Newcastle Post Office | NSW Environment & Heritage

Culture and heritage

Heritage

Newcastle Post Office

Item details

Name of item: Newcastle Post Office
Type of item: Built
Group/Collection: Postal and Telecommunications
Category: Post Office
Location: Lat: -32.9273714872 Long: 151.7836475980
Primary address: 96 Hunter Street, Newcastle, NSW 2300
Local govt. area: Newcastle
Local Aboriginal Land Council: Awabakal
Property description
Lot/Volume CodeLot/Volume NumberSection NumberPlan/Folio CodePlan/Folio Number
LOT103 DP758769
All addresses
Street AddressSuburb/townLGAParishCountyType
96 Hunter StreetNewcastleNewcastle  Primary Address
Bolton StreetNewcastleNewcastle  Alternate Address

Statement of significance:

Newcastle Post Office is significant at a State level for its historical associations, aesthetic qualities and social value.

Newcastle Post Office is linked with the original post office established in 1828 and, as such, is associated with the early development of the city. Its form and scale reflect the prosperity of the city in the late nineteenth century with the development of the coal industry and provide evidence of the changing nature of postal and telecommunications practices in NSW.

Newcastle Post Office is aesthetically significant because it is an excellent and imposing example of the Federation Academic Classical style of architecture and is a central landmark feature of the civic precinct. Along with the Police Station, Department of Public Works offices and the Post Office Annexe buildings, the Post Office forms an important civic group of buildings.

Newcastle Post Office was designed by NSW Government Architect Walter Liberty Vernon, a key practitioner of the Federation Academic Classical style of architecture.

Newcastle Post Office is significant to the Newcastle community's sense of place.
Date significance updated: 20 May 09
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: Designed by the Government Architect Walter Liberty Vernon
Builder/Maker: R Saunders, Loveridge & Hudson, Mountney & Co., Chas Dobson & Co., JP Woods
Construction years: 1900-1903
Physical description: Newcastle Post Office is a visually dominant building in the streetscape, located on a prominent corner position within the civic centre. Built in 1902-3, it is a two-storey Federation Academic Classical, ashlar block, sandstone building, with an additional basement below street level and an upper mezzanine level. There is a complex hipped and skillion corrugated steel roof behind a deep balustraded sandstone parapet, which is continuous around the perimeter, and there is domed copper roofing with squat cupolas at either corner of the front facade. Sandstone chimneys punctuating the roofline have either been removed or have rendered capping. The building is completely symmetrical to the front facade, with arched window openings to the ground floor and squared openings to the first floor.

There is a two-storey colonnade on the building, which wraps around three facades. The ground floor has an early grey and white mosaic tiled floor in very good condition, stone steps and a sandstone balustrade along the Bolton Street side, as well as vaulted rendered soffit and modern pendant lights. There is an intrusive, small concrete ramp to the eastern end of the front facade colonnade. The first floor has a roofing felt floor covering, rendered flat soffit with carved sandstone cornices and a flagpole attached to the floor fabric at the centre of the front facade. The first-floor colonnade is accessed via timber stairs from the first floor at either end of the front facade.

The dominant fabric of the building is a fine-grained sandstone, consisting of ashlar blocks and numerous carved classical elements. These include the Doric columns of the ground floor, the Ionic columns of the first floor and other detailing such as entablatures at first-floor and roof levels with attached triglyphs, projecting cornices and round arches of the ground-floor colonnade with prominent keystones. The rear of the building is constructed of yellow face brick with sandstone banding. Window frames are currently painted a dark brown colour. There is also a central light well servicing the building.

The interior of Newcastle Post Office has been altered substantially from its original plans, particularly in the upper levels. Overall, the building comprises four distinct levels, accessed via stairwells on either side, these include the basement, ground floor, upper mezzanine and first floor in succession.

The basement level is located below Hunter Street, with openings to Bolton Street. It comprises several subterranean rooms, many of which are currently used for storage purposes, with the remainder vacant. The basement has a concrete floor and the straight flight of stone steps accesses it. The large northern light well has a central drainage point and a bitumen floor. The ceiling varies between shallow vaulted concrete in the western side room and small adjacent store room, a board and batten ceiling in the room to the west of the light well and mini-orb iron ceilings to the remainder of the level. Lighting to the basement is predominantly fluorescent. Original or early architraves are located in the openings of the basement level, there was no skirting evident. Doors are four panel and windows are mainly two pane upper and lower, timber sash windows, with two modern flush doors on the eastern side accessing plant rooms. Walls of the basement are painted brick, with shallow face brick arches on the openings on Bolton Street. There is a substantial amount of built-in shelving retained to most of the rooms and there is a half-glazed early partition wall defining the hallway. No fireplaces are located on the basement level.

The ground floor comprises three main areas, including a large retail area, post boxes and a mail sorting area and postmaster's office. The entire ground floor is carpeted with the exception of the western stair well, which has sheet vinyl flooring. The ground-floor ceilings vary between square set plaster over the locker room and lift area, plaster ceiling with a moulded cornice in the retail area, offices and store room, and plasterboard to the remainder of the level with a coved cornice. A lowered plasterboard ceiling encloses the public post boxes area as a separate space within the high roofed retail area, accessed externally. Lighting of the ground floor is a combination of fluorescent and large pendant lights and there is exposed suspended air conditioning ducting. Architraves of the ground floor are predominantly modern (dating from the 1996 retail fitout); however, some original skirting and architraves have been retained to some of the outer walls and original window and door openings. Windows of the ground floor include original paired, single upper and lower pane timber sash windows with arched fanlights over each pair and six pane arched windows in the main facades. Doors of this level are all modern from the Australia Post fitout. Walls include painted rendered brick in a grey colour scheme, grey painted partition walls enclosing the post boxes area and a timber veneer partition wall in the northwestern store room. No fireplaces have been retained on the ground floor.

There are two main stairs servicing the building. The eastern stair appears to be original, with a curved polished rail, vinyl clad stone or concrete steps and a cut render dado rail. Skirting is also cut into the render of the stair well and has been painted brown. The western stair is not in its original position and has a modern rail and vinyl sheet flooring.

The mezzanine of Newcastle Post Office is located below and towards the rear of the first floor. The carpeted staff lunchroom and timber-floored side room currently occupy this level, with a long sheet-vinyl-floored corridor running across the rear of the building between both stairwells. Ceilings of the mezzanine include plasterboard in the lunchroom with a coved cornice, plaster with a moulded cornice in the side room, board and batten in the corridor and square set plaster in the stairwells. Lighting is mainly fluorescent tubing. Architraves and skirting of the mezzanine level are largely modern, with some early remnants, particularly on the windows facing the light well from the lunchroom. Windows on this level are original or early single upper and lower pane and double upper and lower pane, timber sash windows, excepting the disused 'spy' windows in the eastern end of the corridor. Doors are modern. Walls are mainly rendered and painted brick in a grey and cream colour scheme, with partition walls separating the hall and lunchroom. There are no fireplaces located on this level.

The first floor is currently vacant, with carpet in the northwestern office space, timber floorboards in the northeastern office space and vinyl sheet flooring in the remainder. The ceilings of this level are generally in poor condition through damage from vermin and moisture. There is a board and batten ceiling in the southeastern corner room with substantial damage, and acoustic tiling to the remainder of the level. There is attached and suspended fluorescent lighting on the first floor, as well as air conditioning ducting and vents in the ceilings. Some original skirting has been retained on this floor and is in poor to fair condition, the majority dates from later alterations. The architraves appear to be largely original with some minor alterations. Windows appear original or early, being single upper and lower pane and two pane upper and lower timber sash windows. There are original French doors to the front colonnade and modern internal doors. There is substantial weathering damage evident to the exterior of the windows and doors, their hardware and frames. Walls of the first floor are predominantly rendered and painted brick in a cream and white colour scheme. There are partition walls at the centre of the floor and half-glazed timber partitions in the northeast and northwestern office spaces. Three chimney-breasts are evident on this level, however all traces of the fireplaces have been removed.

Signage is minimal, and limited to the etched glasswork of the doors and windows of the ground floor.

An extremely dominant building, Newcastle Post Office is situated on a prominent corner, with a complementary styled late nineteenth-century building abutting the rear of the Post Office to the north and there is an early building to the east, separated from the Post Office building by a laneway. The surrounding streetscape comprises three to multi storey commercial, retail and residential mixed-use buildings of predominantly nineteenth century construction. There is recent public seating at the front of the building, along with garbage bins, lamp posts, picket fenced pine trees and a memorial with drinking fountains.
Physical condition and/or
Archaeological potential:
Physical condition and/or Archaeological potential - The exterioris in very good condition, with the exception of some cracking and patching associated with seismic activity.

The basement shows evidence of damp in the walls and in the floor, with some minor concrete cracking in the floor. There is also evidence of damp to the light well walls, with some peeling paint.

The ground floor is in very good condition, being recently restored.

The upper levels show signs of moisture with peeling paint to ceilings and minor wall cracking. Flooring on the upper levels, particularly on the first floor is in poor to fair condition, with substantial amounts of patching evident. There is also some sandstone damage from reinforcement to the upper floor balustrade and cracking in the rendered soffit.

There is medium archaeological potential, as the site is fully occupied by the Post Office and adjacent buildings. There is the possibly of earlier building and land use remnants below the building, however the area has been heavily developed over time.
Date condition updated:04 Aug 00
Modifications and dates: The original building was constructed on the site of the former Court House, and opened in August 1903. The building comprised ground, and first floors with a mezzanine lower than the first and a basement directly below the ground floor. The ground floor contained offices, public space and a mail room. The first floor contained clerks’ accommodation, operating room, telephone exchange, night officer’s bedroom, bathroom, retiring rooms and toilet. The basement catered for the battery room, workshop, store, heating, toilet and sanitary accommodation and the mezzanine comprised an office and store.

Between 1912–13 unspecified additions were made to the building.

Extensions to the mail room in 1938 included the acquisition of the building adjoining the Post Office, with an entrance being made to the Bolton Street side of the office and the mail handling section was moved up from the basement to a mezzanine floor.

The northwestern corner and original stair have been reconfigured, date of change is unknown

In 1973 the mail handling role of the building ceased when this function was moved to Broadmeadow.

The loading dock and awning were installed c1970s.

In 1996 the Post Office was fitted out with the standard Australia Post retail fitout and colour scheme.

During 1998-99, restoration work was carried out, particularly to the stonework.

Further comments

Intrusive elements include the modern concrete loading dock attached to the eastern side of the building and the cantilevered awning attached to the wall above. The small concrete ramp to the eastern end of the front facade colonnade is also an intrusive element.
Further information: Makers/ Builders - R Saunders of Pyrmont for freestone, Loveridge & Hudson for trachyte, Mountney & Co of Sydney for steel joists and girders, Chas Dobson & Co for mosaic tile floors and JP Woods for carver's work.
Current use: not in use
Former use: Aboriginal land, mining lease, town block, Post Office. Telegraph office

History

Historical notes: The first official postal service in Australia was established in April 1809, when the Sydney merchant Isaac Nichols was appointed as the first Postmaster in the colony. Prior to this, mail had been distributed directly by the captain of the ship on which the mail arrived, however this system was neither reliable nor secure.

In 1825 the colonial administration was empowered to establish a Postmaster General's Department, which had previously been administered from Britain.

In 1828 the first post offices outside of Sydney were established, with offices in Bathurst, Campbelltown, Parramatta, Liverpool, Newcastle, Penrith and Windsor. By 1839 there were forty post offices in the colony, with more opened as settlement spread. During the 1860s, the advance of postal services was further increased as the railway network began to be established throughout NSW. In 1863, the Postmaster General0 WH Christie noted that accommodation facilities for Postmasters in some post offices was quite limited, and stated that it was a matter of importance that 'post masters should reside and sleep under the same roof as the office'.

The first telegraph line was opened in Victoria in March 1854 and in NSW in 1858. The NSW colonial government constructed two lines from the GPO, one to the South Head Signal Station, the other to Liverpool. Development was slow in NSW compared to the other states, with the Government concentrating on the development of country offices before suburban ones. As the line spread, however, telegraph offices were built to accommodate the operators. Unlike the Post Office, the telegraph office needed specialised equipment and could not be easily accommodated in a local store or private residence.

Post and telegraph offices operated separately until 1870 when the departments were amalgamated, after which time new offices were built to include both postal and telegraph services. In 1881 the first telephone exchange was opened in Sydney, three years after the first tests in Adelaide. As with the telegraph, the telephone system soon began to extend into country areas, with telephone exchanges appearing in country NSW from the late 1880s onwards. Again the Post Office was responsible for the public telephone exchange, further emphasising its place in the community as a provider of communications services.

The appointment of James Barnet as Acting Colonial Architect in 1862 coincided with a considerable increase in funding to the public works program. Between 1865 and 1890 the Colonial Architect's Office was responsible for the building and maintenance of 169 post offices and telegraph offices in NSW. Those constructed during this period featured a variety of architectural styles, as Barnet argued that the local parliamentary representatives always preferred 'different patterns'.

The construction of new post offices continued throughout the Depression years under the leadership of Walter Liberty Vernon, who held office from 1890 to 1911. While twenty-seven post offices were built between 1892 and 1895, funding to the Government Architect's Office was cut from 1893 to 1895, causing Vernon to postpone a number of projects.

Following Federation in 1901, the Commonwealth Government took over responsibility for post, telegraph and telephone offices, with the Department of Home Affairs Works Division being made responsible for post office construction. In 1916 construction was transferred to the Department of Works and Railways, with the Department of the Interior responsible during World War II.

On 22 December 1975, the Postmaster General's Department was abolished and replaced by the Post and Telecommunications Department. This was the creation of Telecom and Australia Post. In 1989, the Australian Postal Corporation Act established Australia Post as a self-funding entity, heralding a new direction in property management, including a move away from the larger more traditional buildings towards smaller shop front style post offices.

For much of its history, the post office has been responsible for a wide variety of community services including mail distribution, an agency for the Commonwealth Savings Bank, electoral enrolments, and the provision of telegraph and telephone services. The town post office has served as a focal point for the community, most often built in a prominent position in the centre of town close to other public buildings, creating a nucleus of civic buildings and community pride.

Newcastle Post Office
The first Newcastle Post Office was opened on 1 March 1828, being one of the first seven opened outside Sydney. The original office was situated in the 'Sessions House' on the corner of Watt and Church Streets, with Duncan Forbes Mackay, the Superintendent of Convicts, as the first Postmaster. Mail was delivered once per week from Sydney on the 'Lord Liverpool', a 71 ton cutter recently arrived from England. In 1832 steam vessels were being used to carry the mail from Sydney, with the service extending to Maitland. As Maitland was closer to the expanding settlements further up the Hunter Valley, the Post Office there soon outstripped Newcastle in terms of postal business, being described as a principal office of the area by 1844, making more than twice as much per year as Newcastle.

In July 1851 it was reported that the post office premise had been burnt down but that all post office property had been saved. The post office was relocated to a Government-owned cottage occupied by Major Russell. The cottage had been constructed in Watt Street in 1818 as the Commissariat Store and was considered to be one of the principal buildings in town. In 1862 the status of the Newcastle Post Office was raised to that of an official office. This conversion prepared the way for the introduction of money order facilities to be made available at Newcastle, making it one of the first branch offices for money orders when they became available in 1863.

A Government Savings Branch was opened in 1871. This remained as the Post Office until 1872 when a new office was constructed on the northwest corner of Hunter and Watt Streets. The site for the new office had been debated in the council since a new post office had been proposed in 1871. The council, who voted for a site in the main street as close to the wharves as possible, favoured the chosen location. This post office still stands today.

The new office was completed in 1872 by local contractors Messrs Laing and Wylie. The office was two storeys high, of brick construction, with cement rendering. It was officially opened on 10 June 1873. During the 1870s the telegraph office in the city was handling 55,000 messages per year, which provides an indication of the importance of this form of communication at the time.

In 1881 alterations and additions were approved, providing a separate place to sort mail, a room for the use of the postmen, and increased office space. A small washing shed was also to be constructed for the use of the Postmaster's wife, Mrs Thompson, who had been doing the washing in the yard of the office. In 1883 the ceiling of the office was replaced (following the collapse of the original) and the provision of a balcony similar to 'one at the Joint Stock bank' was also approved.

During the alterations temporary accommodation was sought in a shop leased from local developer Mr Fleming, who had built four shops close by in Hunter Street. The new work also included a portico over the front entrance (later removed), two new letter receivers opposite the office and a colonnade with a letter delivery window facing it. The post office was ready for reoccupation on 13 April 1886.

The city experienced a period of considerable economic and social growth, arising from the development of the coal industry in the latter part of the nineteenth century. During the 1880s the colonial government responded to the development of its Second City by improving its public buildings.

By 1899 the Government decided to build a new post office building on the site of the old Court House on the corner of Hunter and Bolton Streets. Government Architect Walter Liberty Vernon designed the office with tenders for the erection of the post and telegraph office, set at (Pounds)19,229, accepted in March 1900. However, after two of the contractors withdrew from their contracts in April 1900, the Department of Works decided to continue with the construction using day labour, at an estimated cost of (Pounds)20,000. The work was carried out under the supervision of Mr George McRae, Principal Assistant Architect, with captain TS Phillips as Clerk of Works. Some of the tenders included R Saunders of Pyrmont for freestone, Messrs Loveridge and Hudson for trachyte, Mountney & Co of Sydney for rolled steel joists and girders, Chas Dobson and Co for tile mosaic floors and JP Woods of Waverley for carving work.

In March 1902 the Department advised that work would stop unless more money was made available. Progress had been delayed due to the change of system for financial approval that had come with the transfer from State to Federal control after Federation. The total cost of the building was (Pounds)33,500.

The Post Master General, Senator Drake, opened the building on Saturday 8 August, 1903. Despite this, it was not until February 1904 that the building was actually occupied. The new office consisted of a ground floor main office, mail room and offices, with clerks accommodation upstairs, as well as an operating room, telephone exchange, night officer's bedroom, bathroom, retiring rooms and lavatory for telephone operators. In the basement there was a battery room, workshops, store, heating chamber, lavatory and sanitary accommodation. Cables for the telegraph and telephone equipment were brought into the office via underground tunnels and then to the appropriate rooms.

Unspecified additions were made to the Post Office during 1912-13, costing (Pounds)100.

In 1938 the adjoining building in Bolton Street was acquired by the post office. The building had been built by Castlemaine Brewery as a Bond Store and had more recently housed the Bowery Restaurant. The new addition was then used to house an extended mail handling section, remaining there until its relocation to New Lambton in 1973.

The Post Office currently occupies only the ground floor and basement level of the 1903 building, with much of the remaining space being vacant. The interior of the office has undergone a series of changes to accommodate more recent retail requirements.

The building was sold by the federal government in 2002 to Sydney-based developer, Sean Ngu for about $2m. Mr Ngu released plans for an upmarket bar. After this plan was rejected, the state government purchased the building in 2010 for a rumoured $5m. In 2011 the state government rejected a claim on the site by the Awabakal Land Council, which apppealed the ruling in the NSW Land & Environment Court. The Court ruled in Awabakal's favour in 2014 (Connell, 2016, 3).

In 2018 the site was sold to hotelier and cosmetic surgeon, Jerry Schwartz who plans to conver it to a convention and wedding centre (convention centre on the top floor, weddings and one-stop wedding shops, florists, photographers and cafe ground floor. The basement is proposed to be Aboriginal cultural centre. Dr Schwartz owns serveral hotels in the Hunter region and says his Novotel a few blocks north of the post office has limited convention capacity. He plans to remove the post office's asbestos and reinstate its timber fittings and floors as part of a renovation which he estimates will cost about $3.5m. Dr Schwatz is yet to obtain council approval for his proposed renovations (Allen, 2018, 25).

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 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 Communication-Activities relating to the creation and conveyance of information Communication by telephone-
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 Events-Activities and processes that mark the consequences of natural and cultural occurences Developing local 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-
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 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 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 Suburban Centres-
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 Illustrates early ownership and occupancy of land within the Hunter Region-
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 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 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 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 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 Developing civic infrastructure and amenity-
4. Settlement-Building settlements, towns and cities Utilities-Activities associated with the provision of services, especially on a communal basis Providing telecommunications facilities-
4. Settlement-Building settlements, towns and cities Utilities-Activities associated with the provision of services, especially on a communal basis Providing telecommunications facilities-
4. Settlement-Building settlements, towns and cities Utilities-Activities associated with the provision of services, especially on a communal basis Suburban Consolidation-
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 complex machinery and technologies-
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. Colonial 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. 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. Federal 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 - 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. 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. 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 - 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. 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 - 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. Government land administration-Includes maladministration.
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. 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. 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. 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 Academic 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. Architectural styles and periods - Federation Academic 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. 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. 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. 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. 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. 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. Designing structures to emphasise their important roles-
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 in suburbia-
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 Places of informal community gatherings-
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, 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 George McRae, architect-
9. Phases of Life-Marking the phases of life Persons-Activities of, and associations with, identifiable individuals, families and communal groups Associations with TS Phillips, architect-
9. Phases of Life-Marking the phases of life Persons-Activities of, and associations with, identifiable individuals, families and communal groups Associations with R. Saunders, stone merchant-
9. Phases of Life-Marking the phases of life Persons-Activities of, and associations with, identifiable individuals, families and communal groups Associations with Loveridge and Hudson, stone merchants-
9. Phases of Life-Marking the phases of life Persons-Activities of, and associations with, identifiable individuals, families and communal groups Associations with Mountney and Co., steel manufacturers-
9. Phases of Life-Marking the phases of life Persons-Activities of, and associations with, identifiable individuals, families and communal groups Associations with Chas. Dobson and Co., mosaic tile manufacturers-
9. Phases of Life-Marking the phases of life Persons-Activities of, and associations with, identifiable individuals, families and communal groups Associations with J.P. Woods, stone carver-

Assessment of significance

SHR Criteria a)
[Historical significance]
Newcastle Post Office is linked with the original post office established in Newcastle in 1828. As such, it is associated with the early development of the city. The current post office has been the centre of communications for the city for almost a century.

The form and scale of Newcastle Post Office reflects the prosperity of the city in the late nineteenth century due to the development of the coal industry. The amount of money spent on its construction and the architectural qualities of the building provide an insight into the way of life in Newcastle during this period.

Newcastle Post Office also provides evidence of the changing nature of postal and telecommunications practices in NSW.

The current Newcastle Post Office is associated with the earlier (1872) post office, which still stands today.
SHR Criteria b)
[Associative significance]

Newcastle Post Office was designed by Walter Liberty Vernon, Government Architect and a key practitioner of the Federation Academic Classical style of architecture.
SHR Criteria c)
[Aesthetic significance]
Newcastle Post Office is aesthetically significant because it is an excellent and imposing example of the Federation Academic Classical style of architecture, with such distinctive characteristics as the use of freestone and sculptural work, domed pavilions, two-storey loggias and classical motifs.

The grand scale, architectural style and location of Newcastle Post office make it a central landmark feature of the civic precinct of Newcastle. Along with the Police Station, Department of Public Works offices and the Post Office Annexe buildings, Newcastle Post Office forms an important civic group of buildings.

The building compares with Vernon’s additions to the Sydney GPO (1896).
SHR Criteria d)
[Social significance]
As a prominent local landmark and the centre of communications for the town for over a century, Newcastle Post Office is considered to be highly significant to the Newcastle community’s sense of place.
SHR Criteria e)
[Research potential]
The use of underground cables for the telegraph and telephone services reflects the advance of technology in this field of communications in Australia. While the cables have been removed, the tunnels still exist, and are of some technological interest.

The site also has some potential to contain archaeological information relating to the previous use of the site by the Court House, and the evolution of the Post Office building.
SHR Criteria f)
[Rarity]
The grand scale, architectural style and prominence of Newcastle Post Office combine to make it a rare example of post offices in NSW.
SHR Criteria g)
[Representativeness]
Newcastle Post Office is a particularly fine example of the Federation Academic Classical style of architecture. It is part of a group of post offices designed by Walter Liberty Vernon in NSW.
Integrity/Intactness: The exterior fabric of Newcastle Post Office is substantially intact, although the interior has been substantially altered over time. Newcastle Post Office retains the features which make it culturally significant, including the use of freestone and sculptural work, the domed pavilions and classical motifs, along with its overall grand scale, form and architectural style.
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:

Preparation of a Conservation Management Plan which includes the outbuildings and a curtilage assessment.

Procedures /Exemptions

Section of actDescriptionTitleCommentsAction date
57(2)Exemption to allow workStandard Exemptions SCHEDULE OF STANDARD EXEMPTIONS
HERITAGE ACT 1977
Notice of Order Under Section 57 (2) of the Heritage Act 1977

I, the Minister for Planning, 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:

1. revoke the Schedule of Exemptions to subsection 57(1) of the Heritage Act made under subsection 57(2) and published in the Government Gazette on 22 February 2008; and

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

FRANK SARTOR
Minister for Planning
Sydney, 11 July 2008

To view the schedule click on the Standard Exemptions for Works Requiring Heritage Council Approval link below.
Sep 5 2008

PDF Standard exemptions for works requiring Heritage Council approval

Listings

Heritage ListingListing TitleListing NumberGazette DateGazette NumberGazette Page
Heritage Act - State Heritage Register 0144222 Dec 00 16813387
Local Environmental PlanPost Office, Memorial Statue & Annexe 08 Aug 03 124 
National Trust of Australia register  4385   
Royal Australian Institute of Architects registerNewcastle Post Office    
Register of the National EstatePost Office Group1287, 128821 Mar 78   

Study details

TitleYearNumberAuthorInspected byGuidelines used
Australia Post - Assessment of 24 Post Office2000Newcastle Post OfficeGodden Mackay Logan Pty LtdJennifer Armstrong Yes

References, internet links & images

TypeAuthorYearTitleInternet Links
WrittenAllen, Lisa2018'Hotelier wedded to historic post office'
WrittenAndrew Ward & Associates and Clive Lucas Stapleton and Associates1992Australia Post Survey of Historic Properties in New South Wales
WrittenApperly, Irving and Reynolds1989A Pictorial Guide to Identifying Australian Architecture
WrittenB Doherty History of Newcastle Post Office – Diamond Jubilee, Newcastle Philatelic Society
WrittenBielby, Nick2017'Decline of Post Office blackens city's name'
WrittenBridges and McDonald1988James Barnet Colonial Architect
WrittenConnell, Tim2016'Squatters settle in at the 'filthy' post office'
WrittenJ Turner1997A Pictorial History of Newcastle
WrittenNational Trust of Australia (NSW)1969National Trust Classification Listing Card - Newcastle Post Office Group

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 Office
Database number: 5051298
File number: H00/00226


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