The Museum of Perth is lucky enough to be housed in the beautiful Atlas Building, itself a historical gem within the City of Perth located at 8-10 The Esplanade.
The images and research below was compiled by Project Leader Reece Harley and Volunteers of the Museum, proudly supported with funding from Employment Plus.
9 July 1929
The Atlas Assurance Company announces its intention to have its own building in the city of Perth.
The Manager in Western Australia, Mr G E C Strode, stated today that his company recently purchased the property at the corner of the Esplanade and St George's Court, having a frontage to the Esplanade of 46ft by a depth of 110ft for £15,000. Plans are now being completed by Mr F G B Hawkins for the erection of a five-storey building and basement.
These will shortly be forwarded to London, and it is anticipated that the work, costing about £50,000, will be commenced before the end of the year.
The Daily News (Perth, WA : 1882 - 1950),
Tuesday 9 July 1929, page 6
The Atlas Building - A Handsome Facade
The Atlas Assurance Company’s reinforced concrete building, on the corner of St George’s Court and the Esplanade, which was opened by his Excellency the Governor Sir William Campion on Tuesday, is a handsome addition to the architecture of Perth.
The design of the front elevation, which is rather restrained, with an air of dignity and solidity, is a free treatment of Renaissance architecture. A cornice and capitals to the columns are in copper, and in the central feature above the front of the building is the company’s device, Atlas supporting the world.
The building, which was constructed by Messrs Todd Bros, contractors, is thoroughly fire-resisting; the most modern fire fighting appliances have been installed on each floor. All windows are steel framed. Natural lighting is a conspicuous feature, about 75 percent of the outside walls being occupied by windows. Strongrooms are provided for all suites.
The whole of the facade, with the exception of the steel windows, is a Wunderlich production. It is faced with Wunderlich architectural terracotta of a graduated salmon brown tone, mottled with black and white with a tooled surface, with an attractive matt semi-glaze finish. The company’s emblem is also modeled and produced in architectural terracotta, with a nice ivory finish, the figure supporting the globe, being heavy sheet copper. The massive bronze entrance doors, 9 feet wide, by 16 feet high, sheathed and studded, the bronze grilles, the lift cage, the mailbox, the bronze lift doors, the ornamental copper cornice, and the attractive spandril panels are also of Wunderlich manufacture.
28 April 1931
Atlas Assurance Company Opening Ceremony for its new Perth Premise, the Atlas Building
During the proceedings one of the company’s local directors Mr H B Jackson presented his Excellency Colonel Sir William Robert Campion KCMG DSO with a memento in the shape of a gold replica of the Atlas Assurance Company’s emblem with the first insurance policy written in the new building insuring the emblem against all risks.
West Australian (Perth, WA : 1879 - 1954), Wednesday 29 April 1931, page 10
1931, A B Webb’s Art School
Artist Archibald Bertram Webb (1887-1944), was born in England and migrated to Perth in 1915. Webb worked as a commercial artist and as an art master at Perth Technical School. Among his students were Hal Missingham, Ivor Hunt, Edith Trethowan and Beatrice Darbyshire. He taught fine arts at the University of Western Australia (1927-1932), succeeded Linton as head of the art department at Perth Technical School in 1932 and exhibited with the Perth Society of Artists. In January 1937 the A B Webb School of Art opened in the basement of the Atlas Building, where he continued to teach and show his work until his death.
Classes will be held at the school from 10 am to noon, from 2 pm to 4 pm and from 7 pm to 9 pm, on Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays, and there will be a special class for school children on Saturdays, from 10 am to noon. Tuition will be given in elementary drawing (freehand, light and shade, perspective), Still life drawing, fashion drawing, commercial art, advanced poster design, landscape painting, and lino cutting.
West Australian (Perth, WA : 1879 - 1954), Friday 29 January 1931, page 16
‘Mr Horace Benson Jackson Injured’
Mr H B Jackson KC opened the lift door yesterday intending to proceed to his office on the third floor of the Atlas Buildings. The lift, however, was not at that floor, and Mr Jackson, who lost his balance, fell down the lift well. He suffered a fractured pelvis, a fractured elbow and abrasions.
Geraldton Guardian and Express (WA : 1929 - 1947), Thursday 2 November 1933, page 116
The Parliamentary Standing Committee has arranged for Professor Beasley to give an address on “Hitlerism” this evening, at Atlas Buildings, Bazaar Terrace, at 8 o’clock, under the auspices of the Perth Junior Chamber of Commerce.
West Australian (Perth, WA : 1879 - 1954), Thursday 16 November 1933, page 14
'Perth Junior Chamber of Commerce Meeting'
The Deputy Master of the Royal Mint (Major Corbet) will deliver an address entitled “Gold- From the Raw Material to Currency” at a meeting tonight of the Perth Junior Chamber of Commerce. The meeting will be held at the Atlas Building, Esplanade.
West Australian (Perth, WA : 1879 - 1954), Wednesday 13 December 1933, page 7
18 February 1935
Wheat Beyond Price - But…
Securely locked away in a basement room in the Atlas Buildings are about a dozen bags of wheat. Intrinsically they are worth under £4, but actually their worth is much more, for they could not be replaced. Until Wednesday every care will be taken of the wheat, but after that it will be worth but the market price. It is the wheat on which the faq Standard for the State will be determined.
The Daily News (Perth, WA : 1882 - 1950), Monday 18 February 1935, page 4
At 10 am Wednesday there will assemble in this basement room those charged with the determining of the State's fair average quality sample of wheat. Among those who expect to be present are the Director of Agriculture (Mr G L Sutton), president of the Primary Producers' Association (Mr J S Teasdale), the representative of the Flourmill Owners' Association (Mr W Padbury) and representatives of the wheat shipping interests, and the Perth and Fremantle Chambers of Commerce.
2 November 1939
Attempted burglary of the Perth Road Board offices on the first floor of the Atlas Building After forcing open a rear door of the Atlas Building, Esplanade, intruders broke into the office of the Perth Road Board on the first floor during Tuesday night. Office drawers were opened but nothing was taken and when and examination was made yesterday morning it was found that the office safe could not be opened. Apparently an attempt to open the safe with explosives had jammed the door. The safe had to be removed from the building to enable safe experts to open it. It was found that the contents of the safe were intact.
West Australian (Perth, WA : 1879 - 1954), Thursday 2 November 1939, page 8
18 February 1942
Air Raid Safe Buildings
Thirty city buildings have been adjudged reasonably safe shelters in an air raid. With concrete floors and sound general construction, the buildings in which people should seek shelter are: Esplanade: Atlas Building, ground and first floors; Newspaper House, ground and and first floors of St George’s Terrace section; Temple Court, ground floor; Lawson Flats, four lowest floors.
Daily News (Perth, WA : 1882 - 1950), Wednesday 18 February 1942, page 132
Women’s Australian National Services Activities
It was announced by the Women’s Australian National Services in Perth yesterday that applications are wanted from women willing to assist with vegetable growing for which basic wage rates would be paid. Anyone who is interested in this work is asked to get in touch with the WANS office, First Floor, Atlas Building.
West Australian (Perth, WA : 1879 - 1954), Tuesday 21 April 1942, page 5
Australian National Committee of the United Nations (WA)
Prizes totalling approximately £1,234 are to be awarded to professional artists who are successful in the United Nations “Poster of the Year” competition. The judging of this world-wide competition will take place in Paris during the meeting of the General Assembly of the United Nations. Full information regarding the contest may be obtained on application to the chairman of the West Australian division of the Australian National Committee of the United Nations (Mr Harold Boas), Atlas Building, Perth.
West Australian (Perth, WA : 1879 - 1954), Tuesday 3 August 1948, page 10
Until 1969, there was an imposing life size figure of Atlas supporting the globe crowning the building. Due to ongoing maintenance issues, the figure was permanently removed. The Atlas emblem can still be observed in some of the remaining door hardware throughout the building.
Geyer Perth Showcases Heritage Location during Open House Perth, blog Posted/09
Heritage Listing of Atlas Building
The Atlas Building, a four-storey commercial building, has cultural heritage significance as a fine and intact example of an Inter-War Free Classical commercial building of the 1930s with Art Deco decorative themes incorporated throughout the building, especially a rare demonstration of Wunderlich architectural terracotta cladding.
Margaret Lillian Pitt Morison was the daughter of renowned Australian artist George Pitt Morison, educated at Girls’ High School (now St Hilda’s Anglican School for Girls) and Perth Modern School. Architect Leonie Matthews’ article ‘My Brilliant Career’ in The Architect of March 2009 describes how Margaret matriculated at 16 and had aimed for a career in medicine, but her parents could not provide the financial support required.
It was in 1920 that a chance meeting with Reg Summerhayes, son of architect Edwin, changed
the course of Margaret’s life. She had spent her life, to that point, learning how to be a wife and
homemaker but after much persuasion her father relented and Margaret began her training with
She finished her training with Summerhayes in 1924 and became WA’s first female architect. After a year off, and another working and studying in Melbourne, she returned to Perth. In 1929 she started working for Frederick George Brudenell Bruce Hawkins and worked on the designs and detailing for the Atlas Assurance Company building.
Retrenched from Hawkins’ firm in around 1931 at the height of the Depression, Pitt Morison was then invited to join Poster Studios with fellow unemployed architects Colin Ednie-Brown, Harold Krantz and John Oldham. With Krantz she designed the Myola Club in Claremont in 1934 and with Harold Boas, the designs of Lawson Apartments. She went on to work for Oldham, Boas, Ednie-Brown undertaking the interior design of the Adelphi Hotel (demolished), the Emu Brewery (demolished) and the redesign of the Karrakatta Club, then at 186 St George’s Terrace (demolished).
In 1940 she worked in partnership with Heinz Jacobsohn, a refugee from Nazi Germany. During WWII she worked as camoufleur, designing military camouflage, before moving to Melbourne
where she worked for architect Hugh Vivian Taylor, a specialist in acoustic architecture. She returned to Perth in 1948 and taught architecture at Perth Technical School until the early 1960s.
From 1967-1971 Margaret worked in Planning at the City of Perth. Then, well beyond the usual
retirement age but with skills and plentiful knowledge to impart, she moved to UWA’s School
of Architecture and Fine Arts as a lecturer and researcher. She was still working at UWA when she died on 12 December 1985, aged 85. In honour of her legacy, there are several annual
architectural awards UWA established the Margaret Pitt Morison Memorial Prize, which is
awarded annually to outstanding environmental design students.
The Margaret Pitt Morison Award for Heritage, presented by the Australian Institute of Architects in 2016, was awarded to the State Buildings. Together they designed several residences, the Ruse flats in Kanimbla Road, Nedlands, and Marginata Flats on the corner of Goderich and Hill Streets, Perth.