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Adaptive re-use and the Whiteman commercial buildings in Camden NSW

The wonderful Victorian colonial building that was once the Whiteman’s General Store has had a new lease of life through the Burra Charter principle of adaptive re-use. There are has been a continuous retail shopping presence on the same site for over 135 years.

While the building has also had new work and restoration it is a good  example of how a building can be adaptively re-used for commercial activities without destroying the integrity of the buildings historic character and charm.

Camden Whitemans Store 1923 CIPP
The Whiteman General Store in 1923 who were universal providers of all sorts of goods to town and country folk alike across the Camden district from Menangle to Burragorang Valley. The store would deliver to your door in town just like parcels purchased online today. (Camden Images)

 

Adaptive re-use maintains the historic character of the streetscape and the sense of place that is so important to community identity, resilience and sustainability.

Adaptive re-use is not new and has been going on for a long time.  In Europe buildings that are hundreds of years old continual go through the process of re-use century after century.

 

The Tower of London – a building with an amazing history of adaptive re-use

The Tower of London has been re-used over the centuries since the White Tower was constructed by William the Conqueror in 1066 as a fortress and gateway to the city.

Over the centuries the Tower of London complex has been a royal residence, military storehouse, a prison, place of royal execution, parliament, treasury, a menagerie, the home of the Royal Mint, a public record office, storage of crown jewels, royal armoury, regimental headquarters, and most recently a centre of tourism.

 

London Tower of London 2006 PPikous-Flckr
The Tower of London has gone through many changes of usage across the centuries. (P Pikous, 2006)

 

Adaptive re-use in Australia

In Australia adaptive re-use of historic buildings comes under the Burra Charter which defines the principles and procedures followed in the conservation in Australian heritage places.

The Burra Charter accepts the principles of the ICOMOS Venice Charter (1964) and was adopted in 1979 at a meeting of ICOMOS in 1979 at the historic town of Burra, South Australia.

The Burra Charter has been adopted by heritage authorities across Australia – Heritage Council of NSW (2004).

Adaptive re-use is covered by Article 21 of the Burra Charter and states:

Article 21. Adaptation 21.1 Adaptation is acceptable only where the adaptation has minimal impact on the cultural significance of the place. 21.2 Adaptation should involve minimal change to significant fabric, achieved only after considering alternatives.

The explanatory notes says:

Adaptation may involve additions to the place, the introduction of new services, or a  new use, or changes to safeguard the place.  Adaptation of a place for a new use is often referred to as ‘adaptive re-use’ and should be  consistent with Article 7.2.

 

Other countries and adaptive re-use

In other countries there are legal enforcement of re-use of historical buildings and precincts.

In Irish planning, a conservation ensemble is known as an Architectural Conservation Area (ACA). ACA status provides statutory protection to existing building stock and urban features, and applies strict design and materials standards to new developments. Protections prohibit works with negative impacts on the character of buildings, monuments, urban design features, open spaces and views.

The architectural principles of adaptive re-use can be contested and contentious within communities.

The objectives of ensemble-scale heritage conservation can be highly political – sense of place, ownership of space and local politics come together in this process.

 

Reasons for adaptive re-use for historic buildings

Architects advance a number of reasons why historic buildings should be adaptively re-used. They include

  • Seasoned building materials are not even available in today’s world. Close-grained, first-growth lumber is naturally stronger and more rich looking than today’s timbers. Does vinyl siding have the sustainability of old brick?
  • The process of adaptive reuse is inherently green. The construction materials are already produced and transported onto the site.
  • Architecture is history. Architecture is memory.

[Craven, Jackie. “Adaptive Reuse – How to Give Old Buildings New Life.” ThoughtCo, May. 22, 2018, thoughtco.com/adaptive-reuse-repurposing-old-buildings-178242]

 

Whiteman commercial building

The Whiteman family conducted a general store in Argyle Street on the same site for over 100 years.

Camden Whitemans General Store 86-100 Argyle St. 1900s. CIPP[1]
Camden Whiteman’s General Store, 86-100 Argyle Street, Camden c1900s. The customer would go the a wide-wooden-shop-counter with their list of requisites and receive personal service from a male shop assistant who would fill their order. (Camden Images)

In 1878 CT (Charles Thomas) Whiteman, who operated a family business in Sydney, brought produce to Camden. He purchased a single storey home at the corner of Argyle and Oxley Street and ran his store from the site. (SHI) In 1878 a fire destroyed the business.

CT Whiteman was previously a storekeeper in Goulburn and Newtown and later married local Camden girl Anne Bensley in 1872. Whiteman, was a staunch Methodist, and  was an important public figure in Camden and served as the town’s first mayor from 1892 to 1894.

CT Whiteman moved to premises in Argyle Street in 1889 occupied by ironmonger J Burret.  Whiteman modified the building for a shopfront conversion.   (SHI)   The store was later leased to the Woodhill family from 1903 to 1906.

Camden Whiteman Bldg Tenant Woodhills General Store c1906
The Whiteman’s commercial building was leased by the Woodhill family as a general store for a number of years after Federation. A coach service like the one in the image plied a daily service between Camden and Yerranderie leaving at the corner of Argyle and John Street run by the Butler family. (Camden Images)

 

From 1889 to 1940 the building was known as the Cumberland Stores. The store supplied groceries, drapery, men’s wear, boots and shoes, farm machinery, hardware, produce and stationery. (Gibson, 1940)

The original Argyle Street building was an early timber verandahed Victorian period store.

The building was a two-storey rendered masonry building with hipped tile roof, projecting brick chimneys. The second storey had painted timber framed windows which were shaded by a steeply pitched tile roof awning supported on painted timber brackets.(SHI)

A two-storey addition was constructed in 1936 and the verandah posts were removed in 1939 when this policy was implemented by Camden Municipal Council.

There were later shopfront modifications to the adjacent mid-20th century façade street-frontage which included wide aluminium framed glazing and awning to the ground level of the building. (SHI)

The Whiteman’s General Store sold a variety of goods  and became one of the longest-running retail businesses  in Camden.

 

Camden Whitemans Store 1978[1] CIPP
By 1978 Whiteman’s General Store had undergone a number of extensions and provided a range of goods from mens and boys wear to haberdashery. Produce, hay and grain for local farmers could be obtained at the rear of the store from the Hill Street entrance. The mid-20th century building extension is to the left of the image. Upstairs were a number of flats that were leased out to local folk. (Camden Images)

The Whiteman’s Store was trading as Argyle Living when it closed in 2006 under the control of Fred Whiteman. On the store’s closure the Whiteman family had operated on the same site in Camden for 123 years.

On the closure of Argyle Living the store sold homewares, clothing, furniture and a range of knickknacks and was the largest retail outlet in Camden with 1200 square metres of space.

 

Current usage of the Whiteman’s commercial building

After 2007 the building was converted, through adaptive re-use, to an arcade with several retail outlets and professional rooms on the ground floor, with a restaurant and other businesses upstairs.

Camden Whitemans Going Upstairs (at Freds) 2018 IWillis
Image Going Upstairs (at Freds) to the restored rooms that were once small flats and accommodation above the men’s wear downstairs. The first restaurant was developed by David Constantine called Impassion in 2005. David said, ‘I like to think we are just caretakers for a while. I’ll treat it well and ensure it’s here for someone else’s lifetime’. (I Willis, 2018/Camden History, September 2007)

 

Camden Whiteman Bldg Upstairs (at Freds) 2018 IWillis
The old flats Upstairs [at Freds] in the Whiteman’s building has been converted into a restaurant and performance space. This conversion was originally completed in 2005 by restauranter David Constantine of Impassion. Here Lisa DeAngeles is entertaining a small and enthusiastic crowd in the room in the restaurant Upstairs at Freds. The front verandah is out through the doors to the left of the room. (I Willis, 2018)

The building has largely retained its integrity, and its historic character and delight in the town’s business centre.

The Whiteman’s commercial building adds to the mid-20th century streetscape that still largely characterises the Camden town centre and attracts hordes of day-trippers to the area.

 

Camden Whiteman's Building Upstairs (at Freds) 2018 IWillis
A quiet function room with an historic flavour in the restored area Upstairs at Freds. The scenes on the left show the Australia Light Horse Infantry on a forced from the Menangle ALH Camp in 1916 marching down Argyle Street Camden past Whiteman’s General Store. The image on right in the Whiteman’s General Store in 1923. (I Willis, 2018)

 

 

Camden Whitemans Building 2018 IWillis
The Camden Whiteman’s building shown here from the street frontage in Argyle Street. The building has undergone adaptive re-use in accordance with the Burra Charter (ICOMOS) and continues to be busy retail outlet as it has done since the Victorian days. This means that there has been a retail outlet continuously occupying this site for over 135 years. The current building usage continues to contributed the delight and charm of the Camden town centre that attracts thousands of tourist every year. (I Willis, 2018)

 

Learn more:

State Heritage Inventory

Julie Wrigley, ‘Whiteman family’. The District Reporter, 8 December 2017.

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