ASN Co Building
Statement of SignificanceThe former ASN Co. warehouse and office building, and its site are of State heritage significance for their historical, aesthetic and scientific cultural values.Constructed between 1884 and 1885, the building is significant for its strong association with The Rocks due to its prominent location on the edge of the Quay adjacent to the various wharfs within the main commercial maritime centre. It is also associated with famous early merchant Robert Campbell who developed some of the earliest warehouses in Sydney and constructed his Wharf House on the site at the turn of the nineteenth century.The building has particular significance as a design of the prominent and highly regarded architect William Wardell. Wardell was a prolific and outstanding architect best known for his churches, public buildings, banks and warehouses. This significance is increased by the buildings rarity as possibly the earliest surviving example in Sydney of the use of steam cranes imported from England, an intact example of the Anglo-Dutch style, a fine Victorian-period office and warehouse, and for featuring a rare surviving early sprinkler system with cast iron pipework with intact 1929 sprinkler heads. The building has significance in the context of The Rocks, Campbell Cove and Circular Quay area due to its contribution to the localitys character combined with its landmark presence when viewed from the Harbour.
Exhibition, studio, galleries, office accommodation.
Warehouse/ office use related to shipping industry, Commonwealth offices
Builder/Maker: WJ Jennings
Construction Years: 1884 - 1885
Physical Description: The original building, a five storey - four bay warehouse with an attached single bay of four stories of office space. The design is a 'Romantic composition in polychrome brick and sandstone capped by picturesque Dutch gables'. The four bays of warehouse are structurally defined as separate areas. Evidence uncovered on the ground, second, third and four floor indicates that the four warehouse bays were linked by a single arched opening, except Bays 4 and 5 which had two openings. The building is described in the Sydney Morning Herald on the date of opening, 25 July 1885, as:'The new buildings are five storeys high, the first storey being of stone and the remaining ones of brick. Among the offices is a spacious board room, available for public meetings of the share-holders. The lowest floor of offices, level with the wharves, and entered there from, comprises the shipping office, marine superintendents office. the traffic superintendent's office and an apartment for the reception of Carter's tickets and general wharf business'. (Tropman 1990: 8-9)The timber framed Directory Board of the former Commonwealth Government tenants in the AS&N Co Building is also of heritage significance. It comprises a shallow box made of timber, with side hinged central opening glass doors, and is headed in gold lettering "Australian Government Offices 1950-1989: Directory Commonwealth Offices". (from Archaeology: 1883 warehouse complex. Former offices of the Australasian Steam Navigation Company at northern end.; Built By: 1802)Style: Pre Federation Anglo Dutch; Storeys: Four; Facade: Stone and polychrome brick facade including copper roofed bay and ornate stone capped gable ends.; Internal Walls: Original set plaster and rendered brick walls with Victorian colour (Bay 1); Lathe and plaster walls (Bay 1); Roof Cladding: Slate; Internal Structure: Original timber post and beam construction with cast iron capitals to the columns (Bays 2-5); Floor Frame: Timber floor; Ceilings: Barrel vaulted brick ceiling (Bay 1); Stairs: Timber staircases and balustrades; Fire Stairs: Bay 2-5- (1949-50); Bay 1- Fire stair to exterior of building (1961) & Steel fire doors c1950 and original hardware.; Sprinkler System: Some sprinkler heads date back to 1929 , some of the original cast iron pipework is still intact.(from Archaeology: The ASN building was one of the earliest in Sydney to be fitted with a water sprinkler system to combat fire (c1894), and is possibly the earliest surviving in Sydney. Remains of hoist pulleys and other features of the warehouse were also noted.)
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Historic Notes and Themes
Historical notes: The land was originally leased to John Baugham by acting Governor Grose in 1794. Baugham sold the lease to Robert Campbell in 1798, who erected Sydney's first private wharf in 1800. Campbell then erected Wharf House behind the wharf as a home for himself and his wife Sophia in 1802. The site continued to be used by the Campbell family until 1876, when the ASN Co acquired part of Robert Campbell's grant. In 1884, construction started on the ASN Co Building which was opened in 1885. It was designed by William Wilkinson Wardell, who had formed a partnership with WL Vernon in 1884. It is an excellent example of his style. The Australasian Steam Navigation Company was formed from the Hunter River Steamship Company in 1851 to appeal to a wider market and expand their services. The company approved free or assisted passages for worthy causes, these included Caroline Chisholm going to Moreton Bay to obtain employment for immigrant women and Dr Leichhardt also going to Moreton Bay for an expedition in Queensland, and they shipped plants and specimens for the Botanic Gardens in Melbourne for free.In 1887, the government purchased the land between Campbells Stores and Sydney Cove, and demolished all buildings on the site. Later that year the Crown acquired the ASN Co building and the company moved out of the in 1889. In 1890, it was being used as Government Ordnance Stores and by 1892 a number of tenants were in the building. In 1906, the building was handed over to the Department of Defence. Since 1950, it has been occupied by the Australian Commonwealth Offices, when conversions by the Department of Works and Housing made the building suitable for office use. In 1989 the ASN Co building was acquired by the SCRA. In 1990, Bay 5 of the building was adapted for use, together with the Mariners' Church, for The Story of Sydney, an exhibition of the foundation and development of Sydney. This use ceased in 1991. In 1991-92, the building was restored to its original 1880s appearance both inside and out, and following that has been leased for galleries facing George Street, retail on Circular Quay West and commercial uses on the upper floors. (SCRA Annual Reports 1990-1993)Previously, the address of the ASN Co Building was 5-7 Hickson Road, but was renumbered to 1-3. The Park Hyatt Hotel is numbered 7 Hickson Road.
Historical significance: Together with Cadmans Cottage, Mission to Seaman Chapel and City Coroners Court, the site represents the long history of the precinct and the historic The Rocks area as a maritime centre, including the importance of steam shipping to the colony's economy. This aspect is strongly reflected in the high architectural style and the prominent waterfront location of the building. It was one of the last substantial warehouses with a timber structural system built in Sydney. From 1885 cast iron columns were used in warehouses instead of timber. The use of steam cranes imported from England to transport materials on site to construct the building is possibly the earliest example of their use in Sydney. It holds significance in its associations with The Rocks, Campbell Cove and Circular Quay and is part of a historical precinct that includes Cadmans Cottage, Mission to Seaman Chapel and the Sailors Home which together strongly illustrate this former maritime neighbourhood. It contributes strongly to the character of The Rocks and is an area that is well visited by residents and tourists. Its inclusion on the registers of the National Trust and the National Estate demonstrates the esteem the building is held in by the broader community.
Historical association: The building has associations with the former Australasian Steam Navigation Company for whom it was constructed in 1884-1885. The building has strong associations with its designer William Wilkinson Wardell, an outstanding architect of the nineteenth century best known for his churches (St Mary's Cathedral in Sydney), public buildings (Treasury building, the Mint and Government House in Melbourne), banks (The English Scottish and Australian Bank in George Street, The Rocks) and warehouses. The site has associations with the mercantile activities of Robert Campbell.
Aesthetic significance: The former ASN Co. Building is a highly visible and prominent landmark, especially the towers, from the Harbour and City and forms part of an important historic vista from Circular Quay through to Campbell's Cove and beyond. It can be seen from Port Jackson, from the North Shore, Circular Quay and Harbour Bridge. When completed the ASN Co. Building was one of the most prominent buildings in Sydney, and remains an extremely prominent landmark. Not only is the building significant as an excellent example of Wardells style, but also the way in which he allowed the site shape to partially dominate the design. Each bay is a different length, stepping down the site. Although there were other buildings of similar style that existed in Sydney, none of them incorporate such picturesque façades with this type of layout nor do they mix office and warehouse design together. The building is a rare intact example of the late 19th century Anglo-Dutch architectural style.
Social significance: The site is likely to have a special place in the minds of Sydney siders and tourists due to its landmark quality when approached from the Harbour. Its inclusion on the registers of the National Trust and the National Estate may demonstrate the esteem the building is held in by the broader community. However, these associations are speculative only and do not indicate that the building and its site have strong or special associations with a particular community for social, cultural or spiritual reasons.
Research significance: The structure demonstrates the type of construction methods that were available in this period and its intactness combined with clarity and simplicity allow it to be easily comprehended. It is a benchmark building form capable of providing information about the special relationship between its design and function, being a very rare example of a warehouse with associated offices. It has research and scientific potential in the information that its fabric displays and retains, including the very early sprinkler system. The archaeological potential for below ground deposits would be mostly destroyed, and thus the site has a low likelihood of providing new relics; however, any archaeological relics potentially found in the future could possibly be of high significance.
Rare assessment: The architectural style of the building is a rare intact example of the Pre-Federation Anglo-Dutch style. The former ASN Co. Building is a very rare and fine Victorian example of an office and warehouse development in Sydney. The mix of office and warehouse, each exhibiting the same architectural style to varying degrees, forms a pleasant built element in The Rocks urban landscape. The former ASN Co. Building was unusual for the locality and Sydney. Large later (1910-1920s) storage facilities were generally single storey and of timber construction. It was one of the last substantial warehouses with a timber structural system built in Sydney. From 1885 cast iron columns were used instead of timber. The construction method of the building is possibly the earliest surviving example of the use in Sydney of steam cranes imported from England. It is possible that the sprinkler system is a rare surviving example with intact cast iron pipework and 1929 sprinkler heads. The remaining early sprinkler pipework is probably part of the original sprinkler system, possibly being installed when the water tower was constructed between 1892 and 1894.
Representative assessment: The joinery detailing in the office building is a fine example of Victorian detailing and the staircase is certainly, an early example of this style of architecture. The building demonstrates principal characteristics of the Anglo-Dutch style architecture applied to office and warehouse buildings in the pre-Federation period. It is a fine example of this style of architecture.
Intact assessment: Archaeology: Mostly disturbed. Much of the original fabric of the building is intact.
Physical condition: Archaeology Assessment Condition: Mostly disturbed. Assessment Basis: Warehouses cut into hill slope from Circular Quay West. Basements below George Street / Hickson Road level. Investigation: Industrial survey. The building contains significant original fabric.
|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 the production and performance of literary, artistic, architectural and other imaginative, interpretive or inventive works; and/or associated with the production and expression of cultural phenomena; and/or environments that have inspired such creative activities.|
|Developing local, regional and national economies||Activities associated with the moving of people and goods from one place to another, and systems for the provision of such movements.|
|Governing||Activities associated with the governance of local areas, regions, the State and the nation, and the administration of public programs - includes both principled and corrupt activities.|
|Heritage Listing||Listing Title||Listing Number||Gazette Date||Gazette Number||Gazette Page|
|Register of the National Estate||1/12/036/0322||Australasian Steam Navigation Company Building||2123|
|National Trust of Australia Register||6679||Australian Steam Navigation Co Building||04/05/1976|
|Royal Australian Institute of Architects register|
|Heritage Act - State Heritage Register||01526||ASN Co Building||10/05/2002||2867||85|
|Heritage Act - s.170 NSW State agency heritage register||Place Management NSW|
|Within a National Trust conservation area||10499|