Statement of SignificanceBuilt in 1899-1900, the terrace at 182½-186 Cumberland Street is historically significant as the last private speculative residential development in The Rocks prior to the plague resumptions of the early 20th century. Forming part of the informal "boundary (or transition area) between The Rocks and Sydneys CBD, the terrace at 182½-186 Cumberland Street is a typical, representative example of a Victorian period terrace, which reflects a form of housing prevalent in Sydneys inner suburbs in the latter 19th century. The place is of some research value for its archaeological resource, including a remnant c.1838 wall incorporated into the southern wall of the terrace.
Residential buildings (private)
Builder/Maker: William John Finneran
Construction Years: 1890 - 1890
Physical Description: The terraces are typical examples of Victorian Terrace Houses built as an investment. The planning of the four terraces is similar with the basement containing the laundry and an external toilet; the ground floor containing the parlour, dining room and kitchen; the upper floor containing one large bedroom and two smaller bedrooms and a bathroom. Typical elevational details include some fine cast iron balustrade panels (largely intact), evidence of a cast iron frieze and brackets to the upper balcony beam and surviving examples of the cast iron fringe, brackets and frieze drop fixed below the balcony floor beam. Internally, the main rooms have or show evidence of moulded timber surrounds to fireplaces, four-panelled timber doors, decorative ceiling roses but no cornices.Style: Victorian Terrace Houses; Facade: Painted brickwork; Ceilings: Original lath & plasterTerraced houses including vacant lot.; Built By: 1820's
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Historic Notes and Themes
Historical notes: The earliest detailed map of the site, Harper's of 1823 shows an early building on the Cumberland Street site. In 1839, the property that today comprises Nos 182½ and 184 Cumberland Street was granted by Governor Gipps to William Long (1797-1876) , a former convict who by this time was a prosperous wine and spirits merchant and the licensee of the Commercial Tavern in George Street North. By the time he acquired Cumberland Street, Long owned a number of properties in Sydney including the mansion Tusculum at Potts Point, and is thus unlikely ever to have lived at the modest dwelling which in 1845 was described as single storey, brick with two rooms, shingled and in 'bad repair with no outhouses'. The site of this building corresponds with terrace No.182½ today.The first known occupant of this house was William Amner, who purchased it in 1842 and retained possession of it for another forty years, though he only resided there from 1845 to 1858/9. During Amners ownership, the house was extended to three rooms by 1854 and five by 1867. From mid-century, this building appears to have been used as a shop as well as a residence, and from 1888 it served briefly as a fire station before being demolished late in 1889. The occupants of this property included a shipwright, grocer, mariner, fancy dealer, blacksmith, tinsmith, greengrocer, laundress and watchman. The second building on the site of this study, which was numbered 186 Cumberland Street prior to its demolition, appears to have been built around 1838 and was described in 1845 as 'stone, shingled, one floor, four rooms', and also in 'bad repair with no outhouses'. The first recorded owner of this land was a Mr Ball in 1823, followed by William Turner from 1826, then a string of owners until 1835/6 when William Davis bought the property. After William Davis' death in 1843, ownership remained in the Davis family's possession until its demolition, also in 1889. This house was occupied variously by a corn dealer, customs officers, a master mariner, stonemason and a government boatman and was operated as a boarding house in the late 1880s. The land comprising the present site of 182½-186 Cumberland Street was still vacant when it was consolidated in a single land title, along with allotment 3, and bought by James Channon, a manufacturer, in 1898. It seems probable that the decision to amalgamate the allotments derived from their irregular and impractical shape. A month after he purchased it, Channon subdivided the land, keeping allotment 3 and part of allotment 4 for himself and selling part of allotments 4, 5 and 7, comprising 21½ perches in total, to William John Finneran, a builder of Rouse Hill. In August 1899 Finneran sold the property to John Haydon Cardew, a licensed surveyor. It is likely that Finneran was the builder of the four new houses that sprang up on the Cumberland street frontage between 1899 and 1900. The houses were numbered, as today, 182½-186 Cumberland Street, though they were listed as York Street North from 1920 to 1970. The irregular trapezoidal shape of the terrace Finneran built is likely due to the existing alignment of buildings at 182 and 188 Cumberland Street.The Government resumed ownership of this property in 1902, from which time it was administered until 1927 by the Sydney Harbour Trust and then by the Maritime Services Board. In 1970 ownership was transferred to the newly formed Sydney Cove Redevelopment Authority, later renamed the Sydney Harbour Foreshore Authority.Being new, the houses at 182½-186 Cumberland Street escaped the plague demolitions of 1900 and by 1901, all four were occupied, with Francis and Charlotte Cassimer in 182½, William Harris in 184, James Pavie and his wife Sarah in 184½ and Mark Isaac Bear in 186. Since then, they have almost always been tenanted, with both short and very long-term tenants. Lack of historical evidence has made it difficult to discover much about the lives of the occupants, although it is possible to trace some of them. Gaetano Virgona, an Italian immigrant and the brother of Angelo Virgona of Mosman for whom the North Sydney and Cremorne Orpheum Theatres were later built, occupied No. 184 Cumberland Street with his wife and young family from 1906 until 1912, the year his 8- year-old daughter Assunta died. Mrs Martha Kolb, possibly a widow from Queensland and one of the terrace's longer-term residents, lived in No. 186 from 1902 until her death, aged 69, in 1922. Between the years 1909 and 1922 there were no listings for No. 182½ in the Sands directory, with the exception of 1920 when the directory recorded a nameless 'Chinese Resident' as the occupant of the house. However, rate assessment books lists Chumn Loo and Hop Kee as the residents of 182½ in 1911 and 1922 respectively. The Klesh family, who lived at No. 186 for 43 years, occupied the terrace the longest. Joseph Klesh, probably an immigrant, moved into the house in 1933. In 1938 he married Madeline Cotton; the following year she died. In 1943, Joseph Klesh remarried and remained at No. 186 with his second wife Dorothy until his death in 1947. Roy Patrick Klesh, the son of Madeline and Joseph, married Patricia Smith in 1951 and remained at the house, but did not apply for tenancy to be transferred to his name until 1962. The tenancy of the Klesh family at No. 186 ended with the death of Roy in 1976. The Cumberland Street terrace was occupied by people who often struggled to pay their rent. Rate book records suggest that residents were particularly hard-hit during the Depression of the 1930s. James and Bessie Gent and their then-unmarried daughter Doris moved into No. 184½ in 1920. A decade later James Gent, apparently a former employee of the Sydney Harbour Trust, asked the Trust for work to pay his rent, which was in arrears throughout the 1930s. Gent was served a Notice to Quit in 1931 as was his next-door neighbour Thomas Thorpe, the following year. Both Thorpe and the Gent family still owed rent after they moved out of their respective houses. In 1933, Mrs Madeline Loves of No. 184 promised they would pay their rent, which had been in arrears since the previous year, as soon as her husband Charles found work. The terrace also appears to have been rather late getting amenities such as electricity, which perhaps reflects the humble nature of the accommodation as well as the limited bargaining power of its occupants. From 1935 James Gent of 184½ offered a number of times to pay extra rent for electric lighting, but it wasn't installed at his house until 1940, the year the Gent family left. By 1937 William Buttell of 182½ was also offering to pay more rent in return for electricity, having first requested it several years earlier. HM Milton, who lived with his wife at 184, asked that an electric light point be installed in the bathroom in 1947, and Mrs Kennedy, tenant of 182½, still didn't have electric lights in the laundry or toilet in 1959. Science House The building of Science House at 157-169 Gloucester Street, on the block directly east of the study area, affected both the residents of 182½-186 Cumberland Street and the land on which their houses stood. Science House was built at the instigation of the Royal Society of NSW, the Institution of Engineers, Australia, and the Linnaean Society of NSW. An architectural competition was held late in 1928 and the winning architectural firm, Peddle Thorpe & Walker, designed the building. The construction of Science House began in 1930 and was completed early in 1931. The following year, its architects won the inaugural Sir John Sulman medal for their design. A tidy (if slightly irregular) block comprising 22 perches with a long frontage to Gloucester Street was created from parts of original allotments 2, 3, 4, 7 and 8 of the study area and granted for sole use as the site of Science House in September 1929. The redrawing of allotments and the straightening of boundaries entailed a slight reduction in the length of the back yards of houses 182½ and 184 and the back fences of Nos 182-186 were removed and replaced in 1930. William Buttell of No. 182½ complained to the Trust that the erection of Science House, which towered over the back of the terrace, had completely blocked out all natural light from the east. In 1930, and again in 1931, he requested that the Trust install electric lighting at no extra cost. The following year, goings-on at Science House inconvenienced the residents of 182½- 186 Cumberland Street in a more novel way. In 1932, A. (Albert) Wolk & Co were granted permission from the Maritime Services Board and the occupants of the terraces to enter the properties of 184½ and 186 for the purpose of constructing a temporary 'camera' to 'project [a] clock face on the wall of Science House'. The wall referred to here would have been the west wall of Science House, which faces the back of the Cumberland Street terraces and which is visible from the street above the roof of the terrace. The clock, which appears to have been an advertising device, required the installation of a power point on the property of No. 184½ along with 'machines, ladders and appurtenances' that remained at No. 186 until December of that year when Grace Brothers bought the whole apparatus.With the transfer of ownership to the newly formed Sydney Cove Redevelopment Authority in 1970, the terrace at 182½-186 Cumberland Street was earmarked for demolition with a view to redeveloping the site with high-rise buildings. The efforts of The Rocks Residents Action group, in conjunction with the Builders Labourers Union, forestalled and ultimately prevented the demolition of the terrace, along with most of the older buildings in The Rocks. In 1980, residents Robert Campbell of 182½ and Raymond McCarthy of 184½ were relocated to the purpose-built Sirius apartment block at the end of Cumberland Street, leaving the Stig family at 184 and Mr & Mrs Ralph Page at 186, who all remained there for another few years.From the early 1980s, the newly vacated houses (182½ and 184½) were leased to the Department of Housing's Emergency Accommodation Unit, who sublet the properties to Kings Cross Youth Resources, an organisation sponsored by the NSW Department of Health for housing homeless, unemployed and needy youth. This was not the first time that Cumberland Street had housed destitute young people. In the 1930s, the NSW branch of the Australian Labor Party, under authority of Councillor Catherine Green, leased No. 182 next door as a hostel for homeless girls. During the 1980s, several complaints were made about the occupants of 182½ and 184½ Cumberland Street, as well as about the unhealthy and unsafe state of the houses and their grounds. In July 1982 Ralph Page and his wife complained of having been assaulted by one of the youths. A memorandum from the NSW Housing Commission in 1983 reported that a male occupant had been taken to hospital on account of injuries sustained when a set of external steps at 184½ collapsed. In January 1984 the Sydney Cove Redevelopment Authority complained to the Housing Commission that the tenants of the same house had refused to cooperate with authorities in the matter of a panel of iron lacework that was missing from the first floor verandah. When houses 184 and 186 became vacant, Kings Cross Youth Resources applied to take over tenancy of them, as well as over 182 Cumberland Street, but their application was refused. The untenanted houses in the terrace appear to have been occupied by squatters during this period. Following a report from the City Health & Community Services Department in January 1989 that houses 182½ and 184½ were dilapidated and hazardous, the terrace was removed from the stock of houses for supported housing and their residents were asked to vacate the premises. By July 1989 all four houses in the terrace were vacant for the first time. During the following 18 months it was decided that the site would be conserved. In the intervening years between the vacation of the terrace and its restoration the houses were again squatted in. In January 1992, Otto Cserhalmi & Partners produced the first Conservation Plan for 182½-186 Cumberland Street. Their report, along with photographs taken the previous year, showed the terrace in a state of considerable decay and disrepair and revealed evidence of extensive vandalism. By the time heritage architect Rod Howard commenced conservation works on the property in 1995 the terrace had been further vandalised and significant fabric removed, including most of the original fittings. Conservation works were completed in 1996 and the properties were re-let as residences. More recently, the building has been occupied by commercial offices.
Historical significance: The site of 182½-186 Cumberland Street is of historical significance as a site continuously occupied since the 1820s. A remnant stone wall from a c.1838 cottage on the site is incorporated into the construction of 182½-186 Cumberland Street, reflecting the sites early history.182½-186 Cumberland Street is of historical significance as a late (perhaps the last) private residential speculative development in The Rocks prior to the plague resumptions.The history of the buildings decline into dereliction and its occupation in the 20th century as low-cost government supported housing reflects the changing social context of The Rocks and the involvement of the State government in The Rocks over the century. The building thus contributes to the understanding of history of The Rocks and NSW.182½-186 Cumberland Street meets this criterion on a State level.
Historical association: Through land ownership, 182½-186 Cumberland Street is historically associated with William Long and William Davis, both prominent individuals in colonial NSW. However, the associations of this typa cannot be described as strong or special associations with these persons.
Aesthetic significance: 182½-186 Cumberland Street is of some aesthetic significance locally as a typical Victorian terrace. Constructed unusually late for its style (1899-1900), the building contains very few details typical of its date of construction with the exception of the high-waisted front doors.182½-186 Cumberland Street meets this criterion on a local level.
Social significance: As part of The Rocks area, and situated at the boundary of The Rocks and the CBD, 182½-186 Cumberland Street is likely to be held in some esteem by individuals and groups who are interested in Sydneys history and heritage.
Research significance: The archaeological resource at 182½-186 Cumberland Street is of some research significance for its potential to reveal information about pre-1830s settlement in The Rocks. The results of previous archaeological investigations are fully documented and form, together with the results of other archaeological investigations carried out in the immediate vicinity, a valuable resource for understanding early life in The Rocks area.
Rare assessment: 182½-186 Cumberland Street is a relatively rare example of conservative planning and detailing for its date of construction. It is rare as the last private residential development in The Rocks.
Representative assessment: 182½-186 Cumberland Street is a representative example of Victorian terrace style housing, and reflects a form of housing typical of Sydney at the end of the 19th century.
Intact assessment: Archaeology partly disturbed.
Physical condition: Archaeological Assessment Condition: Partly disturbed. Assessment Basis: A decision had been made with this site that ground disturbance would be minimal and limited to areas already disturbed by services. During conservation works however, part of the rear wall of the terraces collapsed due to an inadequate foundation, requiring urgent underpinning along the length of this wall. Subsequent excavation indicated that the two-storey rear wing was founded on demolition material from the earlier structure, which in some places was up to one metre in depth indicating that the site has a very high archaeological potential. Investigation: Watching Brief
|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.|
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|Register of the National Estate|
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|Heritage Act - s.170 NSW State agency heritage register||Place Management NSW|