Perth Historic Buildings Walk, Perth

Perth Historic Buildings Walk (Self Guided), Perth

Established by British settlers in 1829 and originally named the Swan River Colony, the city of Perth boasts a wealth of old buildings – governmental, religious, residential, commercial and institutional, – many of which are heritage-listed.

Just like other Western Australia’s settlements, the city struggled throughout the 1800s from the lack of resources, labor and investment. However, following the gold rushes of the 1890s Perth enjoyed a great influx of people and, subsequently, considerable development arising from the newly acquired wealth. Many ornate edifices in the metropolitan area, like the Palace Hotel on St Georges Terrace, date back to that period.

A mining boom in the 1960s-70s led to another wave of intensive development, but simultaneously caused the loss of much of Perth's early 1900s architecture. A greater awareness within the community of heritage places developed since then has resulted in a number of high-profile public campaigns that preserved several substantial buildings, such as the Pensioner Barracks (now the Barracks Arch), the Palace Hotel (currently offices for Bank of Western Australia) and others.

Among the old buildings in Perth still extant, recognized for their heritage significance, there are:

St. Mary's Cathedral – the seat of local Archbishop, begun in 1865;

St John's Pro-Cathedral – the earliest Roman Catholic church in Western Australia, constructed between 1843 and 1844;

Old Perth Fire Station – the first (1900) purpose-built fire station in WA;

Government House and Gardens – official residence of the Governor of Western Australia, built between 1859 and 1864;

Old Court House. Francis Burt Law Museum – the city's oldest surviving public building, dated from 1836-1837, nowadays home to the Francis Burt Law Education Centre and Museum;

Perth Town Hall and Perth Foundation Plaque – built using convict labor, from 1868 to 1870.

To explore these and other architectural monuments in Perth fit to excite both history buffs and lovers of design, take this self-guided walking tour.
How it works: Download the app "GPSmyCity: Walks in 1K+ Cities" from iTunes App Store or Google Play Store to your mobile phone or tablet. The app turns your mobile device into a personal tour guide and its built-in GPS navigation functions guide you from one tour stop to next. The app works offline, so no data plan is needed when traveling abroad.

Download The GPSmyCity App

Perth Historic Buildings Walk Map

Guide Name: Perth Historic Buildings Walk
Guide Location: Australia » Perth (See other walking tours in Perth)
Guide Type: Self-guided Walking Tour (Sightseeing)
# of Attractions: 12
Tour Duration: 2 Hour(s)
Travel Distance: 3.3 Km or 2.1 Miles
Author: irenebo
Sight(s) Featured in This Guide:
  • St. Mary's Cathedral
  • St John's Pro-Cathedral
  • Old Perth Fire Station
  • St. Andrew's Uniting Church
  • Government House and Gardens
  • Old Court House. Francis Burt Law Museum
  • St. George's Cathedral
  • Perth Town Hall and Perth Foundation Plaque
  • Trinity Uniting Church
  • Palace Hotel
  • Wesley Uniting Church
  • Barracks Arch
St. Mary's Cathedral

1) St. Mary's Cathedral (must see)

St Mary's Cathedral is a Roman Catholic cathedral in Victoria Square. It replaced the colony's first Roman Catholic church, St. John's. The cathedral was designed by Joseph Ascione in the Norman Gothic architectural style.

The cathedral was constructed in three phases. The primary structure was completed in 1865. The second construction, completed in the 1920s, added a new transept and sanctuary. Mosaics in the sanctuary were patterned after designs from the Book of Kells. New stained glass windows were added, designed by John Hardman of the United Kingdom.

The final construction increased the size of the cathedral, added a second spire and included an underground parish center. During construction, the remains of the first bishops of Perth were found beneath the cathedral's floorboards. A permanent crypt for these bishops was then added to the architectural plans.

This construction was completed in 2009. The new design of the cathedral won three architectural design awards for its architect Peter M. Quinn.
St John's Pro-Cathedral

2) St John's Pro-Cathedral

St John's Pro-Cathedral is the earliest Roman Catholic church building in Western Australia.

The pro-cathedral of St John the Evangelist is an important building in the history of the Catholic Church in Western Australia. It was the first Catholic Church and would become the first Cathedral. It was the centre of Catholic life for the first twenty years of the Catholic Church in the Swan River Colony until the first St Mary’s Cathedral was completed in 1865.

The Cathedral is constructed of brick that has been covered with lime render and painted ochre to resemble the colour of the original building. The gable roof is covered with shingles. The north and south facades are punctuated by arched windows. Buttresses have been placed at regular intervals down the length of these facades. The portico, which was removed in 1881, has been reconstructed at the western end of the building.

The western gable end is punctuated by four arched windows, a pair above the portico and a single window either side of the portico. A lean-to extension is located at the eastern end of the southern facade. Entry to this section is through an arched door on the north facade. The church windows have clear glass set in wooden mullions. Those in the lean-to section are square, four paned windows.
Sight description based on Wikipedia.
Old Perth Fire Station

3) Old Perth Fire Station

Old Perth Fire Station (Fire Brigade No. 1 Station) was the first purpose-built fire station in Western Australia. It was opened in 1901 and continued in operation until 1979.

The Fire Station was designed by Michael Cavanagh with Romanesque Revival stylistic influences and built around 1900. It is a two-storey rusticated limestone and tile roofed corner building, and has a diverse facade with arches, turrets and recessed colonnades.

In 1979, the Perth Fire Brigade vacated the building, which was subsequently restored between 1983 and 1985. The external work involved re-roofing with terracotta tiles to match existing, reconstruction of a limestone arch that had been replaced with a concrete lintel to suit larger and higher engines, and replacement of columns, mouldings and original doors which had been removed. Internal work included new timber stairs, toilets and a theatrette. New ceiling cornices and ceiling roses were installed to match the period and the existing.

The building was reopened in 1985 as the Fire Safety Education Centre and Museum. The Museum showcases all kinds of firefighting equipment that has been in use in for the past 150 plus years. The collection is complemented by active corps of firefighters. It is situated in the fire station which was established in 1901 and, in its time, was one of the most advanced in the country.
Sight description based on Wikipedia.
St. Andrew's Uniting Church

4) St. Andrew's Uniting Church

St. Andrew's Uniting Church was built in 1906. It was designed by James Hinse in a blend of Gothic and Arts and Crafts architectural styles. The building has standard nave and transepts as well as a bell tower with a metal spire.

Originally a Presbyterian Church, the building was purchased by a private entity, and then used as a Uniting Church. Services for St. Andrew's Uniting Church moved to a new building in 2015 when the structure of the older building was no longer sound.

The church organ was built in 1924 by W.L. Roberts. It was rebuilt again in 1954 and 1986. The organ was removed after the church no longer held services.

The church is notable for being the first Presbyterian Church in Western Australia. It was added to the State Heritage List in 1985 and the State Register in 1996. It was given these honors for being a place of significant cultural importance in Western Australia.
Government House and Gardens

5) Government House and Gardens

The Government House is the residence of the governor of Western Australia. Though the existing house was built in 1864, the site has been in use by governors of Western Australia since 1829 when the Swan River Colony was established. It is located on the primary thoroughfare in Perth near the Council House.

The house was built in the Jacobean Revival style from a design by Edmund Henderson. It was mostly built by convicts. Along with the house, a separate building called The Lodge was added in 1904 in the gardens. The Lodge is in the Federation Queen Anne architectural style.

The gardens at Government House consist of a meticulously crafted green space, shade trees, a walking path and outdoor art. The gardens are open to the public from 12 PM to 2 PM from Tuesday through Thursday.

The house and the gardens were listed on the Western Australian Register of Heritage Places in 2011.
Old Court House. Francis Burt Law Museum

6) Old Court House. Francis Burt Law Museum

The Old Court House is the first court building constructed in Perth, Western Australia. It is located between Stirling Gardens and Supreme Court Gardens, off Barrack Street, adjacent to the Supreme Court building. It is a single-storey cream rendered building, with a wooden shingle roof.

Completed in 1836, it is the city's oldest surviving public building and is one of two remaining examples of the work of Henry Reveley, the colonial civil engineer. It is one of the few remaining buildings designed in the classical Greek revival style of the 19th century in Perth.

It is a simple looking building of Georgian style architecture. It is of stone rubble construction with a stucco finish. It is a small simple building with a hipped roof, which was originally clad with slate. The entry portico, which was added later, is supported by doric pillars. The area around the north and west of the building is paved in sandstone coloured interlocking concrete paving bricks.

The Old Court House was entered into the Register of the National Estate by the Australian Heritage Commission in October 1980 and classified by the National Trust of Australia (WA) in February 1978. On 14 February 2003 it was placed on the permanent state heritage register.

Francis Burt Law Museum is situated inside the Old Court House. The items showcased here are related to the history and development of law in Western Australia. Some of them dated from 1616. The museum also functions as an educational and research facility.

Operation hours: Wednesday - Friday 10 am - 2:30 pm.
Sight description based on Wikipedia.
St. George's Cathedral

7) St. George's Cathedral

St George's Cathedral is located in St Georges Terrace in the centre of the city. Built in 1888, the cathedral replaced an earlier building immediately to the north-east of the present one. The cathedral is described as Gothic Revival and is made from local handmade clay bricks from Queen's Gardens and Victorian blue stone pillars on footings of Fremantle limestone. It was designed by Sydney architect Edmund Blacket. The site is near the "Rush Church" - the first church built in Perth, by Frederick Irwin, in December 1829, a few months after the city was founded. Its castellated bell tower was damaged in the 1968 Meckering earthquake.

In 2005-2008 the cathedral was extensively restored with the tile roof replaced by slates as originally built. Earthquake protection was added to two walls to provide bracing and much other work was undertaken. Plans are currently underway to restore and develop other buildings in the complex, including the Burt Hall and the 1859 deanery building, which adjoins the cathedral, on the corner of Pier Street. St George's Cathedral has become noted for its innovative and controversial theological teaching, popular preaching, commitment to inter-faith worship and music. Its Cathedral Education Centre is unique to Australia.
Sight description based on Wikipedia.
Perth Town Hall and Perth Foundation Plaque

8) Perth Town Hall and Perth Foundation Plaque

The Perth Town Hall is the only town hall in Australia built by convicts. Designed by Richard Roach Jewell and James Manning in the Victorian Free Gothic style, the hall, in fact, was built by both convicts and free men, between 1867 and 1870. Its decorations contain a number of convict motifs such as the windows presented in the shape of a broad arrow and decorations in the shape of a hangman's rope.

The foundation stone for Perth Town Hall was laid on 24 May 1867, by Governor Hampton, in a ceremony involving a lot of pomp and parade. Despite the torrential downpours occurred that day, the ceremony went on anyway with an official procession from Government House and a mock battle performed by the Volunteer Regiments, Enrolled Forces of Pensioners, and the WA Country Regiment.

The city of Perth itself was founded by Captain James Stirling in 1829. Its official foundation ceremony took place on 12 August 1829 with the chopping down of a tree by Mrs. Helen Dance, the only woman in the party. This event is commemorated by a plaque set in the footpath of Barrack Street, in front of the Town Hall, to mark its approximate location.

For most of the 20th century, the building's ground floor had housed various businesses, including a pharmacy, bank, lunch bar and different shops; the public lavatories accessible from Barrack Street were the only ones available in the area. All these businesses and the attendant structures were removed prior to the renovation of the hall in the early 2000s.

For many years, Perth Town Hall was the most prominent civic building within the city. Today, this grand edifice is still fit to charm many modern onlookers.
Sight description based on Wikipedia.
Trinity Uniting Church

9) Trinity Uniting Church

Trinity Church is one of the oldest church buildings in the City of Perth, and one of the few remaining 19th-century colonial buildings in the city.

The Trinity Church congregation was established by Henry Trigg, a practising Congregationalist, who arrived in the Swan River Colony in 1829. Trigg initially attended the first Anglican Church, where he was a choirmaster. He later joined the Wesleyans, but from 1843 he held prayer meetings in the Congregational tradition in his own home.

In 1863, the congregation decided to build a chapel in St Georges Terrace as the premises in William Street were too small. Land was purchased for £350. The architect of the new church was Richard Roach Jewell. Governor John Hampton laid the cornerstone on 10 May 1864. The church was constructed by Thomas Smith and William Buggins, in 1865.

On 4 August 1892, the proposal was put that a new church be constructed, in front of the existing one, at a proposed cost of £5,100, with the erection of an adjoining suite of offices to fund the building of the church. This was accepted and Trinity Church was dedicated in December 1893 and opened in 1894. The Church also commissioned a two-storey office building, Trinity House, adjacent to the new church building and facing St Georges Terrace.
Sight description based on Wikipedia.
Palace Hotel

10) Palace Hotel

The Palace Hotel is a landmark three-storey heritage listed building located in the city's central business district. Originally built in 1897 as a hotel during the gold rush period of Western Australia's history, it was converted to banking chambers and offices in the 1980s and now accommodates the Perth headquarters of Woods Bagot, Adapptor and Hatchd. The building is located on the most prominent intersection in the financial district of the city, at the corner of St Georges Terrace and William Street.

When the hotel opened for business on 18 March 1897 it was, although slightly smaller than some of its contemporary buildings in other capital cities in Australasia, described as "... one of the most beautiful and elegant hotels in Australasia".

The building is described as being of a "Federation Free Classical" architectural style. It is three storeys high and of brick and iron construction. It was designed by architects Porter and Thomas and built by prominent mining entrepreneur and real-estate investor John De Baun at a cost of £64,000.

The building was entered into the register of the National Trust of Australia in June 1973 and elevated to a permanent entry in 1980 "as a first-class example of the quality of building at the time of the gold rush".

In the period leading up to and during the 1980s redevelopment, lobbying from The Palace Guards, the National Trust of Western Australia and the public at large pushed for the retention of some elements of the original building.

Due to its ornate and grand style, its prominent position within the city, and being the only building of its type and scale in St Georges Terrace, the hotel has been an important landmark in Perth for all of its life. In its early years, the hotel afforded commercial travellers a high level of opulence and comfort while visiting the city and offered a tangible reminder of the wealth and prosperity of the state during the gold-boom period.

Prior to the construction of the Perth Town Hall in 1870, the site (which then housed the Freemasons' Hotel) was the pre-eminent social and political focus of the town—important decisions such as the establishment of a local police force in 1851 were made there. At the time of its transformation into banking chambers in the 1980s, considerable amounts of nostalgia and acclamation of its place in Perth were reflected in the local media.
Sight description based on Wikipedia.
Wesley Uniting Church

11) Wesley Uniting Church

Wesley Church is one of the oldest church buildings and one of few remaining 19th-century colonial buildings in the city. Wesley Church is built of load-bearing brick laid in Flemish bond in the Victorian academic gothic style and features a landmark spire, steeply pitched roofs, parapeted gables, label (hood) moulds and wall buttressing.

The church has a strong verticality of form emphasised by tall lancet windows with plate tracery to the east facade. Angle buttresses divide the nave wall into five bays and the major windows have stucco label moulds above them. The bricks of the building, fired at uncertain temperatures in wood-burning kilns, show a range of mellow tones and, laid in Flemish bond, create a chequerboard effect on the walls, which provides a decorative element to the walls of the building. The spire is 35 metres high with a weathercock on top; it is surrounded by four smaller spires at its base which are capped by metal finials. The north-east tower replicates these smaller spires above the gable. The roof structure is of hand-sawn timber and the roof covering was originally shingles, but at some point the Church was re-roofed in clay tiles.

Wesley Church was designed by Richard Roach Jewell, an architect, circuit steward, clerk of colonial works and church member. The foundation stone was laid on 25 October 1867 by Governor John Stephen Hamptona and the church was opened on Sunday 10 April 1870.
Sight description based on Wikipedia.
Barracks Arch

12) Barracks Arch

Designed by Richard Roach Jewell, the Barracks were originally built from 1863 to 1866 to house the Enrolled Pensioner Force.

Architect Jewell designed the three-storey building in Tudor style that resembled a medieval castle. The building was brick, rather than more expensive stone, and horizontal lines emphasised by using lines of paler colour bricks underneath the windows. The roof was made of timber shingles. The building was finished in 1866, and was later extended to house an additional 21 families. Each family apartment had two rooms, each measuring some 13 by 11 feet (4.0 by 3.4 m), with at least one fireplace. The outbuildings included a cookhouse, firing range and gun-room, wash-house, stores and stables, and a fives court constructed later.

A fire in 1887 destroyed the timber flooring of the east wing and the second floor of the central section, all of which were later restored. The Barracks were gradually converted to offices for the Public Works Department, between 1900 and 1904, becoming its headquarters in 1904.

After the departments moved to their new location in the 1960s, the Government intended to demolish the Barracks for its obstructing the view from Parliament House down the length of St Georges Terrace and visa versa, as well as to facilitate the construction of the Mitchell Freeway.

Pursuant to this plan, at some point, the third and fourth bays of windows were demolished, but the arch itself had survived thanks to the public outcry to keep it in place. Therefore, the Public Works Department had retained the arch and landscaped the surrounding area.
Sight description based on Wikipedia.

Walking Tours in Perth, Australia

Create Your Own Walk in Perth

Create Your Own Walk in Perth

Creating your own self-guided walk in Perth is easy and fun. Choose the city attractions that you want to see and a walk route map will be created just for you. You can even set your hotel as the start point of the walk.
Perth Introduction Walking Tour

Perth Introduction Walking Tour

Perth is the capital of Western Australia. With a population of more than 2 million, the metropolitan area is the fourth largest in the country.

Perth was founded by Captain James Stirling in 1829. It was the first free-settler colony in Australia established by private capital. The official foundation ceremony took place on 12 August 1829 with the chopping down of a tree. Today a plaque set...  view more

Tour Duration: 2 Hour(s)
Travel Distance: 4.2 Km or 2.6 Miles