Rum Hospital verandah conservation update

Published on Wednesday 24 January 2024

MHNSW is pleased to report that stage 1 of the conservation works on the verandah of the former Rum Hospital building (1811–16) at The Mint has been completed.

Over the past three months since October 2023, the project team, consisting of MHNSW staff and a team of specialised contractors and consultants has worked arduously in challenging conditions to complete the complex remediation works that have seen four original columns spliced, 17 joists replaced, seven bays of balustrades repaired, gutters and downpipes remediated, and a new fascia, perimeter floorboards and soffit boards installed.

All of the columns and the fascia, parapet, gutters, downpipes and soffit have now been painted with a custom-made sand paint that will ensure the protection of the timber elements while giving them the appearance of stone. This paint system was widely used in the 19th century to obtain a homogenous appearance on colonial facades.

The team has swiftly moved on to the second and final stage of the project, which will involve similar works to repair the central section of the verandah. We will provide further updates on the project as it nears completion, and look forward to eventually uncovering this distinctive element of the early colonial building.

A short history

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 central business district. 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 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.

View of the Mint building from Macquarie Street

The Mint

Formerly the ‘Rum Hospital’ – oldest surviving public building in Sydney’s CBD

Gadigal Country

The Mint

Exterior of white-painted two storey building with verandahs.

Conservation in action: Rum Hospital's verandah and columns

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