Grahame's Corner | NSW Environment, Energy and Science

About us

Grahame's Corner

Item details

Name of item: Grahame's Corner
Other name/s: Grahams Corner, AMFIS Building
Type of item: Built
Group/Collection: Commercial
Category: Insurance company/building
Location: Lat: -33.8690648862 Long: 151.2085157140
Primary address: 142-144 Pitt Street, 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
LOT1 DP901185
All addresses
Street AddressSuburb/townLGAParishCountyType
142-144 Pitt StreetSydneySydneySt JamesCumberlandPrimary Address
127 King StreetSydneySydneySt JamesCumberlandAlternate Address

Owner/s

Organisation NameOwner CategoryDate Ownership Updated
Gwynvill Holdings Pty LtdPrivate03 May 99

Statement of significance:

The building is a fine example of a Victorian office building with a richly detailed, classically influenced stone facade above awning level. The building has aesthetic significance for its ornate craftsmanship and streetscape contribution to a group of late ninetheenth century retail buildings near the intersection of Pitt and King Streets, an important civic area in the city. The splayed corner detail gives special landmark prominence to this building marking the entrance to the Pitt Street Mall. The townscape qualities of the Pitt and King Street Group have historic significance and reflect Sydney's commercial development in the 19th century and changing consumer patterns after WWI. (Tanner 2002:18). This area of Sydney has historic importance to the state as examples of the wealth and grandeur of 19th century commercial buildings utilising classical styles, which were headquarters for statewide companies.
Date significance updated: 06 Oct 06
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: G.A. Morell
Construction years: 1877-1882
Physical description: STYLE
The former AMFIS building is a superbly crafted, monumental scale building with classical temple references. It was designed for its prominent location in the heart of Sydney's business district. The building's style promoted and reinforced the aims of its original owners: to project a sense of established tradition, display wealth, and inspire confidence and admiration in its customers and passersby.

The former AMFIS building is sited at the corner of two main streets, with no setback from the footpath. The four storey sandstone masonry building with mezzanine has been designed in the Victorian Free Classical style, utilising highly modelled sandstone elements around the windows of the first and second floors. The classical detailing: detailed pediments, dentilated cornice, pilasters, and aedicular windows; is applied consistently and symmetrically to both the King and Pitt Street facades and the corner facade.

The building is divided into seven bays on the King Street (north) facade with five bays extending across the Pitt Street (west) facade. The corner facade consists of one bay. Triangular pediments decorate the rooflines on the Pitt and King Street facades, contrasting with an arched broken pediment surmounting the corner facade. The pilaster/column style on the corner bay also contrasts with the sides; the corner having squared pilasters and the main street elevations having rounded pilasters. The date 1878 is on the corner facade.

MODIFICATIONS
Above ground floor level there is an awning encircling both facades. The ground floor level exhibits major external modifications, where the original classical detailing and structure was removed. Below the first floor, a plain rendered band of masonry was evident in 2002 above the awning, undoubtedly representing the location of an earlier awning (Tanner 2002).

The building has a mezzanine level between the ground and first floors, accessed from the stair immediately inside the King Street central entrance. Ground floor and mezzanine levels exhibit contemporary fitouts, to function as retail areas. An entrance lobby located at the far east of the King Street faade, provides access to the upper floors which are fitted as office spaces. (Tanner 2002:15).

In 2006 the renovated shopfronts, approved by the Heritage Office, present a street level design and awning with sympathetic reference to the upper storeys. The shop windows are interspersed with golden sandstone coloured stone columns with black bases, and a handsome awning complements the classical grandiosity of the original design.

MATERIALS
The building is constructed of sandstone masonry with timber framed windows to first and second floor, and large glass shopfront windows to ground floor. Load bearing brick masonry walls and steel structure provide support. Internal walls are of plastered masonry and timber stud framed walls lined with fibrous plaster and plasterboard. The floor structure is timber at mezzanine, first and second floors, with concrete floor to ground floor. Concrete stairs with marble faced stairs provide access to office component. Plasterboard ceilings are at ground and mezzanine floors. Fibrous plaster and acoustic ceiling tiles to first and second floors. Decorative architraves and skirtings remain on first and second floors. (Tanner 2002:15).
Physical condition and/or
Archaeological potential:
"The sandstone façade is in reasonable condition with some deterioration to the parapet and pediment capping stones. Earlier repairs to the face of the stonework are evident as discoloured patches which relate to fixing points for signage and services. " (Tanner 2002: 13).
Date condition updated:01 Jun 02
Modifications and dates: 1919 - Removal of the corner tower and cupola and also the pediment statuary at roofline. Construction of an additional upper floor behind roof parapet. Sandstone façade demolished at ground and mezzanine floors. Initial shop fronts for street level, designed with some relationship to upper floors by Robertson & Marks Architects. Upper façade supported by riveted steel girders and columns encased in concrete. Awning added. Lift, fire stairs and toilets added for office conversion. (Tanner 2002:13).

1935 - replacement awning replaces post-1919 awning. Subsequent shop fronts designed without consideration to the Classical sandstone façade above. Internal changes following fire 1934. Ground floor partition walls remodelled to enlarge retail space, and first and second floor office layout modified: larger offices subdivided to form small rooms facing King Street. (Tanner 2002:14).

Post 1950 - numerous internal modifications. (Tanner 2002:14).

2003 - new awning, internal works, and external signage in the form of banners hanging from projecting poles (State Heritage File S90/04486). New façade installed to shopfront spaces.
Current use: Commercial: ground floor retail and upstairs offices
Former use: Aboriginal land, town lot, commercial: head office for Australian Mutual Fire Insurance Society.

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).

AMFIS HEAD OFFICE
The Australian Mutual Fire Insurance Society was formed in 1871. Within six years the Society had developed to the point where it was able to buy a site on the corner of Pitt and King Streets (then occupied by the Surry Arms Hotel) and construct its Head Office building in a key position in Sydney's growing CBD (City of Sydney Heritage Inventory, in Heritage Office File). The building was designed by G.A. Morell as an elaborately decorated, five level (including ground level, mezzanine level, first floor, second floor, and tower) brick and stone building. It was constructed between 1877 and 1882. (Tanner 2002:12).

The Australian Mutual Fire Insurance Society Building as designed and originally constructed, had ornately modelled facades to each street frontage in the form of pedimented gables supported on Corinthian pilasters. Belted pilasters on the ground floor level contrasted to fluted pilasters on the upper storeys. The splayed corner with an arched parapet connected the two facades. Its corner location was strengthened by an octagonal tower with cupola which once reached to twice the height of the facade. Classical statuary on each of the pediments completed the impressive composition. (Tanner 2002:12). The tower, statuary and ground level pilasters were later removed.

FIRE INSURANCE -- BACKGROUND HISTORY AND PITT STREET
Insurance associations proliferated and prospered in Sydney in the second half of the 1800s, following the NSW Legislation "Mutual Fire Insurance Association Act" of 1841. The fire insurance associations were originally cooperative 'mutual societies' formed to protect members from financial loss, following models in England and America. By the end of the century they had moved to a business footing and were consolidating into powerful financial institutions. Around 1900, many companies exited the market or were absorbed by other firms (Keneley, undated).

The Pitt Street area was apparently a hub for fire insurance offices. The 1901 Sands Directory shows six fire insurance companies between Number 78 and Number 144 Pitt Street, including several with similar names: The City Mutual Fire Insurance Company Limited; the Colonial Mutual Fire Insurance Company Limited; as well as the Australian Mutual Fire Insurance Society. In the 1901 Sands Directory the side of the AMFIS building at Number 127 King Street (corner Pitt Street) was listed as Australian Mutual Fire Chambers but also housed solicitors, architects and indent merchants. In 1901 a tailor, a hatter, and a boot shop were listed as neighbours on the King Street side. In Sands Directory of 1918, the side of the building at 142-144 Pitt Street (corner King) still listed the Australian Mutual Fire Insurance Society, Limited, as the main tenant.

CONVERSION OF USE
From the end of the First World War the building was being leased as shops and offices. Major remodelling took place to accommodate the change in use. Occupants of the building from this time included American Bag Stores Ltd, NSW Blinded Soldiers Tea Co. Ltd, Thompson Silk Stores, Californian Chocolate Shop, and Sellor's Silk Store. (Tanner 2002:12)

In the 1970s the building was occupied by the Grahame Book Company, a well known bookshop which in the 1950s was regarded in a class with Dymock's and Angus & Robertson. As well as a retail shop, The Grahame Book Company was also a book publisher in Sydney since at least the 1940s. In the 1970s they applied for development approval to alter the premises for continuing use as shops and offices. The building was listed on the Register of the National Estate in 1983, and had a (NSW) Permanent Conservation Order placed on it in 1990. In 2003 Country Road retail shop and head office submitted proposals for refit and renovations.

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 Commerce-Activities relating to buying, selling and exchanging goods and services Insurance industry-
3. Economy-Developing local, regional and national economies Commerce-Activities relating to buying, selling and exchanging goods and services Office use-
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 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-
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 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 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 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 Changing land uses - from rural to suburban-
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 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 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 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 Creating landmark structures and places in urban settings-
5. Working-Working Labour-Activities associated with work practises and organised and unorganised labour Working in offices-
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. Local 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 - 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 - administration of land-
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. Architectural styles and periods - Victorian 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. 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. 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. Designing in an exemplary architectural style-
9. Phases of Life-Marking the phases of life Persons-Activities of, and associations with, identifiable individuals, families and communal groups Associations with G.A. (Gustavus) Morrell, French-Australian civil engineer-

Assessment of significance

SHR Criteria a)
[Historical significance]
The building is historically significant, reflecting Sydney's commercial development showing adaptation from office to retail use. The building was designed by prominent Victorian architect G.A. Morell, designer of The Swifts, Darling Point, 1882.
(City of Sydney, 1996) (Tanner 2002:17) It indicates the assets and importance of new companies in developing Sydney, including the emergence and rapid rise of the role of insurance companies in the financial sector.
SHR Criteria c)
[Aesthetic significance]
The building is aesthetically significant with a richly modelled stone facade in Free Classical style with pedimented gables supported on Corinthian columns. The design of the corner elevation is well articulated. Aesthetically significant for its streetscape contribution as part of a group of Victorian and Federation retail buildings near the intersection of Pitt and King Streets, that form part of an important civic area in the city. (Tanner 2002:17)
SHR Criteria d)
[Social significance]
The building has social significance, important to the sense of place of Sydney's CBD, valued by the local community as well as visitors from outside Sydney.
SHR Criteria f)
[Rarity]
It is a rare example of a highly decorative sandstone late Victorian building forming part of a group or heritage precinct in central Sydney at the corner of King and Pitt Streets (comprising Grahame's Corner at 142-144 Pitt Street; Sugar House 138-140 Pitt Street, also listed on SHR; and Commonwealth Bank/ Former Liverpool Arms Hotel at 181 Pitt Street, listed on the Central Sydney HLEP). (City of Sydney 1996)
SHR Criteria g)
[Representativeness]
The former AMFIS Building is a fine example of a classically influenced Victorian office building and has been a city landmark for over 100 years. It illustrates a vital period of Sydney’s and the state's growth. The building demonstrates the change that took place in the city after the First World War with a greater need for retail accommodation on the street in prominent locations (City of Sydney 1996).

Together with the other buildings of the Pitt and King Street Group it constitutes an effective section of streetscape, providing striking contrast with the severity of new elements and helping to preserve a needed human scale for pedestrians (Tanner 2002:8).
Integrity/Intactness: The first and second floors of façade retain almost all original external detailing. First and second floors retain early joinery (architraves and skirtings) on internal face of external walls. Original mezzanine and ground floor facades demolished. Original cupola, pediment statuary and tower missing. Ground floor, mezzanine and first floor retain little original internal detailing owing to fire. (Tanner 2002:13)
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.

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) The maintenance of any building or item on the site, where maintenance means the continuous protective care of existing material;
(2) Change of use.
Jun 6 1989
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):
* change of use;
* maintenance of any items (buildings, works, relics or places) where maintenance means the continuous protective care of existing fabric.
* minor repairs where minor repair means the repair of materials and includes replacement of minor components such as individual bricks where these have been damaged beyond reasonable repair or are missing. Replacements should be of the same materials, colour, texture, form and design as the original it replaces.
* alterations to the interior of a building which are of a minor nature and will not adversely affect the significance of the building as an item of the environmental heritage.
Jun 8 1990
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 0073602 Apr 99 271546
Heritage Act - Permanent Conservation Order - former 0073608 Jun 90 74 
Local Environmental PlanCSH Local Environmental Plan 4 07 Apr 00   
Royal Australian Institute of Architects register     
Register of the National Estate  01 Nov 83   

References, internet links & images

TypeAuthorYearTitleInternet Links
Written  Sands Sydney, Suburban and Country Commercial Directory for 1901
ElectronicCity of Sydney1996Heritage Database: Inventory Report, Inventory No 4059
WrittenMonica Keneley Control of the Australian Life Insurance Industry 1870 - 1945
WrittenTanner & Associates Pty Ltd2002142-144 Pitt Street, Sydney, Heritage Impact Statement, Revision

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

rez rez rez rez rez rez
(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: 5045556
File number: S90/04486 & HC 891204


Every effort has been made to ensure that information contained in the State Heritage Inventory is correct. If you find any errors or omissions please send your comments to the Database Manager.

All information and pictures on this page are the copyright of the Heritage Division or respective copyright owners.