Place Details

Send Feedback

Fremantle Fire Station (former), 18 Phillimore St, Fremantle, WA, Australia

Photographs View Photo Database Record
List Register of the National Estate (Non-statutory archive)
Class Historic
Legal Status Registered (21/03/1978)
Place ID 10505
Place File No 5/12/010/0039
Statement of Significance
The Fremantle Fire Station (former) (1909), designed by Cavanagh and Cavanagh, has rarity value as there are few extant fire stations of the gold boom period (1890-1910) in the Perth metropolis (Criterion B.2). The fire station is a well modulated example of the Federation Free Classical style of public building. It makes a significant contribution to the character of the streetscape and scale of Phillimore Street and to the architectural identity of Fremantle's west end. It is also representative of the turn of the century fire management and civic services practices (Criteria D.2 and E.1). The building is closely associated with the development of Fremantle during the gold boom and demonstrates the increasing technical and cultural sophistication of the development of public services in Fremantle in the early twentieth century (Criterion A.4). The Fremantle Fire Station is also indicative of the provision of civic services in Fremantle. It contributes to the sense of place and identity of Fremantle's west end as the mercantile centre of the port city. The high regard in which it is held by the local community and government was instrumental in the retention of the building in 1977, at a time when it was considered no longer functional by the Fire Brigade (Criterion G.1).
Official Values Not Available
The former Fremantle Fire Station (1908) is a two storey stone, brick and stucco building in Phillimore Street, built to house the Fremantle Fire Brigade. It was built for the Fire Brigade Board. A volunteer fire brigade was formed in Fremantle in the early 1880s and received its first (horse drawn) fire engine from London in 1884. The fire brigade was housed in a fire station on the corner of Croke and Mouat Streets. However, the increasing size of Fremantle and the need for a new and more spacious fire station led to the acquisition of Crown land in Phillimore Street in exchange for the site on Croke and Mouat Streets. The new Fremantle Fire Station was designed by the architectural partnership of Cavanagh and Cavanagh, who had previously designed the Central Fire Station in Murray Street, Perth. The Fremantle Fire Station was designed to house four, horse drawn, vehicles including the district ambulance which was also operated by the firemen. Cavanagh and Cavanagh called for tenders for the new fire station on 29 February 1908. The lowest tender, from Mr J Lake, was accepted at the beginning of April 1908. There was some initial controversy surrounding the building of the fire station because neither the Fire Brigade nor the contractor, Mr Lake, had submitted the plans and specifications of the building to the Fremantle Council for approval, nor applied for permission to proceed prior to beginning work on the foundations. As a result, the Mayor took out a Supreme Court injunction against Mr Lake for breaching the bye-laws. The injunction remained in force for a little over a month until plans were submitted. They were immediately accepted by the City of Fremantle. The foundation stone was formally laid on 19 June, 1908 and the building completed in 1909. The building was constructed of WA Donnybrook freestone, as was the Customs House nearby and the roofing was of imported Marseilles tiles. The fire station was manned with two regular firefighters and twenty volunteers. It boasted twenty-two alarms linked directly to the major buildings in town. There were also fifteen direct telephone lines and ten house emergency call bells connected to the firemen's homes. Within twelve months of operation and in response to the increased danger of fire from the busy wharves and newly built grain silos in Fremantle, WA's first motorised fire tender was purchased by the brigade to cope with any additional fire danger. During World War Two, the building was cleared of firemen and the US Marines took over the building for living quarters. The communications centre remained at the station manned by five local women, but the tenders were housed in the woolsheds alongside the wharves as a security measure. The most significant fire the brigade attended was in 1944, when there was a substantial fire on the wharf and the water, which was covered by oil slicks. By 1974 the building was proving too cramped for modern firefighting equipment. A spokesman for the Fire Brigade Board claimed the fire station had outlived its usefulness for modern firefighting and that, '... the present station was built in the days of the horse and cart. It was too outdated to service the area properly. It had only three fire engines and the men on twenty-four hour standby were living in poor conditions'. At the time the North Fremantle Brigade was in the process of being amalgamated with the Fremantle Brigade and therefore the Fire Board sought a suitable central location. The Fire Brigade Board proposed to demolish the existing fire station and to build a new complex on the site, but the City of Fremantle backed by a concerted public campaign, wanted the old building retained and suggested the new station be built elsewhere. The adjacent vacant site was ideal for the new fire station, except for a railway siding behind the back fence, which would prevent expansion northwards. WA Government Railways (WAGR) agreed to relocate the siding to accommodate the new fire station on condition that the existing fire station was retained. In 1977, the new fire station opened, next door. The former fire station was vested in the City of Fremantle in the same year and then leased to Agnew Brockway, real estate agents and Robin McK Campbell, a Fremantle conservation architect, on condition that the place be conserved. The lessees established commercial offices on the upper floor of the building and sub-let the large downstairs area to a restaurateur. This re-use of the building has conserved the interior and exterior of the building.
Sited on the western side of Phillimore Street the two storey stone, brick and stucco building is designed in the Federation Free Classical style. The Fremantle building is of a symmetrical design, consisting of a low horizontal body flanked by two slightly projecting shallow gabled wings. This was a formal composition favoured by Michael Cavanagh for many of his institutional buildings, including the Convent of Mercy, Bunbury, St Joseph's Boys School, Clontarf and even the Orient Hotel, Fremantle. The horizontality of the building is emphasised by the rendered rustication of the ground floor, the red Flemish bond brickwork on the upper floor, a contrasting rendered frieze and the strong dentils below the shallow pitch of the Marseilles tiled roof. The symmetry of the design is reinforced by rendered architraves to the upper storey windows and decorative soffits to a first floor string dado. There is a small wrought iron balcony projecting over the entrance, at the southern end of the facade which, although not repeated at the opposite end, does not detract from the symmetry of the facade. Decoration to the building is modest, consisting of foliage and scroll work, incorporating the initials FBB on the southern pediment and a fireman's helmet on the northern pediment. The architraves surrounding the windows enliven the facade, providing rhythm and balance to the upper storey, while the rusticated treatment of the ground storey and the recessed doorways convey an impression of strength. The building is roofed with Marseilles tiles and decorated with terracotta finials and ridge crestings. Internally little of the fabric has been changed. The ground floor ceiling is high, to accommodate the fire trucks and this necessitated a steep staircase to the upper floor. The ground floor walls are tiled to the dado. A fireman's pole links the first floor with the ground floor.
History Not Available
Condition and Integrity
The Fremantle Fire Station (former) is in sound condition. (1996)
18 Phillimore Street, Fremantle.
Apperly, R., Irving, R., Reynolds, P., (1989) A Pictorial Guide to Identifying Australian Architecture, Styles and Terms from 1788 to the Present (Angus and Roberston, North Ryde) pp. 104-107.
Australian Heritage Commission Data Sheet
City of Fremantle Local History Collection.
Emmett, S., 'The day the water caught fire' Fremantle Gazette 20 February 1990. p. 27.
Fremantle Council Minutes, 30 April 1908, item 5.
Fremantle Council Minutes, 4 May 1908, item 4.
Fremantle Council Minutes 18 May 1908, item 2.
Fremantle Gazette, 29 July 1977, p. 1.
Fremantle Gazette, 14 February 1980, p. 4.
National Trust Assessment Form
The W. A. Mining, Building and Engineering Journal, 29 February 1908, p. 19.
The W.A. Mining, Building and Engineering Journal, 28 March 1908 p. 20.
The W.A. Mining, Building and Engineering Journal, 2 May 1908, p. 19.
West Australian, 17 January 1974.

Report Produced  Fri Oct 3 01:40:55 2014