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Bundaberg Post Office, 155a Bourbong St, Bundaberg, QLD, Australia

Photographs None
List Commonwealth Heritage List
Class Historic
Legal Status Listed place (08/11/2011)
Place ID 106125
Place File No 4/02/101/0003
Summary Statement of Significance
Bundaberg Post Office, constructed in 1891 and incorporating a Crown Lands Department Office as well as offices of the French Cable Co., is significant as a large regional postal facility which is an integral part of the city’s historic central civic and administrative precinct, stemming from its rich history and wealth as one of Queensland’s great coastal ports.  The substantial dual frontage and landmark tower embody a prosperity and future confidence in the city of Bundaberg which stemmed in large from the region’s importance to Australia’s sugarcane, mining and horticultural industries, exploited from the 1870s (Criterion a).
Typologically, Bundaberg Post Office built during 1890-1, belongs to the second generation of Australian post offices built between 1870 and 1929.  These offices are generally assumed to incorporate separate components for the telegraph and postal functions in addition to quarters for the postmaster, and in this case integrated government offices.  While the integrity and legibility of the original design in internal plan form has been somewhat diminished through alterations and additions, the building still demonstrates principal characteristics of the type including an accomplished application of style and endowment of monumental civic form; incorporation of frontal components such as offices, public spaces, clock tower, loggia and verandahs; and an increased size to reflect the increased volume of a rapidly developing region.  Stylistically, the building’s Victorian Italianate frontages are a fine representative example of large post office buildings of the period.  The building also departs from a squared or central corner clock tower with a single principal façade, typical of post office designs from the preceding couple of decades throughout Australia, to an angled corner feature flanked by equally weighted frontages.  Bundaberg Post Office is also an example of the work of Charles McLay under the aegis of Queensland Colonial Architect, George Connolly (Criterion d).
Bundaberg is additionally valued as a large-scaled building with impressive dual street frontages on a busy principal intersection with a very high degree of landmark quality.  This is principally due to its repetitious double-height loggia and verandah, screening both of the street elevations and the six level clock tower.  It also shares an important civic precinct with the former Commercial Bank and the war memorial (Criterion e).
The curtilage includes the title block/allotment of the property.
The significant components of Bundaberg Post Office include the main postal building and clock tower dating from 1891.  The single storey additions to both street frontages are of contributory significance.
Official Values
Criterion A Processes
Bundaberg Post Office, constructed in 1891 and incorporating a Crown Lands Department Office as well as offices of the French Cable Co., is a large regional postal facility which is an integral part of the city’s historic central civic and administrative precinct, stemming from its rich history and wealth as one of Queensland’s great coastal ports.  The substantial dual frontage and landmark tower in scale and architectural achievement embody a prosperity and future confidence in the city of Bundaberg which stemmed in large from the region’s importance to Australia’s sugarcane, mining and horticultural industries, exploited from the 1870s.  The scale of the colony and its resources, linked by rail and, in the case of coastal cities, sea, combined to produce prosperous large centres with less dependence on the capital than in other states.  This is evidenced in the provincial centres such as Maryborough, Rockhampton, Mackay and Townsville, all of which had substantial masonry post offices erected.
The significant components of Bundaberg Post Office include the main postal building and clock tower dating from 1891.  The single storey additions to both street frontages are of contributory significance.
 
Criterion D Characteristic values
Bundaberg Post Office is an example of:
  1. Post office and telegraph office with quarters (second generation typology 1870-1929) with combined Crown lands Department offices.
  2. Italianate Style
  3. Charles McLay under the aegis of Colonial Architect, George Connolly.
Typologically, Bundaberg Post Office built during 1890-1, belongs to the second generation of Australian post offices built between 1870 and 1929.  These offices are generally assumed to incorporate separate components for the telegraph and postal functions in addition to quarters for the postmaster, and in this case an equal measure of integrated government offices.  The integrity and legibility of the original design in internal plan form has been somewhat diminished through alterations and additions, including blurring the relationship of the integrated government offices with the rest of the planning (other than their location at first floor level), and impacting on the original planning of the quarters component.  However, the building still demonstrates some principal characteristics of the type including an accomplished application of style and endowment of monumental civic form; incorporation of frontal components such as offices, public spaces, clock tower, loggia and verandahs; and an increased size to reflect the increased volume of a rapidly developing region.   
With regard to operating post offices, Bundaberg Post Office is one of three ‘Type M3 Victorian Italianate’ examples built in the period 1879-1898 with similar characteristics [refer to Queensland University 1983 report].  As with the other examples at Charters Towers (1892) and Warwick (1898), the large masonry buildings demonstrate landmark qualities on prominent corner sites with clearly defined frontal components, reflecting the prosperity of their regions and scale of their postal activity. 
Stylistically, the building’s Victorian Italianate frontages are a fine representative example of large post office buildings of the period, though Bundaberg is similar in detail to the earlier Classical Revivalism of Toowoomba (1879).  In its departure from a squared or central corner clock tower with a single principal façade more typical of designs from the preceding couple of decades throughout Australia, to an angled corner feature flanked by equally weighted frontages, Bundaberg is consistent in planning with Warwick.
Bundaberg Post Office is an example of the work of Charles McLay under the aegis of Queensland Colonial Architect, George Connolly. 
Criterion E Aesthetic characteristics
Bundaberg is a large-scaled building with impressive dual street frontages on a busy principal intersection and a very high degree of landmark quality.  This is principally due to its repetitious double-height loggia and verandah screening both of the street elevations and the six level clock tower.  It also shares an important civic precinct with the former Commercial Bank and the war memorial.
Criterion F Technical achievement
Bundaberg Post Office is composed as a landmark corner building with two equally prominent street frontages and central clocktower, expressive of the dual, but independent, operations of the original post and telegraph functions.  The placement of the corner tower on the diagonal to the main plan and street alignments has strong artistic merit and directs a reading of the entire building in three dimensions, a departure from the more common use of the corner tower at the time.
Criterion G Social value
Bundaberg Post Office, built in 1891, to replace the former 1879 building on the same site is important for its association with the development of the city.  It provides a visual and symbolic landmark for the local community and is of social significance for the continuity of postal services which have operated from the building for almost 120 years.
Description
The Bundaberg Post Office is at the commercial centre of the large provincial city of Bundaberg and is located on the northwest corner of the Barolin and Bourbong Street intersection.  In context, several notable late Italianate designs are nearby, including the unusual palazzo-form Catholic Cathedral of c.1888-1900. 
Essentially L-shaped in plan, the original double-storey building is constructed hard up to the street boundaries at the corner of the site.  The clock tower is set 45 degrees to the bulk of the building and dominates the intersection; there is a single-storey wing set back slightly from the frontage at both the north and west ends of the building.  The remaining rear portion of the site is accessed via Post Office Lane which runs along the northern boundary.  This area has been largely infilled with later building area over an extended period of time to provide a business centre, covered loading dock and additions to both of the single-storey wings.
In details and represented style the building is in a largely astylar Italianate.  The principal street elevations are screened by a double-height arcade.  The ground floor arcade columns are square chamfered components, with the suggestion of a Tuscan capital carried in the moulding.  This is sustained across the stilted arcades on the ground floor of each flanking pavilion.  The street level is therefore lightly proportioned on a three-step stylobate, the upper level is a verandah with sculpted cornice, Romanesque cast iron columns, and plain masonry pedestals interspersed with a cast iron lace balustrade.  The upper trios of wing front windows are set in a plain panel flanked by quasi-pilasters which are scored down their centres, topped with a short floral frieze and then paired brackets to support the pediment above each wing. The two flanking pavilion wing pediments have plain panelled tympani.  The first floor openings to verandah areas contain paired half-glazed panelled timber doors.
The corner tower is angled diagonally to the street corner, and has an astylar arched window set in a plain stuccoed wall at street level, an oriel bay in astylar Italianate at first floor level, two levels of rusticated walling enclosing three slot windows on the second floor and a voussoired arched window on the third.  These are topped by a frieze of plain–surfaced brackets, a clock level with scored and chamfered quasi-pilasters similar to those on the first floor wing fronts, and a miniature basilica-fronted sixth level with an arch containing metal louvres enclosed in a pedimented breakfront, and two flanking ‘aisle’ bays with orb finials and oval vents in their spandrels.  The tower roof is an octagonal mansard with a wrought iron-railed platform and crimped metal cladding, flagpole and weathervane, and the main roof is a simply handled L-shape with two gabled hips.  The loggia floor has a non-original anti-slip textured finish.
Levels:  2 levels; 6 level clock tower
Structural frame:  Load-bearing solid brick, stone footings, timber-framed floor and roof, cast iron and timber-framed ground floor areas where clear spans required.
External walls:  Rendered brick with ruled ashlar finish to principal street elevations and rusticated banding to projecting pavilions and clock tower; tuckpointed face brickwork to rear elevations flanking Post Office Lane; elaborate cast iron wall vents; cement mouldings.
Internal walls:  Generally hard plastered brickwork; some exposed timber-framed partition walls with V-jointed timber lining boards. 
Floor: Timber-framed and boarded throughout; moulded timber skirting boards.
Ceiling: Lath and plaster throughout; beaded timber lining boards to arcade soffits
Roof:  Gabled hipped form with corrugated galvanised iron cladding, cast iron ridge cresting, metal ridge ventilators, ogee profile cast iron rainwater goods and boarded eaves soffits; rendered brick chimneys with moulded caps.  Skillion-roofed rear verandah and first floor arcade roof finished with corrugated galvanised iron and beaded board lining to soffits.  Clock tower mansard roof clad with crimped metal with flagpole and weathervane.
Other:  Panelled polished timber doors, timber-framed double-hung sash windows, moulded polished timber architraves and skirting boards, polished timber staircases.  Cast iron columns to ground floor public spaces and first floor verandahs with cast iron balustrade panels.  Timber picket fences to part frontages.
History
After JJ Clark’s dismissal as Queensland Colonial architect in 1885, various emerging projects were left in limbo.  One was the new Bundaberg Post Office, intended to replace a smaller post and telegraph office built in c.1879.  Charles McLay, who like JS Murdoch was another Scot initially mentored by Clark, submitted designs for Bundaberg’s new post office in 1886 to the new Colonial Architect, George Connolly.  There were three of these designs in all - Connolly favoured internal competitions for Public Works designs - of which this one was chosen after revisions between 1887 and 1889.  During this time McLay was promoted to chief draftsman in the Colonial Architect’s office.  He designed the Brisbane Customs house in 1886, a seminal late Renaissance-early Baroque design.  He then designed the Fortitude Valley Post Office of 1887, and prepared an unbuilt design for Rockhampton Post Office which Watson and McKay note was similar in appearance to Fortitude Valley.  The Bundaberg Post Office was constructed in 1890-1; it also included a Crown Lands Department Office.  The French Cable Co. began exchanging messages through the Vancouver via New Caledonia undersea cable which terminated at its office on the first floor of the post office in 1893.  Additions and alterations to the building were carried out in the mid-1950s and refurbishment alterations and additions were undertaken in the late 1990s.
 
1876:  Original Bundaberg Post Office became an official office and a new building was erected in 1879.
1890-91:  Present building constructed which appeared to include a Crown Lands Department Office.
1901-03:  Unspecified repairs to post and telegraph office and post master’s quarters.
1907:  Conversion of first floor Lands Office into post master’s quarters, possibly involving construction of timber stud-framed partition in north pavilion. 
1918-21:  Possible works to tower clock and mechanism
1931-35:  Unspecified alterations, possibly relating to power and battery room; unspecified repairs; new toilet block constructed and septic tank installed. 
1944:  Alterations made to fencing
1947:  Garage constructed.
1951-56: Works to tower clock and mechanism, probably including new clock faces.
1954-58:  Additions constructed, including garage, bicycle shelter and toilet block and general renovations undertaken.
1960:  Ground floor alterations (unspecified)
1971-74:  Acquisition of adjoining property and unspecified additions and alterations including air conditioning.  Works may also relate to the cream brick automatic telephone exchange to the western end of the original single storey bay fronting Bourbong Street.
Date unknown:  Conversion of former window pair to doorway opening in Bourbong Street elevation of single-storey bay.
c.1998:  Major works, refurbishment and additions including major refurbishment of public spaces with replacement of original lath and plaster ceiling with plasterboard ceilings, installation of polished timber joinery and services; repartitioning of area behind public space for administrative offices; creation of continuous bays of private letter boxes within the northern end wing including a projection and new verandah facing Post Office Lane; construction of disabled access ramp to private letter box entrance from Barolin Street; construction of new stair and glazed partition in north pavilion, provision of business mail centre to north of public office, doors removed from corner clock tower entrance and replaced with automatic sliding glass doors, general upgrade of services and finishes throughout building.  Works also included conversion of former private letter box area in the western single-storey bay to a lettable external revenue area.
Date unknown:  Original sunhoods removed from rear-facing windows.
Date unknown:  Cast iron ridge cresting (pre-1970s) and roof ventilators (post-1970s) removed.
Date unknown:  Original rendered finish overpainted.
 
Architect:  Charles McLay (c. 1860-1918) under the aegis of George Connolly, Colonial Architect (Heritage of Australia, 1981, p. 4/57 [discussion of contemporary Rockhampton]; Hamann 2006)

Condition and Integrity
Externally, Bundaberg Post Office’s ability to demonstrate its original design is exceptionally good with regard to the architectural conception, principal materials and detail, although cumulative works have resulted in the loss of some architectural detail and overall form, such as alterations to the flanking single-storey wings, painted wall surfaces and removal of the main entrance doors.   
Internally, original fabric and joinery remains, although cumulative refurbishment works throughout the building, particularly with regard to the changing program and planning of the place, have diminished the legibility of the operations of the place and integrity of original finishes.  Similarly, works in relation to use and technology such as installation of floor linings, partition walls, suspended ceilings, mechanical ducting, joinery and the like have resulted in the loss of some original fabric and fittings. 
Notwithstanding the above, internally and externally the building appears to be in sound condition with no major defects visible.  There is damp-affected walling in the former postal manager’s office at ground floor level which should be repaired as a matter of urgency.
Location
155a Bourbong Street, corner Barolin Street, Bundaberg, comprising the whole of Lot 11 RP147676.
Bibliography
GS Warmington and AC Ward, Australia Post Survey of Historic Properties in Queensland, Volume 1, 1991;  Register of the National Estate, ID 8726;  Chesterton Corporate Property Advisors, CISD Property Valuation Report, June 2005.  Comparison: The Heritage of Australia, Melbourne: Macmillan, 1981, p. 4/10, ff.; Conrad Hamann, (Federation architecture) in AGL Shaw, ed., Victoria’s Heritage, Sydney: Allen and Unwin, 1985, and also Hamann’s ‘John Smith Murdoch: Chronology of architectural connections and involvements’, Melbourne: Lovell Chen and Associates, 2006.  Miles Lewis, ‘The Victorian house’, in Richard Apperly et al., The History and Design of the Australian House, Melbourne, Oxford, 1985.  For McLay, see, esp., Don Watson and Judith McKay, Queensland Architects of the Nineteenth Century, Brisbane: Museum of Queensland, 1994, p. 119-120. 

Report Produced  Thu Aug 22 08:14:04 2019