984).

Historic themes

Australian theme (abbrev)New South Wales themeLocal theme
1. Environment-Tracing the evolution of a continent's special environments Environment - naturally evolved-Activities associated with the physical surroundings that support human life and influence or shape human cultures. Changing the environment-
3. Economy-Developing local, regional and national economies Communication-Activities relating to the creation and conveyance of information Postal and telecommunication services-
3. Economy-Developing local, regional and national economies Communication-Activities relating to the creation and conveyance of information Mail trains and parcels service-
3. Economy-Developing local, regional and national economies Communication-Activities relating to the creation and conveyance of information Post Office-
3. Economy-Developing local, regional and national economies Communication-Activities relating to the creation and conveyance of information Communicating by mail-
3. Economy-Developing local, regional and national economies Communication-Activities relating to the creation and conveyance of information Communicating by telegraph-
3. Economy-Developing local, regional and national economies Environment - cultural landscape-Activities associated with the interactions between humans, human societies and the shaping of their physical surroundings Developing local, regional and national economies-National Theme 3
3. Economy-Developing local, regional and national economies Environment - cultural landscape-Activities associated with the interactions between humans, human societies and the shaping of their physical surroundings Unseen but Present-
3. Economy-Developing local, regional and national economies Environment - cultural landscape-Activities associated with the interactions between humans, human societies and the shaping of their physical surroundings Landscapes of institutions - productive and ornamental-
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 1820s-1850s land grants-
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 Townships-
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 Early farming (Cattle grazing)-
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 Changing land uses - from suburban to urban-
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 Sub-division of large estates-
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 Administering and alienating Crown lands-
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 Changing land uses - from rural to suburban-
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 Resuming private lands for public purposes-
4. Settlement-Building settlements, towns and cities Towns, suburbs and villages-Activities associated with creating, planning and managing urban functions, landscapes and lifestyles in towns, suburbs and villages Subdivision of urban estates-
4. Settlement-Building settlements, towns and cities Towns, suburbs and villages-Activities associated with creating, planning and managing urban functions, landscapes and lifestyles in towns, suburbs and villages Subdivision of rural estates-
4. Settlement-Building settlements, towns and cities Towns, suburbs and villages-Activities associated with creating, planning and managing urban functions, landscapes and lifestyles in towns, suburbs and villages 19th century suburban developments-
4. Settlement-Building settlements, towns and cities Towns, suburbs and villages-Activities associated with creating, planning and managing urban functions, landscapes and lifestyles in towns, suburbs and villages 20th century Suburban Developments-
4. Settlement-Building settlements, towns and cities Towns, suburbs and villages-Activities associated with creating, planning and managing urban functions, landscapes and lifestyles in towns, suburbs and villages living in the suburbs-
4. Settlement-Building settlements, towns and cities Towns, suburbs and villages-Activities associated with creating, planning and managing urban functions, landscapes and lifestyles in towns, suburbs and villages Impacts of railways on urban form-
4. Settlement-Building settlements, towns and cities Towns, suburbs and villages-Activities associated with creating, planning and managing urban functions, landscapes and lifestyles in towns, suburbs and villages 20th Century infrastructure-
4. Settlement-Building settlements, towns and cities Towns, suburbs and villages-Activities associated with creating, planning and managing urban functions, landscapes and lifestyles in towns, suburbs and villages Creating landmark structures and places in suburban settings-
4. Settlement-Building settlements, towns and cities Towns, suburbs and villages-Activities associated with creating, planning and managing urban functions, landscapes and lifestyles in towns, suburbs and villages Developing suburbia-
4. Settlement-Building settlements, towns and cities Towns, suburbs and villages-Activities associated with creating, planning and managing urban functions, landscapes and lifestyles in towns, suburbs and villages Beautifying towns and villages-
4. Settlement-Building settlements, towns and cities Towns, suburbs and villages-Activities associated with creating, planning and managing urban functions, landscapes and lifestyles in towns, suburbs and villages Planning relationships between key structures and town plans-
4. Settlement-Building settlements, towns and cities Towns, suburbs and villages-Activities associated with creating, planning and managing urban functions, landscapes and lifestyles in towns, suburbs and villages Cultural Social and religious life-
5. Working-Working Labour-Activities associated with work practises and organised and unorganised labour Working in offices-
5. Working-Working Labour-Activities associated with work practises and organised and unorganised labour Working on public infrastructure projects-
5. Working-Working Labour-Activities associated with work practises and organised and unorganised labour Working in the public service-
5. Working-Working Labour-Activities associated with work practises and organised and unorganised labour Working in childcare-
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. State government-
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. Developing roles for government - building and operating public infrastructure-
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. Developing roles for government - conserving cultural and natural heritage-
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. Developing roles for government - providing museums-
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. Developing roles for government - facilitating telecommunications-
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. Developing roles for government - providing postal services-
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. Interior design styles and periods - Edwardian-
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. Designing making and using banners and flags-
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. Architectural styles and periods - Federation Romanesque Revival-
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. Applying architectural design to utlilitarian structures-
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. work of stonemasons-
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. Architectural styles and periods - Federation Free Classical-
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. Designing structures to emphasise their important roles-
8. Culture-Developing cultural institutions and ways of life Leisure-Activities associated with recreation and relaxation Gathering at landmark places to socialise-
8. Culture-Developing cultural institutions and ways of life Leisure-Activities associated with recreation and relaxation Going to a museum-
8. Culture-Developing cultural institutions and ways of life Leisure-Activities associated with recreation and relaxation Visiting heritage places-
8. Culture-Developing cultural institutions and ways of life Leisure-Activities associated with recreation and relaxation Developing collections of items-
8. Culture-Developing cultural institutions and ways of life Social institutions-Activities and organisational arrangements for the provision of social activities Community volunteering-
9. Phases of Life-Marking the phases of life Persons-Activities of, and associations with, identifiable individuals, families and communal groups Associations with G.W. Brewer, builder-
9. Phases of Life-Marking the phases of life Persons-Activities of, and associations with, identifiable individuals, families and communal groups Associations with the NSW Government Architect's Office-
9. Phases of Life-Marking the phases of life Persons-Activities of, and associations with, identifiable individuals, families and communal groups Associations with Walter Liberty Vernon, Government Architect 1890-1911, private architect-

Recommended management:

Recommendations

Management CategoryDescriptionDate Updated
Recommended ManagementProduce a Conservation Management Plan (CMP) 
Recommended ManagementPrepare a maintenance schedule or guidelines 
Recommended ManagementCarry out interpretation, promotion and/or education 

Procedures /Exemptions

Section of actDescriptionTitleCommentsAction date
57(2)Exemption to allow workHeritage Act Record converted from HIS events


Order Under Section 57(2) to exempt the following activities from Section 57(1):
(1) The maintenance of any building or item on the site where maintenance means the continuous protective care of existing material.
(2) Change of use
May 29 1987
57(2)Exemption to allow workStandard Exemptions ORDER UNDER SECTION 57(2) OF THE HERITAGE ACT 1977

Standard exemptions for engaging in or carrying out activities / works otherwise prohibited by section 57(1) of the Heritage Act 1977.

I, Donald Harwin, the Special Minister of State pursuant to subsection 57(2) of the Heritage Act 1977, on the recommendation of the Heritage Council of New South Wales do by this Order, effective 1 December 2020:

1. revoke the order made on 11 July 2008 and published on pages 91177 to 9182 of Government Gazette Number 110 of 5 September 2008 and varied by notice published in the Government Gazette on 5 March 2015; and

2. grant the exemptions from subsection 57(1) of the Heritage Act 1977 that are described in the attached Schedule.

Donald Harwin
Special Minister of State
Signed this 9th Day of November 2020.

To view the standard exemptions for engaging in or carrying out activities / works otherwise prohibited by section 57(1) of the Heritage Act 1977 click on the link below.
Nov 13 2020

PDF Standard exemptions for works requiring Heritage Council approval

Listings

Heritage ListingListing TitleListing NumberGazette DateGazette NumberGazette Page
Heritage Act - State Heritage Register 0050202 Apr 99 271546
Heritage Act - Permanent Conservation Order - former 0050229 May 87 892600
Local Environmental PlanFormer Ultimo Post Office including interiorI203014 Dec 12   
Register of the National EstateUltimo Post Office238127 Mar 84   

References, internet links & images

TypeAuthorYearTitleInternet Links
WrittenLe Sueur, Angela2016Government Architects - Part 2

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: Heritage NSW
Database number: 5045092
File number: S90/05027 & HC 32963


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