(15/3/17) $3.1m Fremantle Town Hall restorations nearing completion
With conservation works nearing completion, scaffolding will gradually be removed over the coming weeks to reveal the Fremantle Town Hall’s exterior in all its original splendour – much as it looked 130 years ago in 1887 when first unveiled.
The $3.1m works—which began in May 2016 and were extended into this year after specialist contractors found additional critical restoration work was required—included major structural repairs, a new slate roof with improved drainage and the refurbishment of the clock, which was taken apart to be cleaned and serviced.
“The town hall restoration project is the largest conservation project we’ve ever undertaken and is the first stage in the transformation of Kings Square into a community and civic space we can all be proud of,” said Fremantle Mayor Brad Pettitt, who is also a member of the Heritage Council of Western Australia.
“Throughout the restoration we’ve been very careful to respect the original intention for the town hall to look like a high-quality, finely-detailed stone building. This has involved removing the external paint which has been slowly suffocating the town hall since the 1960s to reveal its unique stucco finish, with natural variations in colour and texture that form part of this.
“The end result will see the town hall not only look like it did in 1887, but also function like it was intended to, with the walls being able to ‘breathe’ again for the first time in decades to absorb and then expel moisture and salt.
“It may look a bit different than what we’re used to seeing in modern times, but up until 1965 this is what people would have known the town hall as looking like. By doing this vital work we’ve ensured the town hall will be around for the next 130 years and beyond for future generations to enjoy.
“We’re totally committed to conserving and sensitively adapting Fremantle’s heritage buildings to underpin our future as a vibrant 21st century city where heritage and modern buildings coexist and complement each other,” Mayor Pettitt said.
About the town hall restoration
Before current restorative works were undertaken it had been almost thirty years since the last major capital expenditure on the Fremantle Town Hall.
Since mid-2016 a large team of skilled stonemasons, plasterers, lead workers and slate roofers with specialist traditional skills have transformed the exterior of the town hall building using traditional building methods.
Key elements such as the roof cladding and drainage systems needed to be replaced urgently to protect the building from ongoing deterioration prevent the loss of culturally significant features and address concerns about public safety.
Gutters and downpipes were too small to cope with current extreme weather events and have led to ongoing damage to the interior of the building. These elements have all been enlarged.
There were also ongoing issues caused by inappropriate surface treatments and repairs to masonry elements carried out in the1950s–60s. At this time there was little understanding of best practice conservation which had unfortunately led to the ongoing deterioration of masonry, embedded steel and timbers and decorative stucco work in the town hall.
During the works, it was discovered some inaccessible parts of the building were in worse condition than expected and extra works were required. To prevent further deterioration of the building and to make use of scaffolding already in place for the current restoration works, it was more efficient and cost effective to complete these additional works now.
Above image: Fremantle Town Hall in 1965 before suffocating paint was applied.