Conservation in action: Rum Hospital's verandah and columns

Structural repairs and conservation of the timber verandah and columns of the former ‘Rum Hospital’.

This building was constructed between 1811 and 1816 as the south wing of the general hospital (known as the ‘Rum Hospital’). Along with the central block of NSW Parliament House (the north wing of the former hospital), it is the oldest surviving public building in Sydney's CBD. The simple, symmetrical two-storey design has a colonnaded verandah on both levels. The ground floor verandah and columns were constructed of stone and the first-floor verandah and columns of timber.

Originally providing residential quarters for the assistant surgeon and other staff, the building was later converted with a formal arrangement of additional buildings around a central secure courtyard into the Sydney Branch of the Royal Mint (1854-1926). The Mint site is now the headquarters of the Museums of History NSW.

The building has undergone alterations during its long history. In the late 1970s it was restored by the Government Architect’s Branch Historic Buildings Group. The conservation works included the replacement of the stone columns on the ground-floor verandah and the timber verandah and columns on the first floor. The chinoiserie timber lattice balustrade was also reconstructed, based on documentary and physical evidence.

As part of our capital maintenance program, structural repairs to and conservation of the timber verandah and columns are underway. This important heritage work will include the replacement of the column on the south-west corner, the repair of deteriorated column and verandah sections, and the repainting of all columns with a traditional linseed ‘sand paint’. This type of paint was traditionally used in the late 19th century to simulate the appearance of stone.

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Maria Elena Ruggeri

Maria Elena Ruggeri

Senior Heritage Project Officer

Maria Elena is the Senior Heritage Project Officer, Capital Works at MHNSW. While studying, Maria Elena developed a great interest in the history and evolution of architecture, as well as the complexity of caring for built heritage: ‘Conservation became my focus. As a young professional I worked in the Instituto del Patrimonio Cultural, a government institution that promotes, guides and fosters cultural heritage in Venezuela. I worked as an assistant architect on the adaptive re-use of an 18th-century villa to become the institution’s headquarters. I’m an advocate for the re-use of heritage architecture when it prolongs a building’s life’.