Statement of SignificanceThe site of Playfairs Garage, part of the original convict-built hospital at Sydney Cove, was associated from at least the 1850s with metalworking (blacksmithing and coppersmithing), probably serving nearby shipping. The present building was constructed for this purpose, and is a modest example of an early 20th century industrial building, one of very few such buildings remaining in The Rocks and also a rare surviving example of the work of its architect, F E Stowe. The building has associations with government welfare operations during the Great Depression, and with the firm Thomas Playfair Pty Ltd, which used it and the site to the north as garages to help maintain its fleet of transport vehicles to serve its providore business which included the supply of the Pacific naval fleet during World War II.The demolition by the Sydney Cove Redevelopment Authority of the smaller buildings to the north was a catalyst for the Green Bans placed on The Rocks by the Builders Labourers Federation, which led to the preservation of Playfairs Garage and many other buildings within The Rocks.
Terrace houses, Factory, Playfair's Garage
Manufacturing and Processing
Construction Years: 1924 - 1924
Physical Description: Built c1924 as ground floor of Factory for John Turnbull Esq. The building was two storey, with brick walls and clerestory iron roof. It originally had offices at Argyle Street end, lavatories at each end, and vehicular access from Kendall Lane. Alterations were made in 1952 (additional vehicular access) and 1972 (to create corner shop and offices) - see modifications below. (Orwell & Peter Phillips 1991: Appendix A)In 2005 the building was complete refurbished and is in excellent condition
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Historic Notes and Themes
Historical notes: From the arrival of the First Fleet in 1788 until 1816, much of the west side of George Street at Sydney Cove was occupied by the Colony's first hospital. By 1807 the hospital consisted of three buildings, with the Surgeon and Assistant-Surgeon's quarters to the north and a large area of gardens on the west, extending as far as the present line of Cambridge Street. The hospital remained in use until 1816 when it was superseded the new General Hospital on the heights of Macquarie Street, and the old site was vacated. The re-use of the hospital site was slow. A major problem may have been the steep topography of at least part of the area. The Surgeon's quarters, at the corner of George Street and the north side of Argyle Street, were detailed on Harper's 1823 map of Sydney. Harper's map shows the name 'Capn Piper's' next to the building; and a distinct northern boundary to the allotment of ground. The new owner of the land was Captain John Piper who, by July 1826, was in the process of erecting a substantial new house on this part of the old hospital site. Set back at some distance from George Street, on rising ground, the new building commanded a fine view of Sydney Cove and would, the Sydney Gazette prophesied, be 'one of the most elegant and capacious buildings in our metropolis'. The house was just to the west of the subject site.Piper's civilian career as Naval Officer in Sydney under Governor Macquarie came rapidly to an end in April 1827 when a deficiency of £12,000 was discovered following an inquiry into his administration and Piper was suspended from his position as Naval Officer. The deficiencies appear to have been the result of mismanagement rather than fraud. The allotment was formally granted to him in June 1828. A few weeks later Piper sold the property and 'all that capital unfinished stone building now erecting on the said piece or parcel of land' to Mary Reibey for £2,000. Piper sold most of his properties, repaid the money owing to government and to other creditors and retired to his Bathurst property, Alloway Bank. In November 1828 Mary Reibey sold the allotment to Frederic Wright Unwin for £2,500, a handsome profit for less than five month's ownership unless she had been paying for work to continue on the unfinished building in the meantime. Frederic Unwin, a London solicitor who had arrived in the Colony in 1827, continued to invest in the Argyle Street property. By 1829 the work was nearing completion under the supervision of the architect Henry Cooper and the unfinished stone residence had become a commercial building. Unwin got an immediate return for his investment when the government rented part of the premises for use as the Custom House and store. While the rent for the Customs House would have brought in a steady income, Unwin's investment was largely funded by substantial loans from Samuel Terry, to whom the property was mortgaged in May 1829, closely followed by another mortgage to Wakefield Simpson and James Norton in July of the same year. According to land title records, Frederic Unwin remained the owner (under mortgage) of Piper's grant until the early 1840s, despite the fact that the property was reported to have been sold. The first proposed sale, a subdivision with twelve allotments, was advertised in August 1830, but does not appear to have eventuated. The second, brought about by an action by James Norton against Unwin in the Supreme Court, took place in September 1831 when all of the property occupied as the Custom House 'including all the large site of ground in George-street, Argyle-street and Gloucester-street', which included the subject site, was advertised by Mr Bodenham. According to the Sydney Gazette the property sold for £6,200 and could have fetched much more, if the condition of the sale had not been 'cash down'. (The Gazette may not have been aware that the property was carrying mortgages totalling £5,000.) There are however no registered transactions showing any change of ownership as the result of this sale. It is possible that Samuel Terry (to whom the property was already mortgaged) purchased it for Unwin at Bodenham's sale and simply added the purchase price to the loan he had already given Unwin. Terry was one of Unwin's clients and an arrangement such as this could have been documented between them, without official registration. When Samuel Terry died in 1838 Unwin repaid £5,200 to Terry's executors for the reconveyance of the Argyle Street property, considerably more than his 1829 registered mortgage, suggesting that Terry had advanced him further sums. In 1839 the property was remortgaged and investment continued. Unwin purchased the allotment immediately to the north of Piper's grant and by July 1840 his 'new stores adjoining the Custom House' were nearing completion.By 1841 Frederic Unwin was in financial difficulties, a fate he shared with many other colonists, and in December his property at the corner of Argyle Street and George Street was subdivided and put up for sale. The subdivision included Piper's grant (with the exception of the Custom House which was still being used by the government) and part of the adjacent grant that Unwin had purchased in 1839. The subdivision created ten allotments with a frontage on George Street, four on Argyle Street and six lots along 'New George Street', now Playfair St, which bounded the Custom House on the north and east side. The creation of this street - and its name - originated in a scheme put forward in the 1830s to extend George Street north to Dawes Point, following a new and straighter line and diverging from the existing street at Essex Street. The proposal, one of several under discussion for providing additional wharfage and a site for a new government house, never eventuated, but in 1836 Unwin had been compensated by government for the loss of a strip of land along the east side of the Custom House to form the new street. When the subdivision was planned, New George Street provided a street frontage for some lots while the reserved lane to the east gave access to the back of premises in both George Street and New George Street. Only five lots were sold in December 1841 (Lots 1, 2, 8, 9 and 11) and in January 1842 the remainder of the property was once more up for auction, again with little success. In the end Unwin retained ownership of much of the land, which he remortgaged from 1843 to a variety of lenders. Of the lots that were sold, several were paid for only in part, with the remainder of the purchase price held on mortgage to Unwin, doing little to ease his finances. Despite the lack of success of the subdivision sale and the difficult economic times, Unwin continued to invest in his George Street property. In 1844 he was building on Lots 3 to 6, on the George Street frontage and at some stage employed the architect James Hume on 'several houses opposite the Old Dock Yard' and proposals for buildings 'near the Old Custom House'. Despite this activity, there appears to have been little capital return on the property and much of the subdivision remained mortgaged. In December 1847 Frederic Unwin became insolvent. His debts totalled a massive £45,092. 13s 4d but his assets were valued at exactly the same amount; what was missing was the capacity to service such a large burden of debt. In this situation Unwin's mortgaged properties effectively belonged to his mortgagors but as at least some of them continued to bring in rental, they were not finally disposed of by the Official Assignee until financial conditions improved in the 1850s.The site of Playfairs Garage, which comprises Lots 11-14 and part of Lot 15 of Unwin's 1841 subdivision, was acquired by three different owners during the 1840s and 1850s.Lot 11As the sale advertisement in 1841 had suggested, the 'ne plus ultra' of Unwin's subdivision was Lot 1 at the corner of Argyle Street and George Street and this, together with the adjacent Lot 2 and Lot 11 (immediately to the west on the opposite site of the reserved lane), were all acquired in 1842 by James Chapman, a carcass butcher. Here, on the valuable corner site, James Chapman built an impressive three-storey house for himself with a stable and shed in the back yard and immediately adjacent on the north, a butcher's shop. The building was completed by 1845 when Chapman paid off his original mortgages and then immediately entered into another mortgage with John Tindale for £2,500. Within two months he had defaulted and was insolvent. An undated plan shows the buildings that comprised Chapman's property: the house on the corner of Argyle Street and George Street occupying Lot 1 and part of Lot 2; the butcher's shop on the remainder of Lot 2, with a residence behind accessed from the back lane; and at the rear of the premises, on Lot 11, a building along the northern boundary. The 1856 survey gives a little more detail and shows Lot 11 fenced. It seems likely that the building on Lot 11 could have been used as stabling or in association with Chapman's butcher's shop. While Chapman no longer owned the property (Lots 1, 2 and 11) after he became insolvent, he remained the occupant. Following James Chapman's death, a judgment in the Equity jurisdiction of the Supreme Court ordered that Chapman's property be sold. Lot 11 was purchased in April 1859 by Henry Bell, a butcher.Lots 12, 13 and 14Lots 12, 13 and 14 of the 1841 subdivision, with frontages to Argyle Street, together with Lots 3 to 6 on George Street (on which buildings were being erected) and parts of Lots 15 and 16 were mortgaged by Unwin in 1844 as security for promissory notes and the mortgage was eventually transferred to the Bank of Australasia. In 1853 the Bank sold Lots 12, 13 and 14 to William Perry of Paddington. The lots had no buildings on them at this date. Perry quickly on sold them to John Henry Challis and Charles Smith who in their turn sold them in October 1859 to Henry Bell, who had earlier purchased Lot 11. His combined purchase gave him a row of four allotments with frontages to Argyle Street bounded on the west by Little Gloucester Street (formerly New George Street, now Playfair Street) and on the east by a reserved lane (later known as Mill Lane or Kendall's Lane).Lot 15In 1844, while still building on George Street, Unwin mortgaged what remained of his George Street/Argyle Street subdivision which, following his insolvency effectively became the property of his mortgagors. In 1852 the Official Assignee gave ownership of Lots 15 to 20 to James Norton, one of Unwin's major creditors. The site cannot be identified in the 1851 rate assessment book (rates were only levied on buildings in the 19th century) so the land was probably unoccupied, but by 1856 there was a building on Lot 15 set back from the street and next door to the north on Lot 16 what may have been a house on New George Street with three other buildings in the yard behind. The documentary evidence shows that from the 1850s this area at the back of George Street developed into a small industrial enclave. William Nelson was the occupant of James Norton's land in 1861, living in a single-room brick house, but when the 1871 assessment was undertaken this was described as a four-room timber building, consisting of a blacksmith's shop with 'a 3 room house lately added'. William Nelson was now listed as both the occupant and owner of the premises that had been erected on a building lease for which Allan Street & Norton were the agents. Norton was, it seems, making use of his land but not selling it. By 1880 the blacksmith's premises occupied the whole of Lot 15 and were quite extensive. William Nelson, who was variously described as a shipsmith, ship/general smith and blacksmith, continued to occupy the site until about 1885 when he was replaced by John Turnbull, described in street directories at various times as a blacksmith, shipsmith, coppersmith and plumber. According to James Norton writing in 1889, a part of his land was occupied by Turnbull and the rest was unoccupied. The Turnbull family's association with the site was to be a long one, with both professional progression and family succession on the way. From 1894 John Turnbull was described in Sands Directory as a coppersmith and from 1909 as a coppersmith / engineer. He was also a Justice of the Peace, which suggests that he was a man of respectability.When Henry Bell purchased the four Argyle Street allotments in 1859, there were no buildings on them and the land remained vacant until c.1872-1873 when Bell built 'Argyle Terrace'. This consisted of four, two-storey brick buildings, each of four rooms with a combined shop and residence at the ends of the row and two houses in the centre. In typical 19th century fashion, the shops occupied the street corners although only the one at the corner of Little Gloucester Street had the typical corner entrance, while the other at the corner of Mill Lane was entered from Argyle Street, but had the advantage of a side entrance from the laneway. The terrace was apparently unfinished, or at least largely unoccupied, in 1873 but was fully occupied by 1875. Rate assessment records show that by 1891 all of the premises in Argyle Terrace were combined shops and residences while the street directories suggest that from about 1894 (perhaps as the result of the financial depression) dual occupancy became a feature of the terrace, with either two residents in one building, or a shop and residence with different occupants. The street numbering was adjusted to take account of this dual occupancy. In 1880 Henry Bell sold Argyle Terrace for £3,500 to Alfred Goodwin of Oakwood Station near Charleville, Queensland. Goodwin brought the property under Torrens Title and remained the owner until it was resumed by government, at which time it was under mortgage to the Bank of New South Wales for £2,000. Following James Norton's death, the lot occupied by John Turnbull and his blacksmith's premises continued in the ownership of the Norton family, together with Lots 16-20 until they were sold in 1898 to William Eyre Matcham in England. The property had been brought under Torrens Title in 1889 and was resumed in 1901 from Matcham. By 1889 the land between Turnbull's premises and the laneway to the north had been cleared, removing the other blacksmith's sheds and yards shown in 1880 and this land was still vacant in 1900.The resumption of Argyle Terrace and of the blacksmith's premises behind it did not alter the usage of these premises or disturb their occupants. John Turnbull continued to run his business as a coppersmith / engineer on the site in what was now called Playfair Street (formerly Little Gloucester Street) and the same tenants continued to rent their shops and homes in Argyle Street, plying their various trades as grocer, plumber, bootmaker, hairdresser, clothier, hairdresser and fish shop owner to the local community. This continued until 1922 when Argyle Terrace and the adjacent blacksmith's premises were demolished to allow the realignment and widening of Playfair Street and of the lane to the east. As the result of the demolition work and street widening, a new lot was created at the corner of Argyle Street and Playfair Street, now renamed Harrington Street. The site combined the land occupied by Argyle Terrace and Turnbull's adjacent works (Lots 11-15 of Unwin's 1841 subdivision) but as a result of street widening was slightly smaller with a narrower frontage to Argyle Street than the original Lots 11-14 and Argyle Terrace. In September 1921 this new site (which had not yet been cleared of its existing buildings) was leased by the government to Leslie Alfred Turnbull of Sydney, an engineer, for a period of 50 years, commencing on 1 July 1921. For the first 25 years the rent was to be £540 a year. A condition of the lease was that Turnbull would erect a building to the value of at least £4,000, to an approved plan, within three years. In the interim, until Argyle Terrace was demolished, the existing tenants' rents were protected, varying between £1 and £2 per week. Leslie Turnbull was the son of John Turnbull and this arrangement continued the family's association with the site that had existed since the mid-1880s. John Turnbull had died in 1917 and it seems that it must have been Leslie who continued the business on the site following his father's death. Leslie Turnbull's architect for his new building was Francis Ernest Stowe who practised both as an architect and civil engineer in Sydney. The two men had both grown up in Balmain, living just a couple of streets from each other, and it is possible that Leslie Turnbull's choice of architect came about as the result of this connection. Stowe's plans for a 'factory' in Argyle and Playfair streets for 'John Turnbull Esq. Sydney' were approved by the City Council in August 1923 and the building was presumably constructed shortly afterwards to meet the conditions of the lease. The building, of brick with a galvanised iron roof, occupied the whole width of the Argyle Street frontage of the new site. The ground floor consisted of a large open workshop with vehicle access on the Kendall Lane side, lavatories in the northeast corner and offices and lavatories at the Argyle Street end of the building. On the first floor, which was reached by two sets of stairs, the accommodation consisted of a large gallery around a central light well, the whole of the building being amply provided with windows along all sides and top lit by a clerestory. At the north-west corner on the Harrington Street frontage, where the street level was higher than the east side of the building, an entrance provided ramped access to both the lower and upper floors.John Turnbull's name, which appeared on Stowe's plans, continued to appear in street directories until they ceased to be published in the early 1930s. According to the description on the Fire Underwriters plans, Turnbull's building was a blacksmiths, coppersmiths and iron works, very much the mix of trades that the firm had practised since the mid-1880s. Leslie Turnbull died, unmarried on 19 April 1933 leaving his widowed mother Hannah Turnbull as his executrix and sole beneficiary. His brothers had predeceased him and the lease of the Playfair Street building was surrendered.It was not an easy time to find another lessee for the building. Like many of his neighbours, Leslie Turnbull had been finding it difficult to keep up with his rent payments, rates and taxes during the Depression. Various offers to lease the premises were received during 1934. In March 1935 the building was mooted as a government records repository but by June the Public Works Department reported that funds were available to undertake the necessary repairs for use as a food relief depot and these had been effected by February 1936. The Social Services Department, which had only recently been set up in August 1935, utilised the building as a food relief depot until late in 1937.In September 1937, in anticipation of being vacated by Social Services, a new lease was negotiated with Thomas Playfair Pty Ltd of Harrington Street, a firm that had a long association with the area first as a retail butchers and by the early 20th century as ships providores. Playfair's had occupied the vacant land to the north of Turnbull's workshop from about 1915 and in 1921 this was formally leased to E J Playfair for use as stables, at the same time as Leslie Turnbull obtained the lease of his new site. Like Turnbull's site this too had been reduced in area by street widening. With a large meat preparation and delivery business, Playfair's must have maintained a large number of horses and delivery carts, later modernised into a sizeable fleet of motor delivery vans. Turnbull's workshop made a substantial and comparatively modern addition to the firm's properties, just across the road from their new premises, with the added advantage that the simple form of the original building allowed it to be easily converted for other uses. The building was leased for 10 years from 1 February 1938 for £416 a year and was now to be used 'solely for a motor garage and for a meal room and dressing room for the Lessee's employees'. The lease was finally signed in July 1939.The change of use required alterations to the building, the plans for which were drawn in October 1937. At the south end of the building, on the ground floor, the original office area was completely reconfigured to provide connecting corner access from Harrington Street and Argyle Street with a small office and store, and the stairs were moved to the south-east corner. At the north end the stairs adjacent to the original lavatories were removed. On the first floor the light well was floored over and a new store room, mess room, dressing room and shower room were partitioned off along the east side of the building, accessed from the new stairs at the south-east corner. The entrance on Kendall Lane was retained but there were now three other entrances (one on Argyle Street and two off Harrington Street) for vehicle access to the garage. The estimated cost of the building works was £958. Petrol pumps and tanks were also installed. In the 1940s the garage was listed as the 'Argyle Garage' motor service station in Wise's Directory. It eventually became known as Playfair's garage. It seems likely that the main purpose of the garage was to service and maintain Playfair's own fleet of vehicles that were a vital part of its providoring business. In the garage, work in 1941 included concreting the ground floor and the rooms on the upper floor while in 1944 extra lavatory accommodation, a mess room and locker rooms were provided for staff. It seems likely that this was necessary to accommodate the huge wartime trade.The original lease with Playfair's expired in 1948 but the tenancy continued. The roof was renewed in 1957. In 1962 the Maritime Services Board reduced the letting agreement to a monthly tenancy. The possibility of continuing occupancy was uncertain as the government's plans for The Rocks redevelopment were unveiled. Influenced by the 'Manhattan syndrome' new development was to be high-rise, with the area south of Argyle Street as the office, hotel and retail precinct. Together with the rest of The Rocks area the premises became the responsibility of the Sydney Cove Redevelopment Authority in 1970. They were vacated in January 1972. Playfair Street was closed to traffic in 1973.While a few reminders of the past were to be retained in the proposed new scheme, the Sydney Cove Redevelopment Authority was required to be self-sufficient. With much of the existing building stock in need of substantial repair and with tenants paying low rents this posed a substantial challenge for the new Authority. There was little about Playfair's Garage to suggest that the building would be other than ripe for redevelopment and in June 1973 Owen Magee, the Director of the Sydney Cove Redevelopment Authority, announced that there would be a new 400-seat live theatre on the corner of Playfair Street and Argyle Street. Cladan Investments, owned by Mrs Claire Dan Ross, had signed an agreement for the theatre that would also include a restaurant for patrons. The site was that then occupied by Playfair's Garage which was to be demolished. By late September plans had been prepared for the building which was designed 'not to intrude on the historic architectural aspect of the area' and work was expected to begin within three months. The project never proceeded. There was now substantial public opposition to inner city redevelopment, the demolition of historic buildings and the loss of existing housing, often in low-income areas. With the help of the Builders Labourers' Federation, work was halted on many projects including the proposed theatre redevelopment on the site at the corner of Argyle Street and Playfair Street which was the subject of one of its 'green bans'. In August 1974, as the BLF was recommending an end to some of the bans, Owen Magee called upon the Union to lift its ban on the theatre site, a 'derelict garage' that was 'aesthetically and practically ... of no value whatsoever'. In 1974, faced with the inevitability of including public participation in planning and in changed economic circumstances, the Sydney Cove Redevelopment Authority commissioned a review of its original scheme. The climate of opinion had changed and heritage was now an important element of the revivification of The Rocks. The area south of the Cahill Expressway was 'sacrificed' to high-rise while more modest proposals were developed for the retention of existing buildings to the north. Greater emphasis was now to be placed upon cultural, social and historical values and upon preservation and rehabilitation. In the midst of this change of heart Playfair's Garage was saved.In 1978 work began to convert the 1924 Turnbull workshop for use as a corner shop and offices and to redevelop the site to the north of it that housed other less substantial buildings that had also been part of Playfair's garage (Lots 16-20 of the 1841 subdivision). A full photographic record of the building was made before this work began. The buildings to the north were demolished and a new fivestorey building (Scarborough House) was erected, with shops, offices and residential apartments. Work on the 1924 building included the removal of the south-east corner (altered in part when the building was converted into a garage in 1937) to make a corner shop and the use of the rest of the ground floor as parking; the conversion of the Playfair Street level into offices (retaining the infill of the light well that had been part of the 1937 work) and the construction of a new gallery within the roof space. This new feature was lit by a continuous clerestory, replacing the original individual windows, ripple iron panels and some structural timbers. All of the windows were replaced, as was the roof structure and cladding. Scarborough House was attached to the north elevation and internal access was provided between both buildings on the main two levels. In February 1979 the board of the Sydney Cove Redevelopment Authority resolved to name the new building Scarborough House and to rename the former Playfair's Garage as Penrhyn House, commemorating ships of the First Fleet. Neither name had any direct relevance to the history of these sites but was part of the general interpretation of The Rocks as the first European settlement in Australia. In 1981 the main tenants of what was now No. 22 Playfair Street were Davis Heather & Dysart architects and planners. While the 1920s building had been preserved and reused, it was not identified in the Authority's tourist literature.The Rocks Square was not successful as an urban space and by the early 1990s. This, together with the infelicities of Scarborough House, 'an unsuccessful attempt at imitation of a terrace building', generated new thinking about how to revivify the area, where work was also proceeding on the Argyle Centre conversion. At its meeting on 30 November 1990 the Board of the Sydney Cove Redevelopment Authority approved the conversion of Playfairs Garage into retail space for use by future displaced tenants of the Argyle Centre; and following consultation with the tenants a proposal was presented to the Board in March 1991. This suggested: ? the remodelling of the Playfair Street level of Scarborough House providing vertical and horizontal retail connections from Argyle Street / Playfair Street and Kendall Lane to The Rocks Square;? the conversion of the Scarborough House and Playfairs Garage basement car parks to permit the activation of Playfair Street and Kendall Lane and ;? the development of The Rocks Square incorporating surrounding retail spaces and affordable food outlets.The project had the additional advantage of giving a substantial increase in the amount of retail space and hence income. The Board approved the conversion of Scarborough House and Playfairs Garage to retail use, noting that it was essential that the design concept incorporate 'creative retail space with superb public areas'. The new development was to be a 'speciality retail centre' with access on all sides to revitalise The Rocks Square precinct.The subsequent development strategy brief included:? shops to occupy The Rocks carpark, the ground floor of Scarborough and Playfairs Garages and the 1st floor of Playfairs Garage;? the shopping centre to be designed as a single entity;? Kendall Lane and Playfair Street to be activated for retail use;? shop fronts and division walls to be capable of installation at a later date for flexibility with tenants;? at least three of the shops to be capable of providing hot food;? café on 1st floor of Playfairs Garage having balcony access;? air conditioning to shops only;? mezzanine level not required to be part of works;? additional entry at north basement level to form adjunct to The Rocks walk;? modification of 1st floor of Scarborough House to be incorporated.In April 1991 Peter Tonkin of Tonkin Zulaikha Harford produced three options for the work and in August 1991 a Development Application was lodged for the project that became known as The Rocks Centre. The architects were Tonkin Zulaikha Harford.In the meantime a Conservation Management Plan for Playfairs Garage had been prepared for the Authority by Orwell & Peter Phillips Architects and completed in March 1991.Within the ground floor of Scarborough House five archaeological test trenches were excavated in April 1991, supervised by Jane Lydon, and archaeological monitoring continued until July 1992 as demolition work proceeded. The 1978- 1979 construction work had destroyed all remains of Playfair's stables and garage but massive footings were located that may have been part of Unwin's 1843 warehouses. All associated strata had however been removed. No demolition was required within Playfairs Garage and so archaeological excavation was not necessary. By May 1992 the general demolition of Scarborough House was in progress. In the new plan the upper two floors of Scarborough House were retained as residential units, while levels 2 and 3 were replaced by a single floor that married with the second floor of Playfairs Garage. In Playfairs Garage the gallery added in 1978 was removed, and the building was remodelled to create a retail centre of small shops with a centre aisle and large display windows for each shop. Structural concrete columns were added to the building and black butt framing to shopfronts. New entries were created from Kendall Lane and Playfair Street to facilitate pedestrian traffic. The original void in the centre of the first floor of Turnbull's factory was reconstructed. The new The Rocks Centre, with 42 speciality shops, was opened on 14 September 1993 by the Honourable Robert Webster MLC, Minister for Planning and Minister for Housing. The building was completed in 1994. A major thrust of the new development was its contribution to tourism within The Rocks, with the provision of more shops and an acknowledgment of the growing popularity of outdoor eating. Twenty years on, this was in marked contrast to the 1970s development which had sought to provide reliable commercial tenancies, not necessarily directed to the tourist industry. The architects Tonkin Zulaikha Harford (later Tonkin Zulaikha Greer) won a Royal Australian Institute of Architects (NSW) Merit Award for Civic Design for The Rocks Square development in mid-1994 and the Royal Australian Institute of Architects National Walter Burley Griffin Award for Urban Design for the project in November 1994.The award winning design for The Rocks Square did not however remain as originally planned and in 2005 the area was upgraded to provide improved lighting and pedestrian safety with upgraded landscaping. The work was carried out by Project Architecture in association with the Sydney Harbour Foreshore Authority. Several shops were also refurbished. In an attempt to provide better access through Playfairs Garage, the stairs were moved and a lift and escalator installed. The new work was designed by Hassell Pty Ltd Architects, and included further modification to ground floor openings and a new terrace along Kendall Lane. Following its removal from the Sailors' Home on George Street, TheRocks Visitors Centre was then housed on Level 1 of Playfairs Garage, with the new fitout designed by SJB Architects.
Historical significance: Playfairs Garage, the former Turnbull workshop, has historical significance as one of the few remaining twentieth century industrial buildings within The Rocks area, on a site associated from at least the 1850s with the work of blacksmiths and coppersmiths, probably serving nearby shipping. The site was also associated with government welfare activity, being used as a food relief depot during the Great Depression. Playfair's Garage was the subject of a green ban by the Builders Labourers Federation, following the demolition of the smaller buildings on the site of what is now known as Scarborough House, and thus has an important place in the events that led to the preservation of The Rocks.The place meets this criterion at a State level for its contribution to the history of the State-significant area of The Rocks.
Historical association: Playfairs Garage is the only surviving building of the complex of buildings occupied by Thomas Playfair Pty Ltd, a firm that began as a retail butcher and subsequently built a very large business as a ships' providore associated with the maritime support operations of The Rocks. The firm also had an important role supplying the Pacific naval fleet during the Second World War. Playfairs Garage was used as a garage to help maintain the large transport fleet used by Thomas Playfair Pty Ltd. The original building is also associated with the work of architect F E Stowe.The building meets this criterion at a local level.
Aesthetic significance: Playfairs Garage is an example of the sound utilitarian construction of the early 20th century, designed to give good natural light to the working floor. The building meets this criterion at a local level for its aesthetic contribution to the State-significant area of The Rocks.
Research significance: Any remains associated with the former houses on the site have some potential to contribute to information about the early history of The Rocks. The place is therefore considered to meet this criterion at a local level.
Rare assessment: There are few intact buildings of the type and period similar to those of Penhryn House within the local area. The building is also a rare surviving example of the work of architect F E Stowe, and the only remaining building within The Rocks from the complex that housed the activities of Thomas Playfair Pty Ltd.Playfairs Garage meets this criterion at a local level.
Intact assessment: Archaeological potential
|Australian Theme||NSW Theme||Local Theme|
|Building settlements, towns and cities||Activities associated with the provision of accommodation, and particular types of accommodation ? does not include architectural styles ? use the theme of Creative Endeavour for such activities.|
|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|
|Heritage Act - State Heritage Register||01568||Penrhyn House||10/05/2002||2868||85|
|Heritage Act - s.170 NSW State agency heritage register||Place Management NSW|