Federation Hall and courtyard
Statement of SignificanceFederation Hall is of heritage significance for the State of NSW for its contribution to the substantially intact nineteenth-century streetscape of Grosvenor Street. The external facades retain evidence of the original configuration of the building as a theatre and hall with shops below, making this the only surviving example of a once common building type, a purpose built public hall/theatre and shops, in inner Sydney. It is of heritage significance for NSW for its continued use as a commercial building since its conversion in the 1920s, and one whose tenants included the fledgling NRMA and later the Australian Meat Board. The conversion of the hall into a commercial building in the early 1920s coincides with the decline in live theatre and the associated rise of cinema. It is also associated with the expansion of commercial activities by Frederick WilliamHughes. The surviving documentary evidence records changes in building technology from the late 1880s until the 1920s, however neither the original hardwood structure nor the later roled steel joists (RSJ's) survive. The removal of the pediments and timber joinery with the installation of metal windows, indicates the changing taste in commercial architecture between 1890 and the 1920s. The retention of the historic buildings at the southern end of the block, including Federation Hall during the Grosvenor Place redevelopment, indicates the changing approach of the Sydney Cove Redevelopment Authority from 1970 until the mid 1980s. The relocation of salvaged building components from Royal Naval Hall into Federation Hall and the retention of only the nineteenth-century portion of the façade is indicative of conservation approaches at the time. In its original as well as altered configuration, the hall was associated with the educational activities carried out within the adjacent St Patricks church and school group. Federation Hall retains a number of building elements that are rare examples once widespread in the commercial architecture of the city including the timber stair, the galleries to the courtyard, the bulkhead with inset pavement lights and the trachyte plinth.
Sydney Futures Exchange
Shops, Meeting Hall, Theatre
Construction Years: 1889 - 1891
Physical Description: Style: Late Victorian; Storeys: three plus two
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Historic Notes and Themes
Historical notes: This site was originally at the western limit of the Parade Ground of the Colony and the commencement of the then unnamed Grosvenor Street. The original claimant to the site was William Davis who owned extensive land holdings within The Rocks in the early years of the Colony. In 1848 the site with a simple two-storied Georgian residence erected upon it. Between 1887-89 demolition took place for the Royal Naval House site. It has been assumed here, from the evidence examined, that these buildings were all demolished in that period. Between 1889 and 1891 a three storey brick and cement building with flat roof was erected on this site. This building with its plastered facade and pediment decoration forms the first three floors of the present building. The early section was constructed as a series of shops to Grosvenor Street and a large space above with entry from Harrington Street known from c.1892 -c.1915 as Federation Hall. From c.1915-c.1924 the Hall was known as the Repertory Theatre. In 1922 plans of proposed alterations and additions to 24-36 Grosvenor St were submitted to the City Council. The plans show the additions of two further floors and other modifications. Evidence from the Rate Assessment Books suggest that this work took place in 1923-24. The site was occupied by a number of organisations, including the newly formed NRMA from 1927-30 and FW Hughes from 1930.(SCRA 1982: 12-14)From 1980 negotiations proceeded with the private sector on proposals for mixed development and recycling on the land bounded by George, Grosvenor, Harrington and Essex Streets, known as Sites D5, D6 and D11. The agreement for the Grosvenor Place project was signed in June, 1983 involving the renovation of Royal Naval House and four adjacent buildings, including Federation Hall. Work on Grosvenor Place commenced in 1984 and was completed in 1988. In 1987, work commenced on the $12.5m reconstruction and renovation of Royal Naval House and Federation Hall in Grosvenor Street to enable the buildings to house the Sydney Futures Exchange. The work involved the reinstatement of the original verandah and courtyard in a new location, and the restoration of the street facades. The reconstruction and renovation of the three remaining historic buildings on the site was carried out in 1989 for use as bars and restaurant. (SCRA Annual Reports 1980-1989)
Historical significance: Federation Hall and courtyard and site are of State heritage significance for their historical and scientific cultural values. The site and building are also of State heritage significance for their contribution to The Rocks area which is of State Heritage significance in its own right (see item no. 4500458).Federation Hall provides evidence of an increase in the scale and density of Sydney that occurred during the late nineteenth century. Colonial Georgian merchant's houses were replaced with substantial buildings that provided a continuous street frontage. The original use of the building as a hall and theatre, with shops underneath, indicates that this area once had a substantial population living in hotels and boarding houses on Church Hill and in the residential streets of The Rocks. The conversion of the hall into a commercial building in the early 1920s coincides with the decline in live theatre and the associated rise of cinema. Federation Hall owes its survival to its ownership, first by the church and then by the State Government. The debate by architects at the time of the 1980's conversion with regard to the retention of historic buildings on the site and the manner in which they were to be conserved, reflected a changing attitude towards conservation in general, and in particular with 'facadism'. The eventual retention of the streetscape of Grosvenor Street, a result of the initial development brief, which required the conservation of buildings on the site, was SCRA's attempt to create a townscape that retained historic buildings as corner markers.
Historical association: Federation Hall is associated with the extensive commercial activities of Frederick William Hughes. It is also associated with the early years of the NRMA and the activities of the Meat Board in promoting Australian produce.Federation Hall once contained a hall and theatre, and remains one of few sites in the city where the building remains (albeit without its interior).
Aesthetic significance: In its original configuration and in its altered configuration, Federation Hall is a typical example of its type. The simplification of façade details during the 1920s' additions and alterations highlights the differences between the rigorous application of neoclassical details such as capitals in the nineteenth-century and the stripped neoclassical style employed during the 1920s. Internally, the building demonstrates the change from the widespread use of hardwood structural members to the use of RSJ's. An example of a once common building type, Federation Hall is the only surviving example of a purpose built nineteenth-century public hall and theatre building with retail underneath, in the inner city and is a rare surviving example of a nineteenth-century theatre in the state. The original arrangement of the façades, including the shopfronts, was similar to the surviving side elevation of Georges Hall in King Street, Newtown. The retention of the stair and the galleried courtyard, both of which are fine examples of their type, shows an approach to the retention of significant fabric that was not in accordance with accepted conservation methodology and practice.
Social significance: The site was associated with the continued development of the St Patricks Church and the wide range of associated educational facilities that developed adjacent to the church. The retention of Federation Hall is a direct result of the green bans of the 1970s, reflecting changes in the redevelopment philosophy of the SCRA during the 1970s and 1980s.
Research significance: The pattern of development of the site demonstrates the increasing density of the city, commencing with the colonial Georgian character of Charlotte Place. Externally the north side of Grosvenor Street still largely retains its Victorian and Edwardian streetscape, the survival of which is due to the resumption of the area in 1900. In particular the range of architectural styles to the north side, Gothic Revival, Neoclassical, Federation Anglo Dutch (Queen Anne) and Federation Free Style is now rare in the city, a range that demonstrates the changing approach to the rebuilding of city buildings from the late 1880s until the 1920s. The documentary evidence has the potential to yield further information regarding the development of the city. The survival of any archaeological features is unlikely.
Rare assessment: Federation Hall retains some evidence of its original configuration as a hall and shops, a common building type in the late nineteenth century that is now rare. The building now contains a rare surviving example, in Sydney, of a multi-layered internal courtyard. In its original configuration the building was designed to allow light to penetrate into the basement, using pavement lights and a rear area with bridges. The lightwell, added in the 1920s, provided daylight for the offices. The relocated courtyard also served to provide daylight to offices on each level. This contrasts with current floor layouts of commercial buildings such as Grosvenor Place.
Representative assessment: Federation Hall in its original configuration was a typical example of a combined hall and shops. In its altered form it was a typical example of an interwar commercial building. Commercial buildings of this scale are now comparatively rare in the City, having been replaced by more substantial buildings. Unlike the remainder of the block, Federation Hall and the adjacent Royal Naval House retain some evidence of the original lot boundaries of the land claims made in the 1830s.
|Australian Theme||NSW Theme||Local Theme|
|Developing local, regional and national economies||Activities relating to buying, selling and exchanging goods and services.|
|Developing cultural institutions and ways of life||Activities associated with recreation and relaxation.|
|Heritage Listing||Listing Title||Listing Number||Gazette Date||Gazette Number||Gazette Page|
|Heritage Act - State Heritage Register||01546||Federation Hall and courtyard||10/05/2002||2868||85|
|Heritage Act - s.170 NSW State agency heritage register||Place Management NSW|
|Written||Sydney Cove Redevelopment Authority||1983||Conservation Plan. Sites D5, D6 & D11|
|Management Plan||Conneybeare Morrison||2008||Federation Hall & Courtyard|
|Written||SCA||1982||Building Data Sheet GE/06|