The demolition of the Menzies Hotel in the Sydney CBD has uncovered two painted signs on the next-door building, Shell House, that have been hidden from view for more than half a century and hark back to a time when the city was emerging as a centre for business.
But Sydneysiders wanting to catch a glimpse of the two giant painted ‘Shell’ signs on the side of 2-12 Carrington Street should get in quick – they are set to disappear again when Brookfield Partners starts construction of its 27-storey Wynyard Place tower on the old hotel site, which is due to be complete in 2019.
Demolition works on the site are set to reach footpath level by August, according to Brookfield’s building arm, Multiplex.
Shell House was completed in 1938 and is listed on State Heritage Register. It is unclear whether the signs were a feature of the original building or a later addition.
“This was the fifth building erected by Shell Oil Co in an Australian capital city. It was considered to be one of the finest of the series,” the building’s entry on State Heritage Register reads.
“Designed by Spain & Cosh and constructed by Howie Moffat and Co, work actually commenced in 1930 with the excavation of the site. The project resumed in 1937 after some years of inactivity, and was completed in 1938. Shell occupied the upper levels down to the fifth floor, the basement (carpark) and lower ground floor (staff dining room).”
The building was converted to a hotel in 1979 when it was acquired by the neighbouring Menzies Hotel (which opened in 1963), with hallways constructed to connect the two buildings cutting into the giant Shell lettering.
A spokesperson for the NSW Department of Planning confirmed that the lettering would be removed as part of the Wynyard Place development.
“The approved development allows the new building to be integrated with Shell House which would result in the removal of the Shell signage,” the spokesperson said.
“While the former Shell House building is listed as an item with ‘local heritage significance’ under the Sydney Local Environment Plan, this listing does not specifically include the signage.”
Shell Australia’s head of media relations Paul Zennaro said the company had continued using the building until some time in the 1960s or ’70s when it consolidated its Sydney workforce at its Rosehill refinery, near Parramatta.
Mr Zennaro said Shell House was an important reminder of how significant Shell had been to the growth of Australian business.
“Shell has operated right across Australia since 1901 and there are lots of sites like this across Australia. We’re obviously very proud of the role we’ve played in Australia’s economic development and we hope people enjoy seeing this nostalgic piece of branding.”
The signs have been gradually revealed over the past few months as the former Menzies south wing was demolished. Photo: Multiplex
The Wynyard Place development, as well as constructing the 27-storey office tower, will restore the Shell House building.
Sydney’s skyline may be a swathe of glowing neon corporate signage now, but during Shell House’s heyday it was common for big companies to paint their logos or advertising on the side of their headquarters.
Meriton’s redevelopment of its site at 230 Sussex Street into a hotel and residential apartments recently uncovered a sign for J Walder’s camping equipment on the next-door building.
The J. Walder sign at 230 Sussex Street, Sydney. Photo: Google Maps
It is unclear whether the sign will be retained as part of the new development, although indicative plans by Meriton show that residents will be able to view the side of the heritage-listed building via a glass wall.
Renderings for Meriton’s proposed redevelopment at 230 Sussex Street. Photo: Supplied
And the area around Wynyard station isn’t without its own hidden relics.
Last year a set of steps leading to nowhere were uncovered underneath the station and caused a sensation on social media.
The steps, since covered up again, were hidden from view for more than 50 years.
Stairs hidden since 1958 have been revealed at Wynyard Station. Photo: Transport for NSW