Sunset Hospital


City of Nedlands

Place Number



Birdwood Pde Dalkeith

Location Details

Other Name(s)

Old Men's Home
Sunset Home

Local Government




Construction Date

Constructed from 1904 to 1906

Demolition Year


Statutory Heritage Listings

Type Status Date Documents
Heritage List Adopted 18 Dec 2017
Heritage Agreement YES 28 Aug 2014 HCWebsite.Listing+ListingDocument
National Heritage List Nominated 15 Mar 2006
State Register Registered 02 Sep 1997 HCWebsite.Listing+ListingDocument, HCWebsite.Listing+ListingDocument

Heritage Council Decisions and Deliberations

Type Status Date Documents
(no listings)

Other Heritage Listings and Surveys

Type Status Date Grading/Management
Municipal Inventory Adopted 27 Apr 1999 Category A
Municipal Inventory Adopted 23 Oct 2018 Category A
Classified by the National Trust Classified 05 Oct 1993
Classified by the National Trust Classified {Lscpe} 11 Mar 1993
Municipal Inventory Adopted 15 Apr 1999

Statement of Significance

Sunset Hospital, a complex of Federation Arts and Crafts, Inter-War Arts and Crafts and other style buildings, has aesthetic, historic, social, scientific and rarity cultural heritage significance for the following reasons. It is one of the largest intact early twentieth century public health facilities in the State and, through its site planning and building design, represents the health care policies and practices of the time and throughout its development and operation. Sunset Hospital is a unique example of the type of government sponsored housing for homeless and vagrant men in the State in the early twentieth century. The buildings generally display a high degree of homogeneity and, united by the landscaped open spaces, collectively form an historic precinct. The hospital is a recognised and important landmark which can easily be identified from the river and other areas around Melville Water. Its heritage value is increased with its association with prominent architect Hillson Beasley who, as Chief Architect at the Public Works Department, was ultimately responsible for the original site planning and building design.

Physical Description

The location of Sunset Hospital on riverside land extending along the south east boundary of the suburb of Dalkeith, and includes gently undulating hills and limestone cliffs that fall towards the river adjacent to an area known as Armstrong Spit, adjoining Melville Waters to the south. Tree species remnant of the original vegetation are prevalent on this site, tending to be more common towards the north eastern sector. Some remnant bushland is still apparent on the slopes of the cliff now bounding the hospital on the river side, and features healthy examples of trees and shrubs common to the region such as tuart, marri, jarrah, with grass trees, wattles and acacia species dotted throughout the precinct The site was fenced from the outset with pickets to restrain the inmates. Hot water was derived from a 3,000 metre deep artesian bore, the casing of which cracked in I920s. The Hot Pool (one of three along the river) was formed as a result. This was filled in during the 1950s. Viewed from distant location on the Swan River and its southern shores, the prominent clifftop hospital is dominated by large trees, particularly Norfolk Island pines Araucaria heterophylla and also a group of Moreton Bay figs Ficus macrophylla. Only a portion of the building complex is clearly visible from the river side. The word - SUNSET - constructed of white painted concrete laid on the embankment leading from the river to the hospital is a clear landmark that can be seen from across the river. The change in clientele and work practices has lead to a general evolution of the site which developed from an isolated somewhat self-sufficient institution originally boasting modem buildings and services, into an established yet antiquated hospital, isolated from similar institutes in a primarily suburban precinct. To the design of Hillson Beasley, buildings to house 400 inmates were commenced in 1904, basically of stone construction with corrugated galvanised iron roofing. Limestone for the construction was won from the nearby quarry at Point Resolution. As the river was still considered a viable means of transport, a 90m jetty and shelter (since demolished) was included. The two storey hospital building at the eastern end of the complex was added later The service buildings are of considerable interest as largely intact shells retaining a number of architectural elements typical of the time. Significant around these is the external and internal detail of the dining block, the mortuary (now perhaps unfortunately painted externally) and the laundry facility. After the complex was completed, a timber framed weatherboard and iron building known as the 'bungalow' was removed from its original site at the foot of Mount Eliza. It was transported by horse and dray in sections to the new 22 acre location then known as The Old Men's Home. For many years the building housed the alcoholics and the rowdier inmates of the institution. The floor was added much later. The structure was later used as the Occupational Therapy Department. Accommodation included three residential ward buildings each around a central ablution facility, administration, kitchen, dining, laundry, nurses home, superintendent's residence and mortuary. One of the three ward blocks was used as a hospital. The wards were heated by 'Little Giant' cast iron stoves. A sense of enclosure is demonstrated by the courtyard form of development and strengthened by the covered verandah connections between the buildings via the covered verandahs linking all the important spaces. This is further reinforced by the services and surrounding gardens and activities located on the property such as market gardens and the bowling green. The site is a recognised and important landmark which can easily be identified from the river and other areas around Melville Water. It has many important vistas to and from the Swan River. The vista from the escarpment towards the city illustrates the site's isolation from the city at the turn of the century and the vista across Melville Water and around the bay towards Fremantle illustrates a portion of the present suburban development of the metropolitan region and the encroachment of residential subdivision on this once remote location. The buildings on the site generally display a high degree of homogeneity which collectively forms an historic precinct and significant cultural environment. The most substantial and continuous modifications to the built fabric have been the upgrading of toilet facilities and amenities. Installation and connection to the main city sewerage system in 1942 solved waste removal problems which had plagued the place since its inception. Many of the support services and facilities, such as sheds, workshops and garages, have been adapted, relocated, demolished or removed to other sites, but essentially, the major structures on the site are as originally constructed. Overall, Sunset Hospital has a high degree of authenticity. Footnote: According to the HCWA Report the zincalume Garage, an asbestos cement Workshop. the Switchroom (a small brick building with corrugated fibrolite roofing) and Transformer Compound, the corrugated iron clad Stores, the Nursing Administration Building (clad in Fibrous cement with a colourbond roof). the Gardener's Store (a small brick shed with an iron roof) and the Doctor's and Staff Accommodation (a brick and tile building) are not considered Significant.


Sunset Hospital, previously known as the Old Men's Home, is located on a rise overlooking the Swan River at Freshwater Bay, Dalkeith. The twenty-two acre (8.9 hectare) site was designated by Parliament in 1890 as an 'A' class reserve, for the express purpose of building an institution to house the poor and to be called the "Old Men's Home". The history of the hospital dates back to the I850's when convicts were first transported to this State. Depots were built throughout the colony to house them, one being sited at the base of Mount Eliza and in 1868, when transportation ceased, the depot was fitted up as an Asylum for male paupers. Initially 83 men were house and looked after by a Master and four paid staff but by the end of the century there were 240 inmates housed in accommodation intended for 160. The new institution was urgently needed. In 1904 building started at the Freshwater Bay site and by 1906 the first men were admitted - it was then declared a Poorhouse. The design, following military style of the day, was planned to house 400 inmates and as well as the large dormitory style sleeping quarters, a large kitchen, dining hall, infirmary and a laundry were included. The buildings were constructed from sandstone, which was quarried from the cliff-face at Point Resolution and hauled by horse and jigger to the site. The complex was made up of three main blocks, built facing the river; two to house able bodied men and one to be the hospital. Each block was made up of four L-shaped dormitories surrounding an inner quadrangle, with a small ablutions block in the centre and hand basins round the inner walls. Attached to the ablutions of the centre block were two padded cells. The dining hall was built in the centre of the site, acclaimed for it's well-proportioned design and jarrah hammer-beam ceiling. A residence for the Master, quarters for nursing staff and a mortuary were also built as part of the original plans. The Home filled rapidly after it opened, so to provide more accommodation, one of the timber frame buildings from the Mount Eliza Depot was cut in three parts and transported through the bush by horse and dray and erected on the north west border of the complex - known hence forth as the Bungalow. This timber building is believed to have originally been constructed in the 1890sas one of six Portable Post Offices for the goldfields. On completion, one of the six was probably diverted to the Old Men's Depot at Mount Eliza. This building is probably the most significant building on the Sunset Hospital site as it is the only known survivor of that group of Portable Post Offices and it is the only fabric believed to survive from the former Old Men's Depot [ref D Kelsallpersonal research]. During construction it was decided to build a jetty to facilitate transporting men and materials to the site. It was in constant use up to the 1940swhen it fell into disrepair and was pulled down. The Home initially generated its own power, sufficient only for lighting and to heat water, then at the end of the 1920s was connected to the main grid. Scheme water was connected from the outset but supplemented from a bore sunk below the cliff on the river side of the Home and piped up under its own pressure to a storage tank in the centre of the grounds. A telephone was installed and connected to the Cottesloe exchange which had opened in 1897. John Wade, a harsh and authoritarian man, had been Master of the Poorhouse for 23 years when he retired in 1909. He was succeeded by Albert Rust who improved the lot of the inmates by allowing them more freedom and, through money raised by himself, improved the social amenities of the Home. These included setting up a canteen, library, opening a wireless broadcasting receiving station in 1924 and in 1926 having a projection room built over the servery in the dining hall to show full length feature films. After much lobbying, the two storey hospital block was built in 1927 to house the increasing number of old men needing nursing care. John Bradshaw was appointed superintendent when Albert Rust retired in 1938 and it was suggested that the home's name be changed. In 1941 a competition was launched and the half-guinea won by Mr N C Morgan, an inmate, with his choice of Sunset Home. The name was officially changed in 1943. Following World War 11, facilities and services were in need of upgrading. In the early 1950s nursing procedures and equipment were modernised and in 1958 the first Physiotherapist was employed. In 1959 the Medical Department decided to carry out improvement throughout the Home, particularly the upgrading of the kitchens, building new bathrooms and extending the workshops. Mr Bradshaw retired that year and Bruce Mitchell was appointed Managing Secretary (this position was formerly known as Superintendent) In the early 1960s Dr R B LeFroy was appointed Geriatrician for the state, and immediately started to upgrade the medical care of the residents in Sunset and Mount Henry Homes. The first Occupational Therapist was appointed in 1964 and Social Workers visited from the Medical Department. Women were first admitted to Sunset in 1965 and the Home officially became a hospital under the newly formed Health Department of W A. in 1966. New criteria were set in place at this time for assessing people for admission to permanent care. In the mid 1960s an interdenominational chapel was built in the northwest comer of the grounds to cater to the pastoral needs of all but the Catholics in the Home, who had their own chapel within the grounds. George Kirkby became Managing Secretary when Bruce Mitchell retired in 1967. More refurbishment was carried out during the 1970s with the remodelling of the blocks to create Lodge accommodation and the upgrading and extending of the Occupational Therapy and Physiotherapy Departments. In 1975 Bill Lewtas was appointed Administrator and the following year the Occupational Therapy Day Centre was opened. By the 1980s Sunset residents were receiving the most modem care available - medical, nursing and allied health - which now included Speech Pathology. All disciplines trained their own students and a training programme for Enrolled Nurses was established. In July 1994 the official announcement to close the hospital was made by the then Minister for Health, Mr Foss and the last residents left on 18th October 1995.




Generally Good


Name Type Year From Year To
Hillson Beasley Architect - -

Other Reference Numbers

Ref Number Description
D33 LGA Place No

State Heritage Office library entries

Library Id Title Medium Year Of Publication
6455 Former Sunset Hospital site : report of the Sunset Steering Committee to the Hon. Minister for Housing and Works. Report 2003
6656 Sunset Hospital, Birdwood Parade, Dalkeith : conservation management plan. Heritage Study {Cons'n Plan} 2003
3887 The history of Sunset Hospital. Book 1999
8803 Geriatric medicine : early policy and practice in Western Australia. Book 2005
1398 Heritage Assessment and Conservation Policy for Sunset Hospital Birdwood Parade Dalkeith Heritage Study {Cons'n Plan} 1995
11457 Sunset Heritage Precinct Archival Record 2016
5941 Sunset Hospital : development referral. C D Rom 2001
10233 Sunset transformation strategy Heritage Study {Other} 2014
6928 Sunset Hospital, Birdwood Parade, Dalkeith : Sunset redevelopment heritage study 2000. Heritage Study {Other} 2000
6532 Western Australian endangered places 2003. Kit 2003
5395 Metropolitan Region Scheme Amendment No. 1024/33 : Sunset Hospital site, City of Nedlands. Volume 1 : report on submissions. Legislation 2000

Place Type

Individual Building or Group


Epoch General Specific
Original Use RESIDENTIAL Institutional Housing
Original Use HEALTH Hospital
Present Use VACANT\UNUSED Vacant\Unused

Architectural Styles

Inter-War Old English
Federation Arts and Crafts

Construction Materials

Type General Specific
Roof METAL Corrugated Iron
Wall TIMBER Weatherboard
Wall STONE Other Stone

Historic Themes

General Specific
OUTSIDE INFLUENCES World Wars & other wars
SOCIAL & CIVIC ACTIVITIES Community services & utilities
OCCUPATIONS Commercial & service industries

Creation Date

12 Nov 1993

Publish place record online (inHerit):


Last Update

19 Sep 2022


This information is provided voluntarily as a public service. The information provided is made available in good faith and is derived from sources believed to be reliable and accurate. However, the information is provided solely on the basis that readers will be responsible for making their own assessment of the matters discussed herein and are advised to verify all relevant representations, statements and information.