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General Post Office

Item details

Name of item: General Post Office
Other name/s: GPO Sydney, Postal Hall, Westin
Type of item: Built
Group/Collection: Postal and Telecommunications
Category: Post Office
Location: Lat: -33.8677553205 Long: 151.2077070290
Primary address: 1 Martin Place, Sydney, NSW 2000
Parish: St James
County: Cumberland
Local govt. area: Sydney
Local Aboriginal Land Council: Metropolitan
Property description
Lot/Volume CodeLot/Volume NumberSection NumberPlan/Folio CodePlan/Folio Number
LOT11 DP881681
All addresses
Street AddressSuburb/townLGAParishCountyType
1 Martin PlaceSydneySydneySt JamesCumberlandPrimary Address

Owner/s

Organisation NameOwner CategoryDate Ownership Updated
Australia PostFederal Government03 May 99

Statement of significance:

The Sydney GPO site is a significant place in the Australian National Estate and NSW and is of national importance. The Post Office has been on the site since 1830 and the fabric reflects the history of postal, telegraphic and telephonic services in N.S.W. and Australia. It contains several buildings of varying cultural significance.

The exteriors of the buildings contribute much to the significant quality of the streetscape of George and Pitt Streets, and the western end of Martin Place.

The site has potential for archaeological investigation of past methods of construction, way of life etc. and for the proper conservation of buildings. (Lucas, Stapleton & Partners 1991: 13)

The General Post Office in Sydney is significant for its association with the development of an integrated national postal and telecommunications system after federation. It was the venue for three conferences on the subject in the period 1896-1900, the last of these meetings drafting the Commonwealth legislation under which the national system was created.
Date significance updated: 01 Oct 97
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: James Barnet, Colonial Architect; WL Vernon (additions)
Builder/Maker: John Young
Construction years: 1866-1874
Physical description: The GPO is constructed of Pyrmont stone and consists of a basement, ground floor, mezzanine, first, second and third floors. The ground floor is dominated by an open arcade which runs around the three street facades and which is covered with domical vaulting. This arcade is supported on polished grey monolith columns from Moruya on rougher, quite massive bases, and surmounted by carved capitals of the same materials. The main facade facing Martin Place is quite symmetrical with nine bays to each section of the arcading with end pavilions, and a massive central block surmounted by a fine clock and bell tower rising to 210 feet. (Burn 1967)

The Martin Place building is inspired by the Palazzi Communali of late Medieval and Renaissance Italy and is the finest example of the Victorian Italian Renaissance style in NSW.

Load-bearing sandstone walls support wrought iron composite beams or girders. Coke breeze arches without structural function span between the beams, with suspended timber floors and ceiling joists above and below respectively. The actual ceilings are lath and plaster with some cast plaster and run detail. The parallel interior load-bearing walls of the George Street wing have been removed.

The 1927 building is a seven storey Beaux Arts Classical style rendered, brick clad, steel framed structure.

The 1942 building is a nine storey Moderne style, concrete encased, steel frame building clad in granite and terra cotta tiles. (Lucas, Stapleton & Partners 1991: 10, 22-23, 123)
Physical condition and/or
Archaeological potential:
Archaeological Potential - Medium
Physical Condition - Refurbishment currently being undertaken
Date condition updated:11 Aug 97
Modifications and dates: 1874 - First stage of building fronting George Street completed.
1887 - Second stage extending through to George Street and a clock tower completed.
1897-1905 - Mansards built in George and Pitt Street wings and then linked to the tower, completing a fifth storey.
1898 - George Street frontage of the building widened by two bays.
1900 - Alternative entrance for mail carts fron Chisolm Place (now Ash Street) under Martin Place to the basement of the GPO.
1904 - By this stage a fourth storey with two mansard roof section had been added to the George Street frontage.
1925-27 - Structures in yard and main stair to Martin Place demolished. Ground floor of post office completely remodelled.
1927 - A second building constructed
1942 - A third building constructed.
-Tower taken down.
1964 - Tower re-erected.
1985 - Extensive stonework repairs and lead flashings carried out to street elevations. (Lucas, Stapleton & Partners 1991:ii, 20-21)
Current use: Hotel, offices, hospitality
Former use: Aboriginal land, town lot, Post Office

History

Historical notes: Aboriginal occupation:
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).

Prior to European settlement the Millers Point area was part of the wider Cadigal territory, in which the clan fished, hunted and gathered shellfish from the nearby mudflats. Shellfish residue was deposited in middens, in the area known to the early Europeans as Cockle Bay; the middens were later utilised by the Europeans in lime kilns for building purposes. The Millers Point area was known to the Cadigal as Coodye, and Dawes Point as Tar-ra/Tarra (Sydney City Council, 2019).

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).

General Post Office:
The George Street General Post Office, reputedly designed by Francis Greenway served as the Police Office and Customs House before adaption to post office use in 1830. By 1860 it was found to be too small and inefficient. Plans for a new post office were prepared by Phillip Hardwick in London and sent to NSW in 1854. They were never used.

In 1864 instructions were given to design a post office with frontages to Pitt and George Streets and a new lane way between. James Barnet, newly confirmed as NSW Colonial Architect, submitted plans for the first stage in February 1865 on the old Post Office site on George Street. The developed proposal linked George and Pitt Streets, with a public colonnade intended to front to a large public space - the future Martin Place. In the meantime, this would be a laneway. The relatively narrow site allowed little space behind the main structure for necessary outbuildings - such as stables and lavatories.

In 1865 a temporary timber post office was erected in Wynyard Square and the old GPO was demolished. The first contract, for foundation work, was awarded to Aaron Loveridge on 13 February 1886 and work began that year. A contract for carpenters, joiners, slaters, plumbers, painters and glaziers was awarded to John Young in December 1866, shortly followed by the same tenderer's offer on masons and bricklayers. The contract for wrought iron beams was awarded to P.N. Russell & Co.

Physical changes were made to the building during construction. Political changes and difficulty in obtaining opinion as to the interior arrangements were cited as reasons for delays in the completion of the building. Celebrations for the opening of the new building were finally held on 1st September 1874 by a 'conversazione' to which 2000 people were invited.

James Johnstone Barnet (1827-1904) was made acting Colonial Architect in 1862 and appointed Colonial Architect from 1865-90. He was born in Scotland and studied in London under Charles Richardson, RIBA and William Dyce, Professor of Fine Arts at King's College, London. He was strongly influenced by Charles Robert Cockerell, leading classical theorist at the time and by the fine arts, particularly works of painters Claude Lorrain and JRM Turner. He arrived in Sydney in 1854 and worked as a self-employed builder. He served as Edmund Blacket's clerk of works on the foundations of the Randwick (Destitute Childrens') Asylum. Blacket then appointed Barnet as clerk-of-works on the Great Hall at Sydney University. By 1859 he was appointed second clerk of works at the Colonial Architect's Office and in 1861 was Acting Colonial Architect. Thus began a long career. He dominated public architecture in NSW, as the longest-serving Colonial Architect in Australian history. Until he resigned in 1890 his office undertook some 12,000 works, Barnet himself designing almost 1000. They included those edifices so vital to promoting communication, the law and safe sea arrivals in colonial Australia. Altogether there were 169 post and telegraph offices, 130 courthouses, 155 police buildings, 110 lockups and 20 lighthouses, including the present Macquarie Lighthouse on South Head, which replaced the earlier one designed by Francis Greenway. Barnet's vision for Sydney is most clearly seen in the Customs House at Circular Quay, the General Post Office in Martin Place and the Lands Department and Colonial Secretary's Office in Bridge Street. There he applied the classicism he had absorbed in London, with a theatricality which came from his knowledge of art (Le Sueur, 2016, 6).

The first George Street clock, with Roman numerals in the centre indicating the hour was not liked because its single face could not be seen along George Street. By 1880 the clock was replaced by the present projecting clock with its three faces.

In August 1879 Barnet submitted plans for extension of the post office to Pitt Street. Tenders were called and in 1880 laying of foundations began. The finishing stone to the tower was laid in 1885 and the colonade along the northern side was opened to the public in May 1887. The tower clock was not completed until 16 September 1891.

During construction of the Pitt Street wing further expansion became necessary. The Post Office Cafe, south of the GPO along George Street, was resumed in 1883 to house the Railway Parcel and Ticket Office. In February 1896 the decision was made to extend the GPO onto this site. W.L.Vernon, NSW Government Architect submitted plans in September and work was begun in 1897.

A decision to add a fifth storey, beginning with a mansard addition at the Pitt Street end of the building was also made in 1897. This was completed in 1899 and a similar mansard was begun over the George Street wing. Between 1900 and 1905 both Mansards were linked to the tower and the storey was completed.

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).

In 1900 an alternative entrance for mail carts was built from Chisolm Place (now Ash Street) under Martin Place to the basement of the GPO. (Lucas, Stapleton & Partners 1991: 19-21).

Grand general post offices from the 19th and early 20th centuries provided a range of essential services for major cities. Even today they serve as the official point(s) from which road distances are measured. But as their once-immence importance was eroded by the latter-day technological and communications revolution, these huge buildings, in search of a new purpose, were inevitably converted to luxury hotels (Dennis, 2019, 2).

From 1995 into the early 2000s the building was redeveloped with a new tower block behind as an (The Westin) Hotel (Sydney, with 416 rooms) and the former GPO was redeveloped as a complex of lobby, shops and restaurants. This included redevelopment of the 1927 wing (ibid, 2019).

On 18/10/2019 the former GPO began another chapter. It opened as the Fullerton Hotel Sydney, refurbished, remodelled and facade refreshed. The new owner, Singaporean-owned Asia-based Fullerton Hotels and Resorts group, has been down this preservation route before - it runs The Fullerton Hotel Singapore (1928), which was also once a GPO building. As part of the re-badging of the property, the Fullerton group is introducing unique guided heritage tours from November 1, to showcase the building's precious heritage features as well as the stories of the people who worked in the building over its 130 or so years as the headquarters fro Australia's postal service. The tours will be available to hotel guests and the public (ibid, 2019).

The Fullerton Hotel Sydney is the brand's first international expansion. In 2018 the GPO was subject of a controversial $150m sale by Australia Post to the Far East property group, owners of the Fullerton Hotel brand. Far East has thus far proven its bona fides with one of its first tasks on taking control of the property being to extensively clean and repair the imposing sandstone facade, including the marble statue of Queen Victoria, looking onto Martin Place. There's the choice of staying within the modern high-rise wing of the hotel or in one of the rooms in the heritage building. The public spaces have been smartly spruced-up and rebadged under the new brand. Fullerton Sydney's owners have brought a welcome taste of Singapore in the menus of its dining outlets, namely 'The Place' and 'The Bar', and also introduced the 'Sydney Sling' - an antipodean retort to the city state's famous tipple. Free tours of the GPO are a real bonus for guests as well as an asset to Sydney (Dennis, 2020, 20-21).

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. Other open space-
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-
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. Modification of terrain-
3. Economy-Developing local, regional and national economies Commerce-Activities relating to buying, selling and exchanging goods and services Innkeeping-
3. Economy-Developing local, regional and national economies Commerce-Activities relating to buying, selling and exchanging goods and services Developing Commercial Enterprise-
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 communication by signals-
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 Communication-Activities relating to the creation and conveyance of information Post Office-
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 Sydney and Australian Landmark-
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 Creating environments evocative of the 'old country'-
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 urban amenity-
3. Economy-Developing local, regional and national economies Events-Activities and processes that mark the consequences of natural and cultural occurences Developing local landmarks-
3. Economy-Developing local, regional and national economies Events-Activities and processes that mark the consequences of natural and cultural occurences Providing a venue for significant events-
3. Economy-Developing local, regional and national economies Events-Activities and processes that mark the consequences of natural and cultural occurences Developing national landmarks-
3. Economy-Developing local, regional and national economies Technology-Activities and processes associated with the knowledge or use of mechanical arts and applied sciences Technologies of telecommunication-
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. Building settlements, towns and cities-National Theme 4
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. Victorian era offices-
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. Architectural design-
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. Adapted heritage building or structure-
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 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 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 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 Resuming private lands for public purposes-
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 Administering and alienating Crown lands-
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 Early Sydney Street-
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 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 Developing ports-
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 19th 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 Cultural Social and religious life-
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 Decentralising metropolitan activities to provincial cities-
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 urban 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 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 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 Role of transport in settlement-
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 civic infrastructure and amenity-
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 Commercial strip development-
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 main street-
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 Indicators of early town planning and the disposition of people within the emerging settlement-
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 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 as a manager or executive officer-
7. Governing-Governing Defence-Activities associated with defending places from hostile takeover and occupation Military Parade Ground-
7. Governing-Governing Defence-Activities associated with defending places from hostile takeover and occupation Sending and receiving messages-
7. Governing-Governing Defence-Activities associated with defending places from hostile takeover and occupation Involvement with the Vietnam War-
7. Governing-Governing Defence-Activities associated with defending places from hostile takeover and occupation Involvement with the South African (Boer) War-
7. Governing-Governing Defence-Activities associated with defending places from hostile takeover and occupation Involvement with the First (Great) World War-
7. Governing-Governing Defence-Activities associated with defending places from hostile takeover and occupation Involvement with the Second World War-
7. Governing-Governing Defence-Activities associated with defending places from hostile takeover and occupation Involvement with the Korean War-
7. Governing-Governing Defence-Activities associated with defending places from hostile takeover and occupation State links in a national network-
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. Suburban Consolidation-
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. Public works-
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 - administration of land-
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. Providing public offices and buildings-
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 - town and country planning-
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 postal services-
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. Creating and displaying Coats of Arms and official emblems and symbols-
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 community facilities-
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 - public land administration-
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. Monuments-
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. Developing cultural institutions and ways of life-National Theme 8
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. civic setting-
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. Performing important ceremonies and rituals-
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. Designing in an exemplary architectural style-
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 - Victorian Italianate-
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 coats of arms and heraldry-
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. Creating works of art-
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 landscapes in an exemplary style-
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 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. Building in response to climate - verandahs-
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 - Victorian-
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. Architectural styles and periods - Victorian (mid)-
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. Patronising artistic endeavours-
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. Landscaping - 20th century interwar-
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. Artists, bohemians and intellectuals squat or gathering point-
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. Adaptation of overseas design for local use-
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. Creating an icon-
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. Landscaping - Federation period-
8. Culture-Developing cultural institutions and ways of life Domestic life-Activities associated with creating, maintaining, living in and working around houses and institutions. Ways of life 1900-1950-
8. Culture-Developing cultural institutions and ways of life Domestic life-Activities associated with creating, maintaining, living in and working around houses and institutions. Ways of life 1950-2000-
8. Culture-Developing cultural institutions and ways of life Domestic life-Activities associated with creating, maintaining, living in and working around houses and institutions. Ways of life 1850-1900-
8. Culture-Developing cultural institutions and ways of life Domestic life-Activities associated with creating, maintaining, living in and working around houses and institutions. Living above a shop or office-
8. Culture-Developing cultural institutions and ways of life Leisure-Activities associated with recreation and relaxation Outdoor concerts and performances-
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 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 Gathering at landmark places to socialise-
8. Culture-Developing cultural institutions and ways of life Leisure-Activities associated with recreation and relaxation Tourism-
8. Culture-Developing cultural institutions and ways of life Leisure-Activities associated with recreation and relaxation Leisure-Includes tourism, resorts.
8. Culture-Developing cultural institutions and ways of life Social institutions-Activities and organisational arrangements for the provision of social activities Places of formal community gatherings-
8. Culture-Developing cultural institutions and ways of life Social institutions-Activities and organisational arrangements for the provision of social activities Places of informal community gatherings-
8. Culture-Developing cultural institutions and ways of life Social institutions-Activities and organisational arrangements for the provision of social activities Joining together to study and appreciate local history-
8. Culture-Developing cultural institutions and ways of life Social institutions-Activities and organisational arrangements for the provision of social activities Developing local clubs and meeting places-
8. Culture-Developing cultural institutions and ways of life Social institutions-Activities and organisational arrangements for the provision of social activities Belonging to an historical society or heritage organisation-
8. Culture-Developing cultural institutions and ways of life Social institutions-Activities and organisational arrangements for the provision of social activities Participating in ANZAC Day celebrations-
9. Phases of Life-Marking the phases of life Persons-Activities of, and associations with, identifiable individuals, families and communal groups Associations with James Barnet, Colonial (Government) Architect 1862-90-
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-
9. Phases of Life-Marking the phases of life Persons-Activities of, and associations with, identifiable individuals, families and communal groups Associations with Aaron Loveridge, builder-
9. Phases of Life-Marking the phases of life Persons-Activities of, and associations with, identifiable individuals, families and communal groups Associations with John Young, builder, entrepreneur-
9. Phases of Life-Marking the phases of life Persons-Activities of, and associations with, identifiable individuals, families and communal groups Associations with P.N. Russell and Co., ironmongers-

Assessment of significance

SHR Criteria a)
[Historical significance]
The physical growth and development of the building fabric on the site has been in response to the growth and development of postal, telegraph and telephone communication in NSW and Australia. The three buildings on the site constructed for Post Office use represent three stages of this growth and reflect the evolution of attitudes to postal and other communication services.
These include:
-the organisation of postal functions marked by changes in planning.
-technology evidenced in the growth of the telegraph and telephone departments and their decay or removal.
-attitudes to staffing; for instance the use and later disuse of observation galleries over the main workers within the buildings; and the increase in natural daylighting and ventilation to work areas.
-the structure of the Post Office organisation, for instance, the removal of the Postmaster General's office.

The site also covers part of the route of the Tank Stream, Sydney's first water supply and later first sewer. (Lucas, Stapleton & partners 1991: 12)
SHR Criteria c)
[Aesthetic significance]
The GPO is situated in the heart of a group of nineteenth and twentieth century buildings forming a streetscape of cohesive form, materials, and scale. The Martin Place building makes a positive contribution to the streetscape, while the 1927 and 1942 buildings are sympathetic to the streetscape in scale and use of materials.

The Martin Place building is the finest example of Victorian Italian Renaissance in NSW and its long colonnade is a rare architectural element in Australia. The building has the finest monumental stone street facade in Sydney, constructed across an entire city block, and is the largest and most impressive post office building built in NSW. Together with the Melbourne GPO, the Sydney GPO is the largest and most impressive in Australia. (Lucas, Stapleton & Partners 1991: 12 & 22-23)
SHR Criteria d)
[Social significance]
The General Post Office, Sydney, has occupied its site continuously since 1830, playing a prominent role in the life of Sydney and NSW during this time. (Lucas, Stapleton & Partners 1991: 12)
SHR Criteria e)
[Research potential]
The site contains evidence of equipment from various periods of development in the postal, telegraph and telephone services since the 1870s. This situation would not exist elsewhere in Australia, except in other General Post Offices of similar age and character, such as the Melbourne and Adelaide General Post Offices.

Through the early use of the site for official purposes and the considerable numbers of successive structures built there, it is a potential resource for archaeological study of former building techniques, way of life etc. Although much of the site has been excavated for basements, there may be significant deposits around the perimeter of the buildings, under the lowest floors, or within sealed cavities such as floor spaces. The building fabric is also the best source of information available for accurate reconstruction works. The site has potential also because the tank stream flows beneath. (Lucas, Stapleton and Partners 1991:12)
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:

Recommendations

Management CategoryDescriptionDate Updated
Recommended ManagementReview 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 See file for schedule

Order Under Section 57(2) to exempt the following activities from Section 57(1):
1. any works to the 1927 building above Postal Hall skylight and below the Postal Hall floor slab (except to remove support for the Postal Hall);
2. maintenance, restoration and reconstruction works to exteriors and interiors (terms as defined by Australia ICOMOS Burra Charter);
3. demolition of fabric introduced after 1905, but only where specifically identified and dated in the Conservation Analysis, prepared by Clive Lucas Stapleton and Partners, Vol.3, dated June 1985, and only other than in the Postal Hall and adjacent spaces S5, S6, S7 (a) within the colonade and as below;
4. erection of new partitions, floor coverings and false ceilings in spaces ranked 4 in Figures 18A, B and C in the Conservation Management Plan, prepared by Clive Lucas Stapleton and Partners dated November 1991, and provided that these are installed in such a way that they can be removed with minimal damage to significant fabric;
5. Erection of new partitions and replacement of pre-1905 surface finishes, fittings and fitments in spaces ranked 5 and 6 in Figures 18A, B and C in the Conservation Management Plan, prepared by Clive Lucas Stapleton and Partners dated November 1991;
6. Installation of services within the building provided that:
(a) the installation does not involve damage to pre-1905 fabric in spaces ranked 1-4 in Figures 18A, B and C in the Conservation Management Plan, prepared by Clive Lucas Stapleton and Partners dated November 1991, other than penetrations less than 100mm in diameter, and
(b) the installation is concealed from view within the pre-1905 fabric of spaces ranked 1-4 in Figures 18A, B and C in the Conservation Management Plan, prepared by Clive Lucas Stapleton and Partners dated November 1991, other than for service points (GPO, switch, recording, grille, etc.);
7. Accurate recording, dismantling and re-erection of the Postal Hall (spaces S1 and northern half of S2) including skylight, wall panelling and, if possible, the parquetry flooring, reusing all salvaged elements but excluding counter fitments, all in accordance with policies 11.3.1.3 and 11.3.1.4 in the Conservation Management Plan, prepared by Clive Lucas Stapleton and Partners, dated November 1991;
8. Any works at or below ground level within the 1 metre strip outside the line of the title boundary;
Dec 3 1993
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 0076302 Apr 99 271546
Heritage Act - Permanent Conservation Order - former 0076303 Dec 93 1347108
Local Environmental PlanCSH Local Environmental Plan 4 07 Apr 00   
Register of the National Estate  21 Mar 78   
Register of the National Estate  28 Sep 82   

References, internet links & images

TypeAuthorYearTitleInternet Links
Tourism 2007Commerce Walking Tour View detail
TourismAttraction Homepage2007Commerce Walking Tour View detail
WrittenBarlass, Tim2019'GPO delivers: refurbished and ready for business' View detail
OtherBiddulph, C.L.1874The GPO Waltz - dedicated to "The Hon., The Post Master and his staff" View detail
WrittenBurn, J.S.1967The General Post Office. National Trust Listing Card
WrittenClive Lucas, Stapleton & Partners Pty Ltd1991General Post Office Sydney. Conservation Analysis and Draft Conservation Management Plan
WrittenDennis, Anthony2020Heritage to the Letter
WrittenDennis, Anthony2019'The Mail is In'
WrittenLe Sueur, Angela2016Colonial Architects - part 2
WrittenLe Sueur, Angela & Quint, Graham2017'Trust Action: Sale of Sydney's GPO Building: a national disgrace'

Note: internet links may be to web pages, documents or images.

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(Click on thumbnail for full size image and image details)

Data source

The information for this entry comes from the following source:
Name: Heritage NSW
Database number: 5045424
File number: S90/03821


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