What was the purpose of this project?

The Fremantle Town Hall required urgent attention to ensure the survival of this important landmark for the enjoyment of future generations.

It also marks the first stage in the transformation of Kings Square into a high quality community and civic space.


Why was the paint on the building removed?

The town hall was unpainted from 1887 to 1965. The paint was removed to allow the walls of the building to 'breathe' and absorb and expel moisture naturally as originally intended.  It also respects the original design intention for the town hall to look like a high-quality, finely detailed stone building.

Like the rest of the building, the swans were unpainted from 1887 to 1965. The paint applied in 1966 damaged the swans by trapping moisture and salts inside them causing the iron structure to rust and expand and crack the stucco. The paint was removed to conserve the swans and will not be replaced.

What work was planned?

The external envelope of the building needed repairing to conserve the existing heritage fabric and protect the interior from further deterioration. This also included cyclic capital works such as replacement of roof cladding, painting external timber and metalwork.

The roof drainage system was historically undersized and required larger gutters, downpipes and stormwater pipes, as well as overflow points for extreme weather events. The amount of moisture entering the external walls of the building needed to be reduced, commonly described as allowing the walls to ‘breathe’.

While the scaffolding was already in place it was a good opportunity to reinstate some decorative items in inaccessible areas such as cast iron finials to turrets and the flag pole.

What was discovered during the project?

Removal of paint from the walls revealed that it had been concealing considerable deterioration, structural cracking and an historic lack of maintenance and repair.

With the support of council the scope of the project was enlarged to address these important conservation issues. Carrying the work out now has resulted in long term cost savings by stopping the rapidly increasing deterioration, taking advantage of the scaffolding and contractor already set up on site and ensuring continuity in craftsmanship.

To find out more attend our free talk “Fremantle Town Hall External Conservation – the inside story” on May 31.

What is the white residue on some parts of the wall surface?

Salt forming on the face of the wall (sometimes called efflorescence) indicates that the removal of paint is succeeding in allowing the walls to breathe and naturally expel trapped moisture and salt. This will protect the building in the future.

It is expected that most salt will have escaped from the walls within 12 months and will be washed off the wall surface by the winter rains. At the end of 12 months some minor repairs to the stucco may be required in particularly badly salt affected areas.

Why was there no work to interior of the town hall or rear wall?

This project did not include an internal refurbishment as the focus was to protect the town hall from moisture and allow trapped moisture in the walls to escape. Once this is completed it will take time for the walls to dry out. Escaping moisture would damage any new work, so carrying out internal work before this has completed is a waste of resources.

The rear wall was not included in this project as it is more efficient and cost effective to conserve this wall after the demolition of the civic (library and administration) building. This will be co-ordinated with the design and construction of the new civic building to provide modern services and improved access that works well with the historic building.

Is the building finish safe from graffiti?

The town hall will be coated with a natural product that still allows the wall to breathe. This is is a sacrificial product, so when the graffiti is removed by steam washing the wall it takes the coating and graffiti with it.  A new coating of anti-graffiti product is than applied. This product is used successfully on the donnybrook stone of the Fremantle War Memorial and the Western Australian Parliament House.