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)
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)
Archaeological Potential - Medium
Physical Condition - Refurbishment currently being undertaken
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.
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 the extension of the post office to Pitt Street. Tenders were called and in 1880 laying of the foundations began. The finishing stone to the tower was laid in 1885 and the colonade along the northern side of the post office 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.
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)