Former Post Office

Item details

Name of item: Former Post Office
Type of item: Built
Group/Collection: Commercial
Category: Other - Commercial
Primary address: 109 Norton Street, Leichhardt, NSW 2040
County: Cumberland
Local govt. area: Leichhardt
All addresses
Street AddressSuburb/townLGAParishCountyType
109 Norton StreetLeichhardtLeichhardt CumberlandPrimary Address

Statement of significance:

The former Post Office building at No. 109 Norton Street is of local historic, aesthetic and social significance as a good and intact representative example of a Victorian Italianate Post Office constructed in 1888. The building was purposed designed and built and was the focus of local postal and telegraph services in the late 19th and most of the 20th century. Despite some alterations, sale of the building and change of use the building significantly retains its original scale, form, character and details including rendered facades and details, roof form, tower, original timber framed windows and doors, pattern of openings and stone, brick and iron fence and gates along the south western and southern site boundaries. The building occupies a prominent corner site and has landmark and townscape qualities. It is part of a prominent civic group located around the intersection of Marion and Norton Streets and makes a positive contribution to the Norton and Wetherill Street streetscapes and intersection.

Note: This inventory sheet is not intended to be a definitive study of the heritage item, therefore information may not be accurate and complete. The information should be regarded as a general guide. Further research is always recommended as part of the preparation of development proposals for heritage items.
Date significance updated: 28 Nov 11
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 Department of Premier and Cabinet copyright and disclaimer.

Description

Designer/Maker: James Barnet
Builder/Maker: Messrs Innes and Winchester
Construction years: 1888-1888
Physical description: One and two storey rendered former corner Post Office building with hipped roof clad in terracotta tiles and four storey high tower. Located on the southern corner of Marion and Wetherill Streets the tower is a prominent feature of the Marion Street façade and has a small tessellated tiled porch and arched openings with rendered mouldings on the ground floor and single, timber framed window on the first floor. The central section of the tower is unadorned and is topped by a belvedere with rendered details and pyramidal roof clad in copper with metal finial. The main, two storey section of the building is constructed to the corner and has a heavy rendered plinth and base. The ground floor facades have arched and regular openings with rendered mouldings and stringlines, rendered frieze and spandrels between ground first floor levels. The friezes on the Wetherill and Norton Street facades have “Leichhardt” “Telegraph Office”, “Post Office” and date “1888” in relief lettering. Stone steps on the Wetherill Street frontage extend up to two open porches which frame the entry which has timber panelled doors with arched toplights over. The entry also has a multi-paned feature window with fanlight facing Wetherill Street. The upper storey has regular, timber framed double hung windows with a continuous rendered detail at window head height.
A single storey wing is located at the north eastern corner of the building. The wing is setback from the Wetherill Street frontage with garden bed and stone ramp accessing the eastern entry porch. The wing also has a gabled, parapeted end wall constructed on the north eastern boundary and large timber framed windows facing Wetherill Street.
Another single storey wing extends south of the main two storey section of the building. The wing is setback from the Norton Street frontage with stone and modern paving between. The rear wing has a colonnade with arched openings, rendered mouldings and timber framed windows and doors facing Norton Street. A flat roofed cantilevered awning with cliplock cladding and sheeted soffit is attached to the southern façade which faces an open rear yard. The rear yard is sealed and used for car parking and has a steel plate turning circle. The open yard is bounded by a wrought iron fence on stepped stone and brick wall/base. A palisade fence on stone base with stone piers is also located along the south western, Marion Street frontage. Several gum trees are also located in the south western corner of the site, near the Marion Street frontage.
Physical condition and/or
Archaeological potential:
In good condition. Some graffiti appear to have been cleaned from the facades. The garden bed on the Wetherill Street frontage is unkept and some leaf litter is visible in the gutters at the rear. The large gum tree in the south western corner of the site appears to be affecting the boundary fence/wall.
Modifications and dates: 1977: Alteations and additons (BA/1977/15390).
1993: Alterations to Post Office (93/261).
2000: Minor repairs, removal of PO boxes and interior repairs (D/2000/966).
2000: Maintenance to Leichhardt Post Office (CC/2000/559).
2006: Use of shop 3 as retail shop and associated signage (D/2006/305, CC/2006/358).
2007: Change of use of Shop 2 (ground floor) to a hair salon and whole of the first floor to day spa/beauty centre, signage and internal alterations D/2007/73, CC/2007/238).
Further information: The single storey rear wing is currently occupied by a children’s clothing and accessories shop. The remainder of the building appears to be vacant.
Signage has been added to the rear facades and openings. The stone ramp on the Wetherill Street frontage, lighting bollard and some paving at the side and rear are recent additions to the site.
The gums in the rear section of the site also appear to be part of the more recent development of the site.
Current use: Retail/ commercial
Former use: Post Office

History

Historical notes: Leichhardt was originally made up of eleven land grants of various sizes from 16 to 270 acres per grant, handed out between 1794 and 1821. The two largest estates were given to brothers Hugh and John Piper, both Captains in the NSW Corps, in 1811. John named his estate “Piperston” whilst Hugh acknowledged his good fortune by naming his “Macquarie Gift”. Ownership of several of the large land holdings changed during the fluctuating economic conditions of the 1830s. However, by 1844 fourteen substantial buildings had been constructed on the Leichhardt estates.
The site is located on Hugh Piper’s grant. Hugh left the Colony in 1812 and it would appear gave power of attorney over his 270 acres to his brother John.
The repayment of debts caused John Piper to sell part of his estates to James Foster in 1828. This estate was known as the “Elswick Estate”. Foster began work on Elswick House in 1832, but due to financial difficulties sold the house and estate to his employer James Norton in 1834. Norton owned a successful legal practice in Sydney and was one of the colony’s early politicians. The Elswick Estate embodied the perfect gentleman’s semi rural estate with a number of buildings including coach house, convict barracks, kitchen, servants quarters and stables surrounding the main two storey stone house. Norton lived in Elswick House until his death in 1862.
By the 1840s the Elswick Estate was bounded by present day Flood Street, William Street, Derbyshire, Balmain and Parramatta Roads. The estate was subdivided by Norton’s family between 1868 and 1874. The subdivision created two long streets, Elswick and Norton Streets also cross streets Allen (named after Norton’s son) and Marion Streets (named after his second wife).
The subject site is part of over eight acres of Section 3 purchased by David Ramsay junior in 1868. The land with acreage to its north was purchased by John Wetherill in 1875 and subdivided as the Wetherill Estate with two new streets, Allen and Wetherill Streets introduced at this time.
When John Wetherill heard of a proposal to establish a Post Office in Leichhardt in 1881 he offered to rent out “Elwick House” with its twelve rooms and several smaller rooms for this purpose, however, a petition from residents was successful and the Post Office was opened in George Purdie’s grocer shop on Balmain Road in July of the same year.
By 1882 the Postal Department had decided to open a telegraph office in conjunction with the post office. In January 1883 the first official Post and Telegraph Office was opened in a leased two storey house at No. 9 Short Street. By 1885, however, it became apparent that a more suitable premises would be required and the site on the corner of Norton and Wetherill Streets was purchased. The site, (No. 10 of the estate) had been purchased by a butcher, Samuel Fleming in 1882 and was purchased in 1886 by the Crown to construct a purpose built Post Office.
The Post Office was constructed in 1888. Designed by Colonial Architect James Barnet in the Victorian Italianate style it was constructed by Messrs Innes and Winchester and completed by the end of the year. The building was officially opened on December 9, 1889.
A Sydney Water plan dated 1889 (Leichhardt Sheet 41) shows the building on the corner site. The main part of the building is constructed to the street frontages with setback from the eastern site boundary. A small projection is indicated on the Norton Street façade with rear wing, setback from Norton Street, extending south of the main wing. A smaller wing and attached elements are also shown extending from the south eastern corner of the main part of the building.
In September 1890 the Council and others pressed for the installation of a clock in the post office tower. After some debate it was decided that a clock would be added to the adjacent Town Hall tower and the Post Office tower remained unadorned.
In 1907 a public telephone was installed at the Post Office.
By 1921 the building had also been extended with the addition of a mail room, 23 x 16 feet in size. At this time the staff comprised of 19 officers including Post Master, various assistants and 10 postmen.
Since that time the Post Office has closed and the building sold to a private owner c. 1990s. The building is now occupied by three tenancies.

Historic themes

Australian theme (abbrev)New South Wales themeLocal theme
3. Economy-Developing local, regional and national economies Commerce-Activities relating to buying, selling and exchanging goods and services Growth of Leichhardt-
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 Growth of Leichhardt-
4. Settlement-Building settlements, towns and cities Utilities-Activities associated with the provision of services, especially on a communal basis Growth of Leichhardt-

Assessment of significance

SHR Criteria a)
[Historical significance]
The site and building are of historic significance as part of a late Victorian subdivision and development of the local area constructed in 1888. The building is significant as a purpose designed and built Post Office building, its construction and use reflects the growth and development of the local area. Various changes to the building represent the provision and extension of postal and telegraph services in Leichhardt. The closure and sale of the building also reflects more recent management philosophies of Australia Post.
SHR Criteria b)
[Associative significance]
The building is associated with Australia Post and its predecessors. The building is also associated with Colonial Architect James Barnet.
SHR Criteria c)
[Aesthetic significance]
The building is of aesthetic significance as a good and intact example of a Victorian Italianate former Post Office building that despite some alterations and change of use retains its original scale, form, character and details including rendered facades and details, roof form, tower, orginal timber framed windows and doors, pattern of openings and stone, brick and iron fence and gates along the south western and southern site boundaries. The building occupies a prominent corner site and has landmark and townscape qualities. It is part of fine architectural context including All Souls Church (1883) designed by Blacket and Son, the Leichhardt Public School (1891) designed by WE Kemp and Leichhardt Town Hall (1888) designed by designed by Drake and Walcott and makes a positive contribution to the Norton and Wetherill Street streetscapes and intersection.
SHR Criteria d)
[Social significance]
The building is of local social significance as a former Post Office and focus of local postal and telegraph services in the late 19th and most of the 20th century and is associated with a number of local postal managers and workers and their families.
SHR Criteria g)
[Representativeness]
The former Post Office is a representative example of a Victorian Italianate Post Office building. It is one of a number designed by Colonial Architect James Barnet.
Integrity/Intactness: High
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:

IIt is recommended that: - the scale, form, character and details of the building particularly the rendered facades and details, roof form, tower, original timber framed windows and doors, pattern of openings and stone/brick and iron fence and gates be retained and conserved; - no new or enlargement of any openings should be made on the street facing facades; - the gutters and downpipes, particularly at the rear of the building should be regularly checked and maintained and cleared of leaf litter; - the trees in the rear yard should be regularly monitored, cut back and maintained to ensure no damage to the built fabric. The affect of the larger gum on the rear fence should be monitored; - any further alterations and additions should be restricted to the rear of the building and site and should not detract from the existing character, scale and presentation of the building as presents to Norton and Wetherill Streets.

Listings

Heritage ListingListing TitleListing NumberGazette DateGazette NumberGazette Page
Local Environmental PlanLeichhardt Local Environmental Plan 2013I67823 Dec 13   

Study details

TitleYearNumberAuthorInspected byGuidelines used
Leichhardt Municipality Heritage Study1990 McDonald McPhee Pty Ltd (Craig Burton, Wendy Thorp)  Yes

References, internet links & images

TypeAuthorYearTitleInternet Links
WrittenMax Solling and Peter Reynolds1997Leichhardt: On the Margins of the City

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: Local Government
Database number: 1940708


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