Sydney sketching : sketching Sydney. Postcode 2044, Marrickville, First Town Hall

July 7, 2011

There’s a lot to be said for taking your sketchbook wherever you go. You never know when it will come in handy!

Here’s an unfinished sketch of Marrickville’s first town hall, built in 1879, at 96-106 Illawarra Road. It’s the oldest surviving civic building in the local area and the current state of restoration points up quite beautifully some nice contrasts in colour, between the dark green of the wooden eaves and the brick red-russet of the cornerstone brickwork and the sandy ochre of the walls.

The building facade looks immaculate in all its restored splendour – it will be hard to ‘rough up’ this image in the finished sketch. I don’t want it ending up looking like a sanitised architectural drawing.

 It was apparently built originally as a single-storey building and was designed by John Michael Despointes, an architect and local brick maker. A second storey was added in 1883, with plans prepared by Blacket & Son Architects. The corner brickwork changes between the ground and first floors, the lower more textured and the higher made more plain.

Within half a century, a new town hall was built in 1922 in Marrickville Road, right on the main high street shopping precinct. This was as a result of the general shift towards the 1881 tramline. 

The first town hall has been occupied since 1922 by various government departments and has mainly served as an educational facility.  Since 2006, it’s been in the hands of the Atlas Hall Pty Ltd as Trustee for The Greek Atlas League of NSW who are in the process of restoring it. This relatively quieter and more secluded part of Marrickville retains something of the original small village feel; nearby are some large Victorian houses, as well as Marrickville Primary School. Just a little to the east, the Sydenham industrial area begins to take hold; we know this was developed as the Tramvale Estate for residential housing in the 1880s prior to the local flash flooding which put an end to residential development there in 1889, with the result that it’s been light industrial all the way over to the high ridge at Sydenham ever since. 

Same architecture as Marrickville Post Office!

What’s really interesting is that if you walk a couple of blocks east to the high street, you come upon the original (though not the first) Marrickville Post Office, at 274A Marrickville Road,  which is in exactly the same architectural style. The treatment of the windows is identical and the Italianate character of the eaves is replicated. While the Post Office will have been built by the Department of Public Works, it’s curious that it’s in exactly the same style as the Town Hall. The Post Office was opened in 1891, less than twenty years after the Town Hall.

There exists a photo of this Town Hall from 1912, complete with postman (letter carrier) and red Street Posting Box, next to an elaborate gaslight,  just outside the building’s white picket fence.


One Response to “Sydney sketching : sketching Sydney. Postcode 2044, Marrickville, First Town Hall”

  1. Rod Says:

    Thank you for your documentation of all these buildings that make up the heritage of our area. Just one change to the information you include in your notes. Contrary to the information provided by the (ex) Marrickville Council on the (ex) Town Hall at 96 Illawarra Road the designer was not John Michael Despointes. Rather, it was John Baptiste Despointes (1849-1934).

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