Fremantle Stuff > buildings > Dalgety building tour

Dalgety Building tour

The 1902 Dalgety Building, aka Elder building, Wilhemsen building, Barwil House, and now MSC Building, on the corner of Cliff and Phillimore Streets was designed by J.J. Talbot Hobbs, the land having been purchased from Perth Mayor George Shenton between 1886 and 1888. A photo of the first buildings on the site shows the Shenton house complex, including stables.

Its ownership was transferred in 1927 to the agribusiness Elder Smith & Co and became known as the Elder Building. During WW2 it was requisitioned by the Australian Navy as its administration and intelligence headquarters. It housed the Norwegian shipping company, Wilhelmsen Line, for 23 years and more recently Challenger TAFE. Ale Nominees sold it to the current investment syndicate in 2002. It is now occupied by the Mediterranean Shipping Company.

The September meeting of the Fremantle History Society was a tour of the 1902 Dalgety building, the offices of the Mediterranean Shipping Company, in a complex which now include Murray Slavin’s new building at 11 Cliff St. We were very fortunate to have not only MSC manager James Granville, but also Murray Slavin himself, with Stuart Neal from his office. Between the three of them, with convenor Greg Luke, they provided a wealth of information about the building complex. Here are some photos from the event of 16 September 2017.

The group waits outside 11 Cliff St for the 0950 opening.

We were allowed in at 0950 and the door locked behind us at 1000. That's now the main entrance to the building complex.

After a few minutes inside, we were ushered out again for some reason, to hear some introductory stuff we could have heard better inside, as the traffic was quite busy in Cliff St on a Saturday morning. Also we all had to cross the road twice. That's Stuart Neal addressing the group with the Fremantle Ports building in the background.

This is the boardroom, at the top of the building, in the former roof space.

There was an audio-visual presentation prepared for us in the boardroom, showing the condition of the building before and during renovation.

Put our arm down, Big Al!


That's Stuart Neal again, with Murray Slavin on the other side of the screen.

This is one of the artworks on the wall of the boardroom ... well, an enlarged reproduction of an artwork. I doubt that it's the original - which I believe is in the Mitchell Library in Sydney. It's A Panorama of the Swan River Settlement 1830-32, by Jane Currie.

One of the windows on the third level which are a feature looking up from the street. This one is looking north. That's the former weighbridge down there, at the entrance to South Wharf (Victoria Quay). This is in one of the three small meeting areas just off the boardroom.

The same window, but this time including the Ports building, to show the relationship between the two.

Off the boardroom are three smaller meeting areas. This is the one that is right in the corner of the building. The photo shows two of the three windows. Murray Slavin raised the floor in this area so that the view could be seen from a sitting position.

The third of the windows, on the right, looking down Phillimore Street.

Back to the first of the three windows, from which the Fremantle Ports building may be seen (again).

And, in the third of the meeting areas, the second round window, looking east this time. That's the German consulate (Tarantella's - at 5 Mouat St) spire in the top right corner. The flag is the one always flying on the top of Steamship Buildings.

Across Cliff St is Atlas Chambers, 6-8 Cliff St, with its curious pyramidal roof, and which has had various owners, including the Helpman family 1855-81.

MSC manager James Granville showing a model sailing ship to committee-member Fay Campbell, and another visitor.

I didn't inquire about the ship. It seems to be called France II.

Ruth Belben looking at an old photo of the port. The building has a large number of old and new photos and also new artworks. There is also a J.J. Talbot Hobbs 'gallery' - it's a corridor - with photos of some of his buildings.

Is this a binnacle? I should have looked through the window. I might have seen a compass.

Looking west, over the air-conditioning units towards the back wall of the former Dalgety's Warehouse and Bond Store, 1901, the first building from the west in both Phillimore and High Streets (1 Phillimore becomes 2 High St). It would also be considered to be in Little High Street, as the entrances to the apartments are on that side. Elder Smith owned it from 1927 until Lionel Samson bought it in 1971. In 1983 it was sold and later converted into apartments: those are their aircon units you can see on the roof.

One level up from the boardroom, so at a fourth level, there is a roof terrace, which is not visible from the street. It's not very large and has a fixed table and half a dozen stools, but has pretty good views. This is looking north, past the dome to the Ports building and container cranes.

MSC later put a roof over this terrace, which is quite visible from the north side of Phillimore Street and has a markedly deleterious effect on the streetscape.


I call it The Lunchbox, as it would provide shelter for MSC employees having lunch up there. Murray Slavin has made it clear it was not part of his plans. It is deprecated by other architects who have commented, and by the Fremantle Society, and by blogger Roel Loopers.

Looking east, you can see a bit of the deck floor in the foreground, and the railing - obviously - and there's Tarantella's spire again.

Looking a bit south of east to show one corner of Fremantle Hotel, with the hospital in the distance.

Phillimore Street from the roof terrace.

Looking southwest from the roof terrace, see again the air-conditioning plant, and a glimpse of a bit of the Round House in the distance.

The tables (and stools which you can't see) on the roof terrace. Murray Slavin is explaining what Muntz metal is, because the 'tiles' - if that's the right word - on the dome are made of this. I asked if it was copper, because it's a bit green (cuprous oxide) but it's copper alloy.

Note that there is no roof over this space. It was added to what I call the Lunchbox by MSC after the architect had finished his work and handed the building over.

Yet another meeting room. We're back on the ground now, with Cliff St outside.

Looking at the eastern side of the main shipping chamber. That plastic structure on the left was described by Murray Slavin as an 'airlock'. Behind are the original main doors of the building, right on the corner of Cliff and High Streets. Apparently it's a bit breezy in winter, so air ingress is controlled.

Looking at the eastern side of the main shipping chamber. This has looked like this (minus the computer screens) since it was occupied by the Dalgety company from 1902.

Still in the main Dalgety chamber, looking at the northwest corner ...

... and the southwest corner.

Staircase just inside from the main chamber. That's the only stained glass I can remember seeing in the building.

At 1100 on Saturday morning, there was one employee actually working in the building, and he had to put up with a tour going on around him.

I pointed out to him that the clock was showing the wrong time, in case he was relying on it. He said they were waiting for a replacement battery, which I thought was a bit amusing, given how hi-tech everything else is. When you walk into a room the lights turn on. I happened to go near a printer, and it also turned itself on. Spooky.

References and Links

Back to the Dalgety building page.

Garry Gillard | New: 16 September, 2017 | Now: 8 January, 2020