Kingsclere is a Federation Free Style residential apartment building designed by architects Halligan and Wilton and built in 1912. It dates from one of the key periods of the development of Potts Point as a result of the subdivision of the Greenknowe Estate. Kingsclere was the first block of high-rise apartments to be built on Macleay Street and among the first in Sydney. It was also the first to introduce the US style of building to the site's boundaries.
The building is constructed of face brickwork with sandstone detailing, particularly for balcony corbels, horizontal banding, cartouches in the gables and some lintels. It has timber double hung windows and timber paneled doors. The building is symmetrical and divided into bays featuring recessed balconies, and gabled parapets to corner "towers".
The developer had visited New York around the turn of the century when many older buildings were being replaced by modern brick high rises. He had observed the building techniques they were using and brought some of them back to use on Kingsclere. In order to reduce the weight of the inner structure of the building, for example, lightweight walls were used, with some constructed of metal mesh with an outer layering of plaster which simply sat on the respective apartment's floor, and some using hollow terracotta blocks. The metal mesh was imported from the US.
The building was designed to accommodate 17 apartments, with each apartment featuring 6 rooms plus kitchen, pantry, two bathrooms, lavatories and linen, cooks’ and housemaids’ cupboards. It has a wide cedar main stair. The basement originally included a caretaker’s residence, servants’ bedrooms and stores, which were eventually re-developed as an apartment. (Building, December 12, 1912, p64) There is an internal light well featuring a steel fire escape. The current porte cochere is not original and obscures some carved stonework on the face of the building. It was probably installed to protect the original inhabitants from the weather while they waited for their cars to pick them up.
The building featured the latest technology when first built. It had "telephonettes" (i.e., intercoms), electric lighting and power throughout, parquet floors, and bakelite power points and switches. The idea for a cinema under the roof was rejected as a fire risk. Originally the building had a single caged lift. This was replaced in the late 1920s with the current two automatic lifts.
The site was originally part of a 54 acre land grant to Alexander Macleay in 1831 which included Elizabeth Bay House constructed in 1839. This land was progressively subdivided and by 1869 an estate with a frontage to Macleay Street, of around 3 acres, was owned by Frederick Dangar who constructed a house known as "Greenknowe" which remained until further subdivision in 1908. In 1910 the lots where Kingsclere stands were transferred to Herbert Binnie who then mortgaged the site to construct the current building in 1912. It was designed for an exclusive market, including features such as two balconies and two bathrooms for each unit, luxurious wood paneling and automatic passenger lifts.
"Among the advantages provided by its location on the Potts Point ridge was a 'panoramic view of the harbour, Botany, Cronulla, Manly and as far as the Blue Mountains...' Also significant were the 'Profit Possibilities of Tall Buildings'. Kingsclere 'was let with a guaranteed return of 10 per cent, almost from its beginning. All its floors cover the same rental value.'"
Other subdivisions in the area "also produced advertisements proclaiming Kings Cross as the 'Great Apartment District, suitable for Flats, Boarding Houses etc where the upper floors will have Unsurpassed Views of the City and Harbour, and in the immediate vicinity of Palatial Flat & Apartment Buildings, such as KINGSCLERE'". (Butler-Bowden and Pickett)
By 1925 the building was owned by the prominent Albert family of nearby "Boomerang". The Albert family rented out the flats until the building was sold in 1994. It was converted to 17 Strata Title Apartments in May 1995, which were sold to individual owners.
The building is a prominent element in the streetscape and a fine example of a Federation Free Style apartment building, demonstrating many of the key aspects of the style. It is held in high esteem by the local community and is listed as being of significance by other groups such as the RAIA and 20th Century Heritage Society.
Halligan and Wilton were prominent architects in the early 20th century. They designed a number of buildings, including the Dymocks building in George Street, Yeomerry in St Marks Road, Darling Point, the club house of the Royal Sydney Golf Club, and the British Tobacco Factory in Raleigh Park, Kensington.
Kingsclere has been included in Sydney Open, an annual Historic Houses Trust event, in 1997 and 2012, and has been mentioned in numerous publications, including the following:
- Age of elegance. Sydney Morning Herald, Domain section, 19-20 May 2007. (Photo featured on cover page).
- Building, December 12, 1912, p64.
- Cross currents, by Geraldine O'Brien. Sydney Morning Herald, 31 May 2003.
- High life comes out of the closet, by Robert Bevan. Sydney Morning Herald, 3 May 2007.
- High rise has a past too, by Bruce Baskerville. Quarterly Newsletter of the NSW Heritage Office and Heritage Council of NSW: Winter 2000 vol. 7 no.3.
- Homes in the Sky. Apartment Living in Australia, by Caroline Butler-Bowdon and Charles Pickett. The Miegunyah Press, 2007.
- Homes in the Sky, by Caroline Butler-Bowdon and Charles Pickett. Architecture Australia, May/June 2007 (archived by the National Library of Australia).
- Kingsclere, Sydney Open, Historic Houses Trust, 2012.
- Office of Environment and Heritage.
- Our high achievers, by Chris Pearson. Sydney Morning Herald, 20 - 21 March 2010.
- Potts Point real estate snapshot. Richardson & Wrench Elizabeth Bay.
- Sydney Architecture, by Graham Jahn. The Watermark Press, 1997.
- Sydney Architecture (east), Kingsclere - Potts Point. Simon Fieldhouse - Artist.
- Top Floor Unit in Australia’s First High Rise Apartment Block Lists, The Radical Terrace (blog of Kyle Gerrity), 9 July 2012.
- Two ages of living, by Justine Oates. The Daily Telegraph, 1 November 1997.
- Urban Pioneers: Apartment Architects of Kings Cross, 1909 to 2000, The Cross Art Projects exhibition, 23 October 2010.