Sydney Architecture Images- Gone but not forgotten

Farmer's Victoria House


John Horbury Hunt


Pitt Street,


Built- 1874  Demolished-


Victorian Free Gothic


Rendered brick Stone


The photograph above shows an exterior of Farmer and Company’s department store, Victoria House in Pitt Street, Sydney. The architect was Canadian born John Horbury Hunt, a founding member of the local Society for the Promotion of Architecture and Fine Art, forerunner of the Institute of Architects of New South Wales. According to the Australian Dictionary of Biography, Hunt’s architecture was marked by power, character and the use of revealed ‘natural’ materials. His skill with timber and brickwork was particularly outstanding and he was a master of complexity of form and asymmetrical balance.
Also according to the ADB, Farmer and Company was a drapery business established in 1839 by Joseph and Caroline Farmer. Located initially opposite the Victoria Theatre in Pitt Street, it expanded into a purpose built department store further south on Pitt Street in 1874. For over a century Farmer & Co. was a leading innovator in Australian retail trading and an important Sydney commercial and social institution: in 1866 it encouraged the Saturday Half Holiday Association and later became the first business house in Australia to close at 1 p.m. on Saturdays. In 1923 the company received Australia’s first commercial broadcasting licence and broadcast as 2FC (Farmer & Co.).
Above- an image from c. 1890 showing the corner of Pitt and Market Streets. This shows the Victoria House building behind the newer Farmers Store (Market Street).
A view of the store’s interior can be seen on the State Library of New South Wales website.
We also made an expedition into Sydney and paid a visit to Farmer’s, where I fitted out myself with some new garments, which I badly wanted, not having been in Sydney for a year before. The said Farmer’s is a most convenient place. It is an immense establishment divided into departments for everything; you can choose a dress, have the material sent to the dressmaking department, where it is made for you in the best fashion; go to another for a mantle, another for a bonnet, another for underclothes; another large room for carpets and upholstery, and all the very best that can be had in Sydney. It is a wonderful save of time and trouble.

Rachel Henning, February 17, 1875 from The Letters of Rachel Henning, Edited by David Adams, Penguin, Sydney, 1977