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Liebler Building facade

The facade of the Liebler Building, 21-29 Cliff St, is also known as that of the Reckitt and Colman building, from the name of the last tenant. It was built for J.A. Liebler in 1880 to be let as offices (see Herald, below). It is between the extant Lionel Samson building and the site of W.F. Samson's 1881-1900 residence (in 2021 an NDU carpark). Liebler apparently shot himself dead in 1881.


After restoration in 2019. Clearly, there were four doorways for four separate offices.


As it was until 2018, with doorways and windows filled in, and decorated with quasi-religious art, and known as the 'Wedding Wall' - because it provided a backdrop for photographers.


The Fremantle Library History Collection gives a rather different history:
Between 1890 and 1895 this facade was constructed in front of some stone cottages (c. 1881), probably to enhance their appearance. However these buildings were demolished in November 1967. The facade is classified by the National Trust. (Fremantle Library photo #1021, 1972.)

Fremantle Society

What follows is an article about the buildings that were previously on the corner of High and Cliff Sts from the Fremantle Society's newsletter (Fremantle) August 1991 issue, pp. 1, 3-5. A note at the end of the article credits 'Des Lambert, formerly of Samsons, for the historical notes for this article'.





Herald 1880:
BUILDERS must be doing well in Fremantle, judging from the number of improvements being made at present. We notice that M. Hgham & Sons are having a fine verandah put up round their store, in High Street. This will not only add to the general appearance of the street, but will also afford pedestrians agreeable shelter in all weathers. The firm are also putting in new plate glass windows which will add greatly to the appearance of the store and premises. In Adelaide Street, Mr. J. A. Liebler has nearly completed three fine cottages. They already present an attractive appearance, and will, when finished, add greatly to that part of the town. Behind the Government stables the same gentleman has erected ten cottages, which rejoice in the name of Queen's Square. It is a good sign of general prosperity in Fremantle when we are able to say that all the thirteen houses are already let at good rentals. In Cliff Street Mr. Liebler is raising a building, which he intends to let for business offices. The building is of stone with brick dressings and will be stuccoed and pointed. The Adelaide and Cliff Street buildings are being erected under the care and direction of Mr. Foreman, who has been careful to see that the work has been well and faithfully done. Herald (Fremantle) Saturday 25 September 1880: 3 (emphasis added).


What the site looked like in late 2016, with the Liebler facade extreme left, and the tramways facade with new apartment complex to the right. Notre Dame University planned to develop the site, with a five-storey building including a theatre, a bar/cafe, and a function centre/exhibition space, but keeping the Liebler facade, but was opposed.

New Uni Plans

Stephen Pollock, Fremantle Herald, 7 October 2016

THE university of Notre Dame is planning a new building on the south west corner of Cliff and High Streets, home of Fremantle’s famous “Wedding Wall”.
They will reveal their plans at an information session on Monday, 3.30pm at Fairweathers, the old Fremantle Hotel diagonally opposite the proposed site.
The university told the Chook it would keep the facade (which is frequently draped in bridal parties lining up for wedding snaps), but were keeping tight-lipped on any other detail.


William Frederick Samson's house was built on the proposed site in 1855.
It was demolished by Elder Smith in 1954 and from 1976 onwards was part of the Marina Village development, and these days the site behind the wall is a carpark.
The Mediterranean Shipping Company recently opened its well-received new HQ on Cliff Street, a few doors down.

Notre Dame Plays Height Hardball

Stephen Pollock, Fremantle Herald, 18 November 2016

NOTRE DAME UNIVERSITY is playing hardball over the height of its planned $17 million nursing and midwifery school in Fremantle’s West End.
Next week the uni will submit a proposal to Fremantle council for a five-storey school at the south-west corner of Cliff and High Streets, despite the town planning scheme only permitting four storeys in the heritage precinct.
When the five storey plan was first unveiled at a public meeting last month, Fremantle mayor Brad Pettitt said the height would be 'challenging' for council, but after consulting with the WA Heritage Council the university has decided to press forward.


'There are very few scenarios where we approve that sort of height in the West End,' says Dr Pettitt. 'But we take every case on its merits and will have to look at how far the fifth storey is set back.
'I know city officers were concerned it could be visible from the street and we’ll need to look at that very closely.'
The upper floors of the planned building will be home to the nursing and midwifery school and the ground floor will include a 200-seat theatre, a small cafe/bar on High Street, and retail on Cliff Street, accessible through the heritage 'Wedding wall' facade.
Notre Dame released its controversial plan on the same day WA heritage minister Albert Jacob announced that Fremantle’s West End would be added to the state heritage register to provide more protection.

References and Links

Heritage Council page

Garry Gillard | New: 2 May, 2016 | Now: 8 December, 2021