Grace Building, Sydney

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The exterior of the Grace Building, from York Street
Summit of the neo-Gothic corner tower

The Grace Building is a historic building located in Sydney, New South Wales Australia on York Street. Designed by Morrow & Gordon[1] and built by Kell & Rigby[2] during the late 1920s, it was opened in 1930 by Grace Brothers, the Australian department store magnates, as their headquarters. "The building was designed to use the first two storeys in the manner of a department store. The remaining storeys were intended to provide rental office accommodation for importers and other firms engaged in the softgoods trade".[3] Inspired by the neo-Gothic Tribune Tower in Chicago—headquarters of the Chicago Tribune[4]—the building was of the Art Deco architectural style and had state-of-the-art innovations and facilities for the time.

The Grace Building has served various purposes since its opening; it was sublet to the Australian Commonwealth government in the early 1940s and later became the Sydney headquarters of the U.S. armed forces under General Douglas MacArthur during the Pacific War. After World War II, it continued to be used for government administration purposes[1] and was compulsorily acquired by the Commonwealth in November 1945.[3]

Extensive renovation and restoration during the 1990s resulted in the return of many of the building's original features, including light fittings, lifts, stairwells, high pressed-metal ceilings, marble floors, wide hallways, and elegant decorative ironwork. The Grace Building was listed on the Register of the National Estate in 1980[5] and placed on the NSW State Heritage Register in 1999[3] The building was purchased for redevelopment in 1995 by the Low Yat Group of Malaysia.[6] Since June 1997, it has operated as a luxury hotel known as "the Grace Sydney".


The Broadway Grace Bros. store in the 1930s

Sydney had become Australia's largest and most populous city by the early 1900s, thus assuming its position as Australia's leading financial city and one of the most prosperous cities in the Asia-Pacific region. The First World War had since ended and Australia's immigration was high–with many of its settlers choosing Sydney as their home. It was constructed as a headquarters and department store for the Grace Bros. chain, who had a long and illustrious history of serving Sydney, particular its upper class gentry. Founded by English immigrants Albert Edward and Joseph Neal Grace, in 1885, the first Grace Bros. store was a modest building located on George Street. After their accenting to power, a major store was opened on Broadway, outside of the central business district.

The Tribune Tower in Chicago, Illinois heavily influenced the architecture of the Grace Building.

In 1926, the Grace brothers purchased a block of land on the corner of York, Clarence and King Street, on which the "jewel crown" of their business empire would be built. They believed the site was perfectly positioned for the building that they planned would become "The Showpiece of the Company", with new public transport routes and the coming Sydney Harbour Bridge turning York and Clarence Streets into the major city thoroughfares that they are today. Company letterhead billed the building as being "...on the Harbour Bridge Highway." Broadway, location of the other Grace Bros. building, had been affected by the shift of the city's commercial district toward Circular Quay in the 1920s and the changing public transport routes away from Sydney's South end, and so the Grace Building would become the company's saviour. The Grace Building was officially opened by Sydney Lord Mayor Ernest Marks on 3 July 1930. Its designed was heavily influenced by the Chicago's Tribune Tower, another remnant of 1930s art deco architecture in the United States.

York Street, however, did not become the shopping thoroughfare the Grace Brothers had envisaged and, combined with the effects of the Great Depression of the 1930s, the building never lived up to expectations. By the onset of the Second World War Grace Bros. was experiencing difficulty in leasing office suites[3] and much of the space was allocated to government departments. In 1943 the Grace Building was requisitioned under national security regulations by the Federal Government for use as headquarters by the Supreme Commander of allied forces in the south-west Pacific, General Douglas MacArthur. In 1945, the Grace Building was compulsorily acquired by the Commonwealth. In 1995, it was purchased by the Low Yat Group of Kuala Lumpur for adaptive reuse as a 382-room hotel, opening in 1997.[7] It remains a hotel to this day.


See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b Grace Building at State Library of NSW. Retrieved 9 December 2010
  2. ^ Gentleman of the building trade Obituary, Alan Kell, 1920-2008, in Sydney Morning Herald, 29 September 2008
  3. ^ a b c d "Grace Building". NSW Environment & Heritage. October 28, 2011. Retrieved December 26, 2016. 
  4. ^ Manuscripts, oral history and pictures Catalogue entry at State Library of NSW
  5. ^ Entry in Australian Heritage Database
  6. ^ Chronology of the Grace Building at Teaching Heritage, NSW Government
  7. ^ "Chronology of the Grace Building" at Teaching Heritage, NSW Government

Further reading[edit]

External links[edit]

Coordinates: 33°52′08″S 151°12′21″E / 33.868923°S 151.205853°E / -33.868923; 151.205853