Statement of SignificanceThe former Sydney Harbour Trust Office & Amenities are of state significance for their historical value and rarity. The buildings are rare remaining elements of the Sydney Harbour Trust redevelopment of Circular Quay, are of aesthetic value and are representative examples of the Federation style. The buildings are historically significant as the only known surviving buildings of the extensive early 20th Century development of Circular Quay, which marked the most significant and prolific activity of the Sydney Harbour Trust, formed in 1901 to reform the waterfront after the outbreak of the bubonic plague. The buildings and seawall are rare surviving remnants of the commercial shipping use of Circular Quay with part of the adjacent stone seawall constructed by 1865. The Amenities building was built in 1908 as a latrine for Burns Philp and the general public and the Office at a similar date. They were set between timber wharfs and sheds, demolished by 1973 as part of the Opera House redevelopment. The buildings are significant for their aesthetic value and are representative examples of the Arts and Crafts and Queen Anne Revival architectural styles, which led to the development of the Australian Federation Style. The buildings demonstrate the picturesque character typical of the styles and are of technical significance for their features such as high quality red face brickwork with corner buttresses and roughcast features and rockface sandstone plinths. Other features include painted timber windows with small pane highlights, steeply pitched roofs with flat terracotta tiles, gables, the elaborate copper domed octagonal roof vent of the Amenities and the wrought iron brackets and corner valleys of the Office.The site is an excavated bluff and a rock shelf at the base of the seawall is significant indicating the original rocky character of the foreshore prior to European settlement. The buildings and seawall also have aesthetic significance due to their location and contribution to the character of East Circular Quay and the Opera House approaches. They form an historic counterpoint to the surrounding large scale modern development. The former Office has research significance and is rare as a surviving example of a small harbour front office associated with port operations. There is potential to research its origins, design and use. The buildings are significant for their historical associations with important people, companies and government including the Burns Philp company, the Government Architect, the Sydney Harbour Trust and later the Maritime Services Board. The former Amenities building is a typical example of the design work of Walter Adams of the SHT. The adjacent sea wall has some significance for its association with its designer, Edward O. Moriarty.The successful campaign to retain the buildings, proposed for demolition in the 1970s, indicates a level of community esteem in which the buildings are held.
Retail and Wholesale
Construction Years: 1910 - 1910
Physical Description: The Portobello Café is a small brick and sandstone structure with timber and roughcast gables on each façade. The eastern façade features an arched servery and a steel and canvas awning. Internally, floor and walls are finished with ceramic tiles with modern fixtures and fittings. Its sandstone base and concrete footing extends down the watermark and protrudes out from the sea wall.Pre 1988, the building was converted to enable its use as a restaurant, involving changes to the interior. The building was refurbished in 1999 to provide for its continued use as a café.
|Lot/Volume Number||Section Number||Plan Folio Code||Plan Folio Number|
Historic Notes and Themes
Historical notes: The land on which the Portobello Café would be built was the part of the traditional lands of the Cadigal people of Sydney Harbour, no pre 1788 evidence for their occupation has been found on the site due to later development. There may have been shell middens around the area, which would demonstrate that the Cadigal people used the point extensively; however this needs to be confirmed. Their name for the point was Tubowgule, there are several ways this name has been spelt. The point became named after a local Wongal man, Bennelong, after Governor Phillip constructed a house there for him and his countrymen; this is the name by which it is known today.The point was referred to as Cattle Point for a short while when the Europeans arrived here in 1788, as this is where the livestock unloaded and grazed at first. Closer to the subject site the area was known as the 'Heaving Down' place, heaving down, or careening, is laying a ship on one side to facilitate scraping the bottom and carrying out repairs. The point may also have been known as 'Limeburners Point', there are lime kilns on the eastern side of the point shown on the 1822 Plan of the Town and Suburbs of Sydney. This may also indicate that there were, indeed, Cadigal shell middens on the point.The European settlers set up a salt works near the future site of the Portobello Café. It was run by John Boston, a convict, from 1795. François Auguste Péron (1775 - 1810) was a French naturalist and explorer mentioned the salt works in 1802, but more research is required to determine how long they operated.Some early leases were granted and houses were built around the area. However, when Captain William Bligh became Governor of the colony in 1806, he cancelled the leases and ordered the demolition of all buildings, and reserved the land for the Governor's Domain. This act was blamed as one of the causes of the Rum Rebellion which deposed him on Australia Day 1808.After Major-General Lachlan Macquarie became Governor in 1810, the land that Bligh had set aside had two pathways constructed on it. One of these paths passed very close to the subject site. Fort Macquarie was built on the tip of Bennelong Point in 1817, and during it's construction the area was quarried.By the 1830's the maritime traffic in Sydney Cove was becoming congested. The foreshore around the Cove, including the subject site was proposed to be improved by the construction of a curving stone quay for shipping. The Colonial Engineer, Major George Barney designed the new quay and construction began in 1836. A quarry and works depot was set up near the subject site for this mammoth undertaking, but the site itself was unaffected during the first stages of the quay. By 1870 there was a masonry seawall to the south of the site and a timber seawall to the north and in the next decade the area was quarried and levelled to provide waterfront access around the east side of the cove. The area was developed with timber wharfs extending the level area and woolstores on the east of the roadway. Long shore sheds were built south of the site in the late 19th century. By the early 20th century this was the Burns Philp wharf. Part of the area came under the control of the Sydney Harbour Trust in 1901.The origin and date of the "Office", which would become the Portobello Café, has not been established definitively. It may have been the Landing Waiter's Office, put out to tender by the PWD in mid-1900, however this would presumably have been built c1900 and the site of the subject building was occupied by a cargo shed until 1908. It is likely that the Office was built after 1908. There were extensive works in the area at that time associated with the post bubonic plague clean-up of the foreshore and the improvement of the public wharfs and road layout by PWD. With the redevelopment of the Opera House there was pressure to demolish the Office building to clean up the approaches. However, by 1980 the Office building was already reused as a Gelato Bar, the exact date this occurred is unknown, but probably between 1975-1980. In 1987, when the area was redeveloped for the Bicentennial, the Amenities building was converted to an oyster bar and at this time the Office was already in use as a gelato bar. A covered walkway was built abutting the buildings. The area around the buildings was again redeveloped in 1994 and the walkway removed when the undercover colonnade was built within the buildings to the east. The buildings remain today in use as restaurants.
Historical significance: The place has historical significance due to its location along the foreshore of Circular Quay which was the original focus of European settlement on the continent. The site was, and continues to be, part of the waterfront gateway to the City of Sydney. At the site a rock shelf, visible at low tide at the base of the seawall, demonstrates the original rocky character of the foreshore. The subject area was the site of the Colony's first short-lived Salt House, one of the earliest examples of industrial endeavour in the country.The existing buildings and seawall are of historical significance as remnants of the 19th and 20th century commercial shipping use of Circular Quay, serviced by formal wharfs from the 1860s. The lower part of the existing sandstone seawall, built by 1865, is significant as part of Moriarty's plan for Circular Quay. The former Office and Amenities buildings were constructed in the early 20th Century behind the stone seawall sited between commercial wharfs and are the only surviving buildings at East Circular Quay from the commercial shipping phase and are a reminder of this use.The buildings and the rebuilt seawall are of historical significance as evidence of the waterfront reconstruction and extensive urban renewal undertaken in Sydney after the bubonic plague was identified as having spread from infected rats brought by shipping. The former Office & Amenities buildings are of historical significance as the only known surviving examples of the once extensive early 20th Century, Federation period, phase of development by the Sydney Harbour Trust of Circular Quay in Sydney Cove. The former Office is of potential historical significance as an Office associated with port operations. The use and origin of this structure has not been certainly identified, but a tender was called by the Public Works Department for the construction of such a landing waiters office at the Burns Philp Wharf at Circular Quay, in 1901. The landing waiter (or wharfinger) supervised landing of goods.Seawall alterations and the adaptation of the buildings for food service also contribute to the historical significance of the place, as they reflect major changes associated with the Opera House opening, the Bicentennial in 1988 and the Sydney Olympics in 2000, which were also key historical events in NSW and Australia's history celebrated at Circular Quay. The item meets this criterion at a STATE level.The historical significance of the former Office & Amenities is demonstrated by:·the surviving rock shelf below the seawall·the sandstone seawall, particularly the lower courses·the former Office and Amenities buildings·historical records including photos showing the Federation period wharfs at Circular Quay and the wharfs at East Circular Quay.
Historical association: The place is significant for its associations with Edward O. Moriarty, Engineer in Chief of the New South Wales Harbours and Rivers Department, who influenced the early development of the site. The work of Moriarty is demonstrated by the present line of the stone seawall and in historical documents which show his plan. The buildings have some associational significance with the Burns Philp Company, the Government Architect and the Sydney Harbour Trust in their initial design and construction and with the Sydney Harbour Trust and later Maritime Services Board during their operation. The former Amenities building is a typical example of the design work of Walter Adams of the Sydney Harbour Trust. These associations are demonstrated in the style of the buildings.The site has some associational significance at a LOCAL level.The associational significance of the former Office & Amenities is demonstrated by:·the line of the seawall attributed to the design of Moriarty (there has been substantial change to some of the fabric) ·historical relationships with Burns Philp, the Sydney Harbour Trust and the Public Works Department as evidenced in historical records.·the physical fabric of the buildings as representation of the designers work.
Aesthetic significance: The buildings are of aesthetic significance as an example of the introduction in the Federation Period of aspects of the Arts and Crafts style and Queen Anne Revival, that led to what became known as the particularly Australian, Federation Style. The style was introduced in small public buildings in the 1890s by the Government Architect, Walter Liberty Vernon. It was used in similar, small scale Water Board and other utility structures throughout the state and was introduced by Public Works to Circular Quay in 1895 in the Bennelong Point Man of War Steps waiting shed and in 1900 at the Phillip Landing Stage. The former Office and Amenities buildings exhibit typical features such as high quality red face brickwork with roughcast features and rock-face sandstone plinths. Other features include the painted timber windows with small pane highlights or upper sashes and steeply pitched roofs with flat terracotta tiles, gables and the elaborate copper domed octagonal roof vent of the former Amenities building. The roof forms are picturesque as are details such as corner buttresses, wrought iron brackets and corner valleys of the former Office.The buildings are of technical significance in their high quality materials and construction including the brickwork, terracotta shingle tiled roofs and the copper turret.Both buildings and the seawall also have aesthetic value due to their location in a prominent position on the edge of the harbour and seawall and the walkway to the Sydney Opera House and are significant for their contribution to the character of East Circular Quay and as part of the approaches to the Opera House. They form a picturesque historic counterpoint to the surrounding large scale modern development.The item meets this criterion at a LOCAL level.The aesthetic significance of the former Office & Amenities is demonstrated by:·the seawall and former Office and Amenities. The technical significance / creative achievement of the former Office & Amenities is demonstrated by:·the high quality construction of the former Office and Amenities
Social significance: No contemporary community or cultural group has been identified which has a particular association with the site. The buildings have some social significance for the community demonstrated through the opposition to demolition of the buildings in the 1970s. Letters on file at the City of Sydney from the Opera House Trust and the owner, the Maritime Services Board, indicate potential demolition of the buildings because they interrupted the approach to the Opera House from Circular Quay. Opposition to the demolition and failure to approve demolition was because of their perceived heritage value and possibly the need for public toilets. The campaign for retention and the survival of the buildings indicates a level of esteem in which the buildings are held. The item meets this criterion at a LOCAL level.The social significance of the former Office & Amenities is demonstrated by:·documentary records of the proposals to demolish the buildings and of the opposition to this proposal. This is in City of Sydney records and possibly elsewhere. ·the retention of the buildings despite significant efforts to demolish them.
Research significance: The place is significant for its potential to develop an understanding of the former operations of the Sydney Harbour Trust during the early 20th Century and the function of the Office. There is potential to further research the origins, design and use of the former Office through sourcing additional historical material, such as the un-catalogued Sydney Harbour Trust and Maritime Services Board papers at State Records and in records such as an earlier landing waiters day book (for a nearby site) held by the National Archives. The former Amenities building has potential to yield information on the provision of public toilet facilities in the early 20th Century, and the division of spaces to provide public and private amenities within the same building.The potential archaeological resource at the study area has limited ability to demonstrate the site history. As the site has been excavated it is unlikely that any deposits remain that would yield significant information that will lead to a better understanding of the operation of the site. The site has some historical research significance at a LOCAL level but little archaeological research significance.The research significance of the former Office & Amenities is demonstrated by:·the former Office building and the potential to gather further evidence regarding its former use.·inaccessible or incompletely catalogued and un-researched records of the SHT and MSB at State records and the potential for there to be day books or other Customs Records associated in National repositories.
Rare assessment: The former Amenities and the former Office at East Circular Quay are now very rare surviving examples of the formerly numerous, well detailed, utilitarian buildings erected along the foreshore of Sydney and described in other sections of this report. The buildings were constructed for functions and activities that no longer occur at the quay. The buildings are significant as rare surviving examples of the small-scale, Federation Arts and Crafts style, buildings of the Sydney Harbour Trust, included Circular Quay ferry wharfs, all redeveloped after the plague in the early 20th Century. The former Office may be rare for its associations with port operations (function not established in detail). The item meets this criterion at a STATE level.The rarity of the former Office & Amenities is demonstrated by:·the surviving fabric of the former Offices and Amenities buildings. ·historical records including photos showing the Federation period wharfs at Circular Quay.
Representative assessment: The place has significance as a representative example. The seawall and rock shelf demonstrate the principal characteristics of the original Sydney Cove foreshore and its progressive development for shipping. The buildings are representative examples of the small-scale maritime buildings that were constructed to administer the Harbour and for other public infrastructure such as water pumping, designed initially by the Public Works Department.The former Amenities building has significance as a representative example of a sanitation and public health measure in the early 20th Century.The item meets this criterion at a LOCAL level.The representativeness of the former Office & Amenities is demonstrated by:·the surviving fabric of the former Offices and Amenities buildings. ·the rock shelf remaining under the seawall·the seawall.
Intact assessment: Potential archaeological resource
Physical condition: The building is generally sound and in good condition above Quay level ie the brickwork part of the structure. The sandstone, which has been built up off the seawall, has deteriorated and is in need of future repair. Regular monitoring should be undertaken to identify any further deterioration which might expedite the undertaking of the repair work.
|Australian Theme||NSW Theme||Local Theme|
|Building settlements, towns and cities||Activities associated with creating, planning and managing urban functions, landscapes and lifestyles in towns, suburbs and villages.|
|Developing cultural institutions and ways of life||Activities associated with recreation and relaxation.|
|Developing local, regional and national economies||Activities relating to buying, selling and exchanging goods and services.|
|Heritage Listing||Listing Title||Listing Number||Gazette Date||Gazette Number||Gazette Page|
|Local Environmental Plan||Schedules 1 & 3||City of Sydney|
|National Trust of Australia Register||6130||21/03/1988|
|Heritage study||1063||City of Sydney||22/02/1996|
|Heritage Act - s.170 NSW State agency heritage register||Place Management NSW|