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History House Project

Our History, Our Home

An accessible and sustainable space for local and community history at History House

The RAHS is upgrading facilities at its home, History House, to ensure it remains part of our rich living heritage. This project will add additional spaces, a new lift and improved disability access to our 150-year-old state heritage-listed premises. It will ensure that History House becomes an accessible and sustainable space for local and community history so that the RAHS can continue to provide services to its members and the wider history community.

We are working with award-winning heritage architects Design 5 to deliver this project. Design 5 has a long record of supporting the RAHS, with honorary architect Alan Croker providing building conservation advice since the RAHS acquired the building.

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Learn more about History House

Buildings are an important connection to our city’s aesthetic and cultural history. History House is very much part of the living heritage of Macquarie Street. Built in 1872 to be a Parramatta politician’s home, the last 150 years have seen the building change owners, names and uses.

Below are some insights into the building’s evolution, which will be incorporated into the heritage interpretation of the site.

Portrait of George Mansfield.Architect and Client

Read how architect George Allen Mansfield was commissioned by his politician uncle George Oakes to design ‘a first-class residence’ on Macquarie Street. Read more.

Newspaper headline: Incendiarism extraordinary. A Macquarie Street sensation. 37 fires in one house. Extinguished by brigades. Women in danger. Narrow escapes. An occupant arrested.A Place almost lost to Sydney

In 1889, when the building was a boarding house, it was almost lost to flames. The unsuccessful arsonist was tried and received a sentence of seven years of penal servitude. Read more.

The Gentlemen's Club plaque, located on Macquarie Street in Sydney.A Place for Politics

Discover how a largely forgotten 1889 political corruption scandal was brought to light as part of the research to support a National Heritage List nomination for Macquarie Street. Read more.

Pencil sketch of History House alongside a black and white photograph of History House.A Place for History

Finding a place for history has always been important for the RAHS. The Women’s Auxiliary played a key role in securing the RAHS’s first home in 1941. The RAHS Council’s canny negotiations with a large financial services company helped secure a better second home in 1969. Read more.

Why is the project important?

This project is critical to ensure that History House remains a viable building where the RAHS can deliver services to its members and the wider community.

The project will replace the existing lift, which regularly breaks down and does not comply with current accessibility standards. An extension on the rear 1970s section of the building will provide additional space, which will ensure the financial sustainability of the RAHS. The additional rental income will initially fund the restoration of the 1870s parts of our building.

The project’s core vision is that History House will remain a living place of state heritage significance through continuous conservation and stewardship.

To achieve this vision, the RAHS Council has defined the key objectives and outputs that it will deliver.

What are we currently working on? Construction Certificate

Updated 28 June 2022

The RAHS provides regular updates on what it is currently working on in our e-newsletter.

Our current focus is working with Design 5 to prepare the Construction Certificate. This certificate confirms that the plans and specifications are consistent with the development consent and comply with the Building Code and City of Sydney requirements.

Our preferred builder, A J Bristow and Sons, is working on a revised tender based on updates to the design plans.  He is also getting revised costings from subcontractors and suppliers.

We are also engaging a legal firm specialising in construction to review the building contract.

The RAHS continues to raise funds to support the construction phase of this project. If you have any questions about the project and our fundraising efforts, please contact the RAHS General Manager at executive@rahs.org.au or (02) 9247 8001.

What stages of the project are complete?

The RAHS submitted its development application to City of Sydney on 27 June 2016 after extensive work with architects Design 5 and several specialist consultants. City of Sydney approved the development application on 3 January 2017, with conditions.

The preferred builder was selected in 2020 following preliminary tender documentation. There were then a number of revisions to the design plans, including changes to managing fire safety. City of Sydney approved the development application modification on 22 April 2021. Design 5 prepared a Heritage Impact Statement, highlighting that the proposed works did not pose a threat or compromise the heritage component of History House.

The focus then turned to preparing the construction documentation for final approvals and costings. Consultants provided reports on disability access, fire safety, building services and building codes, which were required with the documentation.

The impact of COVID on the building industry and supply chains has caused additional delays, but we aim to commence the construction phase in 2022.

The project has generated a lot of reports, which are available on the City of Sydney Development Application website. Key reports include the History House Conservation Management Plan (May 2016) and the first Heritage Impact Statement (June 2016), prepared by Design 5 Architects. The History House Conservation Management Plan was funded by a 2015 Heritage Report Grant from the NSW Office of Environment and Heritage. An updated Heritage Interpretation Plan was prepared to be included in the Construction Certificate documentation. This, along with a digital materials sample board, was sent to City of Sydney Council in June 2022 for review.

There are a number of ways that you can help the RAHS fund this project.

Further Resources

Click the images below to learn more about the completed stages of the project.

How can I donate?

Donations can be made to the History House Project online, via EFT/bank transfer or cheque. All donations over $2 are tax-deductible.

EFT/Bank Transfer

Account: RAHS – Building Fund

Bank: Commonwealth Bank

BSB: 062-004

Account number: 1031 4375


Cheques should be made payable to the Royal Australian Historical Society.



You may wish to leave a particular asset, a specified sum of money, or a percentage of the total estate to support the project. If you are considering this option, please contact the Society’s General Manager at executive@rahs.org.au or call (02) 9247 8001.

Image Slideshow

Click on the images below to open a larger view and to read the captions.