The buildings comprise a two storey structure, comprising a wide U shape with the base towards Argyle Street, and are effectively one structure and form, identified as such by the shopfront of No 47 and the windows either side of the centrally placed doorway of No 45. This integrated construction is consistent with a low-cost development of the property. A low parapet with box gutter behind conceals the main hipped roof parallel to the street, which returns over the rear of No 45, while that of No 47 is covered by skillion roofs The rear wings enclose a courtyard. The ground floor is of stone and the first floor of brick construction with stud internal walls with lathe and plaster linings, all of which suggest a cost-conscious approach. While No.45 is extremely intact both externally and internally in form and layout, the fabric detail of No.47 is consistent with a major reconstruction of the rear wing in the late 19th century. Though adaptation of service rooms on each floor has taken place, the majority of rooms remain in their original format, with much of their original detail fabric quite intact, if covered by layers of subsequent paint decoration. The combination and juxtaposition of materials and their use is of great interest in understanding buildings of this type. (Moore 1992: 34, 44-46)
Style: Georgian; Storeys: No:45- 2 floors 7 rooms; No: 47- 2 floors 3 rooms; Internal Walls: Lathe and plaster linings; Roof Cladding: Galvanised iron and galvanised steel sheet, fixed over extensive remnants of the original timber shingle roof.; Internal Structure: Timber-frame; Floor Frame: Ground floor stone - first floor brick construction; Roof Frame: Shingled
Archaeology notes: c. 1839. Two storey buildings. Vestiges of another building along western wall of courtyard.; Built By: 1840's
A Trig survey of 1858 showed the buildings in similar configuration though walls of the outbuildings differed from the 1844 plan. A small addition had been made at the south-east corner of Gannon's own building (No.45). By 1865, the workshop and stable built by Gannon has been removed, and additional outbuildings and rooms had been added at the rear of both buildings. According to a photograph, the main change appears to have been that the shingle roof had been replaced by a new roof of corrugated iron. Multiple-paned glass sashes were situated in all the window openings. The ground floor windows were protected by shutters. (Moore 1992: 15)
Archaeological Assessment Condition: Partly disturbed. Assessment Basis: Cellar under part of No. 45. Rear courtyard terraced into slope.
The site had originally been part of the Hospital grounds, as part of the Assistant Surgeons residence and garden. When the hospital moved to Macquarie St the site and residence was occupied by Francis Greenway as part of his salary as colonial architect under Governor Macquarie. When he was dismissed in 1822 he claimed that the residence and land had been promised to him by Macquarie. It appears even though the Government tried to repossess the site Greenway remained there until c1834. The subject site lays just to the east of the residence.
Land title documents indicate that an allotment of land bounded by Argyle and Harrington Streets, Harrington Lane and Greenway’s residence was leased by Governor Brisbane in 1823 to John Gleeson, a labourer for a period of twenty one years. By 1826 the lease was apparently conveyed to Thomas Ryan, however no record of the transfer has been located.
In 1830 William Reynolds apparently purchased part of the land from Ryan for £100 and in the same year the subdivided land on the corner of Argyle and Harrington Streets was sold by Ryan to Fredrick Unwin. Unwin leased part of the site and building that occupied it, a stone tenement and boarding house to Caleb Slater who conducted a public house called the Kings Head. When City Section 84 was drawn up in 1834 most of the land between Harrington and George Streets on the southern side of Argyle St was claimed by Francis Greenway.
Greenway was unable to prove his title to the land and it was sold to Unwin for £2,820 by the Colonial government. By 1840, only a few years after the sale, hotels stood on both the Harrington & George St corners of the block. In 1839 he leased about two thirds of his allotment to Michael Gannon for 21 years for a ground rent of £170 year. The lease required that Gannon build and erect on the line of frontage to George St within two years as many houses that could occupy the frontage, three storeys exclusive of cellars and built of ‘substantially of good materials’.
In accordance with the lease Gannon built on the Argyle St part of the allotment very quickly and he had constructed the New York Hotel on the corner of Argyle and George Streets which opened in Feb 1841. The two houses on the subject site in Argyle St were built by Gannon from 1839-1840. Gannon's workshops (builder, manufacturer of coffins) and timber yard occupied the rear of the premises, as did a number of other tenants.
Gannon was bankrupted in the 1840’s depression and his estate seized in 1845, and besides personal possessions everything including household furniture was sold to pay off his creditors at auction. The family left the Argyle St property in late 1845 and settled permanently on the Cooks River.
JS Hanson appears to have the leasehold on the two houses until 1860 when the original 21 year lease expired. The 1858 Trig survey shows that little had changed on the site since Gannon left the properties. The buildings were used for both residential and commercial used. In 1858 No 45 was a boarding house and No 47 housed a bootmaker.
The 1865 Trig survey indicates that the workshops and stables constructed by Gannon had been demolished, the residence expanded with the construction of a rear wing and outbuilding and a number of sheds are attached to the eastern wall. The shingle roof had been replaced with corrugated iron by this time.
The buildings were purchased by William Yeoman in July 1870, he occupied part of the site with his business. In July 1885 John Gill a pastoralist from Moonbi purchased the buildings and land. He had it surveyed and measured to ensure the description on the deeds was accurate. Gill died in 1889 but the properties remained with his trustees until the site was resumed after the plague broke out in 1900. The Crown formally acquired the site in 1903. The Rocks area was administered by the Government from that time, beginning with the Sydney Harbour Trust, then the Maritime Services Board.
45-47 Argyle St. are absolutely typical of the smaller, less pretentious but still ambitious development taking place in Sydney and The Rocks of the 1840s. Comparison with like buildings of the period is getting more difficult as they have become rarer, but 'lesser quality' residential buildings such as Susannah Place (1844) and more substantial houses of Argyle Place put Nos. 45-47 in context.
The building's location and changing uses in the Rocks provide further evidence of the historical development of the area, across the Nineteenth and Twentieth Centuries, in terms of its changing fabric, and the changes in its function as firstly the centre, and later an adjunct, of the City of Sydney itself. Its survival retains the presence of the earliest consolidation of the area, its later more intense development in the mid-Nineteenth century, through government acquisition for 'slum management' in 1903. The buildings have the great ability to reveal information about themselves and their construction, and archaeologically important in this regard. (Moore 1992: 6-15)
[Archaeological History - Part of Hospital garden 1795-1816 (See also: AR038-039; AR045; AR057; AR061-070; AR073-074; AR078-079; AR084-085; AR126; AR129; AR131-132; AR149). Francis Greenway (See also: AR057; AR062; AR078) in occupation of the site from 1815. Granted to Frederick Wright Unwin (See also: AM064; AM119-120; AM161; AR062; AR078) on 15 December 1838.]