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City of Fremantle

Place Number

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79 Thompson Rd North Fremantle

Location Details

Other Name(s)

Office and LaboratoriesICI Old Offices and La
Vacuum Oil Company

Local Government




Construction Date

Constructed from 1915

Demolition Year


Statutory Heritage Listings

Type Status Date Documents More information
Heritage List YES 08 Mar 2007

Heritage Council Decisions and Deliberations

Type Status Date Documents
RHP - To be assessed Current 22 Aug 1997

Other Heritage Listings and Surveys

Type Status Date Grading/Management More information
Category Description
Municipal Inventory Adopted 18 Sep 2000 Level 2

Level 2

The City of Fremantle has identified this place as being of considerable cultural heritage significance in its own right within the context of Fremantle and its conservation is a priority.

Statement of Significance

Commercial Building, 79 Thompson Road is a rendered brick and iron single storey building dating from c1915. The place has aesthetic value for its contribution to the streetscape and the surrounding area. It is representative of the industrial building stock located in parts of North Fremantle. Historically significant as a representation of a commercial premises in North Fremantle and for its associations with the introduction and subsequent development of motor and other spirits in Western Australia. The building was designed by prominent Fremantle architect and councillor, Joseph Allen, who also designed a number of other buildings in Fremantle and elsewhere in WA.

Physical Description

Commercial Building, 79 Thompson Road is a single storey rendered masonry former commercial building with symmetrical facade designed in the Federation period. Walls are rendered and painted brick and the roof is hipped corrugated iron behind a rendered parapet wall. Verandah is under a separate bullnose corrugated iron roof supported by wall mounted metal brackets. The building is set on the front boundary line. The building plinth is rendered. The simple roof parapet sits above a moulded string cornice and has a simple pediment. Windows are timber framed casement and double hung. The place has been converted to residential units.


Thompson Road was named for George Thompson (1838-1874), Fremantle's first town clerk (1871-73). The street is mainly residential, with some commercial development at the northern end between Alfred Road and McCabe Road. The majority of the houses were built c. 1900. Only a few lots on the street remained vacant in the 1920s.

In 1914, the Vacuum Oil Company, a subsidiary of the Standard Oil Company of New York (SOCONY), established warehouses and offices in Thompson Road. Prior to this, the company had premises in Packenham Street. The company chose to relocate to Rocky Bay because of the ease of port and rail access for the receipt and dispatch of stocks.

The site initially operated as a distribution point for imported Vacuum products but by 1919, a large warehouse, laboratory and office had been built. Designed by well known architectural firm of Allen and Nicholas, builder R. Know was responsible for the work.

Joseph Francis Allen was a prominent architect and politician in the Fremantle area. He had migrated from Cornwall in 1879, and after a time in NSW, had settled in Western Australia. He was a justice of the peace, a Fremantle councillor, chairman of the Fremantle Hospital and twice mayor of East Fremantle. He designed numerous buildings in the Fremantle area, including the East Fremantle Town Hall, the Fremantle Trades Hall, the Commercial Travellers Club and 7 Pakenham Street, the original premises of the Vacuum Oil Company.

The company sold lubricating oils, refined oil, aviation gasoline and petroleum spirits, which came from a variety of SOCONY Vacuum refineries and were packaged in different ways (such as 44 gallon drums and case petrol, a wooden box with two four-gallon cans). This changed in 1926, when bulk oil offloading facilities were built at Berth No. 1, North Quay. Vacuum Oil had several bulk tanks built at this main oil terminal. Petrol was then shipped to Fremantle from a refinery in Sumatra and directly into the stores on North Quay. From there, it was packaged into cases for distribution until the widespread introduction of tanker trucks.

By the mid-1920s, the company had additional warehouses in West Perth, Bunbury and Kalgoorlie to meet the rising demand or petroleum and oil products. There was also a huge demand for case petrol from the North West, and petrol was carried to the northern ports between Carnarvon and Darwin by one of the four State ships on the Darwin-Fremantle route. Other country orders were directly loaded onto railway wagons that would be shunted down the Rocky Bay siding to the side of the warehouse, loaded with stock and taken out.

In the mid-1950s, Vacuum added two bulk lubricating oil tanks and bulk kerosene store facilities to the North Quay depot. It also had limited manufacturing capacity for mixed oils and on-site analysis at the Thompson Road site.

Up until 1962, SOCONY Vacuum delivered petroleum requirements from the Suez Canal to the west of Hawaii. When the company broke up, the assets were divided between Mobiloil and Esso. The North Fremantle operation was transferred to Mobiloil, a sister company of Vacuum Oil. Mobiloil vacated the Thompson Road site in 1963, moving their storage and packing operation to a small warehouse on North Quay. By this time, Mobiloil also had bulk storage facilities at Esperance, Bunbury, Geraldton, Port Hedland and Derby.

The Thompson Road site was purchased by Imperial Chemical Industries of Australia and New Zealand (later ICI), which used it as a warehouse, office and laboratory. The large warehouse at the rear of the site was demolished in 1990.

The office building and laboratory were converted to residential units c. 2000.

This place was included in the "North Fremantle Heritage Study", prepared by Craig Burton, for the City of Fremantle, June 1994.


Medium degree of integrity (original intent clear, current use compatible, high long term sustainability, some later unsympathetic materials).
Medium degree of authenticity with some loss of original fabric.
(These statements based on street survey only).


Condition assessed as good (assessed from streetscape survey only).


Name Type Year From Year To
Jospeh Allen Architect - -

Place Type

Individual Building or Group


Epoch General Specific
Original Use RESIDENTIAL Conjoined residence
Original Use COMMERCIAL Warehouse
Present Use RESIDENTIAL Flats\Apartment Block
Other Use INDUSTRIAL\MANUFACTURING Office or Administration Bldg
Original Use COMMERCIAL Office or Administration Bldg
Present Use COMMERCIAL Office or Administration Bldg

Architectural Styles

Federation Free Classical

Construction Materials

Type General Specific
Roof METAL Corrugated Iron
Wall BRICK Painted Brick
Wall BRICK Rendered Brick
Wall STONE Limestone
Wall BRICK Pointed Brick

Historic Themes

General Specific
OCCUPATIONS Manufacturing & processing
OCCUPATIONS Commercial & service industries
DEMOGRAPHIC SETTLEMENT & MOBILITY Technology & technological change

Creation Date

21 Apr 1997

Publish place record online (inHerit):


Last Update

21 Mar 2019


This data is provided by the City of Fremantle. While every care is taken to ensure the accuracy of this data, the City of Fremantle makes no representations or warranties about its accuracy, reliability, completeness or suitability for any particular purpose and disclaims all responsibility and all liability (including without limitation, liability in negligence) for all expenses, losses, damages (including indirect or consequential damage) and costs which you might incur as a result of the data being inaccurate or incomplete in any way and for any reason. Under no circumstances should this data be used to carry out any work without first contacting the City of Fremantle for the appropriate confirmation and approval.