Chief Secretary’s Building 121 Macquarie Street Sydney is an historic Sydney landmark. The sandstone building was the seat of colonial administration, has been used continuously by the Government of New South Wales, and even today holds the office of the Governor of New South Wales. Its main occupant is the Industrial Relations Commission of New South Wales; several of the larger rooms are now courtrooms.
Constructed 1873-1880, the building was designed by colonial architect James Barnet. Its style has been called “Venetian Renaissance” as well as Victorian Free Classical. A fifth floor and dome were added in the 1890s by Barnet’s successor Walter Liberty Vernon in the Victorian Second Empire style, as well as an extension south at 50 Phillip Street. Barnet resented the additions, which lessened the resemblance to his model, the 16th-centuryPalazzo Farnese in Rome, completed by Michelangelo after Farnese became Pope Paul III. The dome was originally covered in aluminium in 1895-1896, one of the earliest such uses of this metal in the world.
The building features nine life-size statues (six external and three internal) placed according to the administrative function of three parts of the building. The entrances on three streets are labelled in sandstone, directing visitors to the appropriate section.
- The prestigious 121 Macquarie Street entrance is labelled “Colonial Secretary”. He occupied the North-East corner office on the First Floor (at the time the top floor, now called Level 3). Sandstone sculptures in the building’s exterior personify Mercy, Justice, and Wisdom (top to bottom). Inside stands a marble statue of Queen Victoria.
- The 65 Bridge Street (central) ground floor entrance, one level below, is labelled “Public Entrance”. Inside stands a female figure representing New South Wales, a merino at her foot. The NSW Badge, adopted in 1876, is sculpted above in the pediment.