- Series Guide: Bank Premises Department
- Series Guide: London Letters
- Series Guide: New York Agency
- Series Guide: Papua New Guinea
- Research Guide: Construction of the Commonwealth Bank of Australia Head Office
- Research Guide: Glass Plate Negative Collection
- Research Guide: Sir Denison Samuel King Miller KCMG
- Research Guide: The Role of the Bank's Branches in Australian Life
Research Guide: Developing a Physical Presence in Major Population Centres
When the Commonwealth Bank of Australia opened for business in 1912, it did so without a dedicated building from which the new Governor, Denison Miller, could manage the Bank. Instead, Miller’s first office was a room in the Bicycle Club Chambers in Collins Street, Melbourne, which had been lent to him by the Department of Home Affairs as a temporary office. After several weeks, Miller moved to a larger building in Collins Street that was able to accommodate the increase in staff and work. Shortly after, he began to search for a suitable building in Sydney; the city where the Bank’s Head Office would be built. In July 1912, Miller leased the ground floor of Stanway House in King Street, Sydney as a temporary Head Office for the Bank, and after renovations had been completed, business commenced there on 20 January 1913.
Over time, the Bank expanded its presence throughout the country, establishing an office in every mainland capital city in Australia, and two in Tasmania (in Hobart and Launceston). The Bank also opened a London Office in 1912, the same year the Bank was established, indicating its importance as a financial centre. Likewise, an office was opened in New York in 1927. As a Territory of Australia at the time, branches and banking facilities were also established in Papua New Guinea (PNG).
Head Office, Sydney
Prior to his appointment as Governor of the Commonwealth Bank, Denison Miller had visited banks overseas and been impressed by the grandeur and style of the buildings he saw, particularly in the United States and Europe. These buildings were not only a symbol of financial prosperity, but were also designed to reflect the nation and its people. On his appointment as Governor, Miller used these observations as a starting point for the design of the Bank’s new Head Office building.
Prior to the building of a Parliament House and necessary infrastructure in Canberra, Melbourne was the Commonwealth’s national capital and seat of government until 1927. The Commonwealth Bank Act 1911 was passed on 22 December 1911, with Section 21 of the Act authorising the Governor to build a ‘Head Office of the Bank…in such place within the Commonwealth as the Governor thinks fit to appoint’. Exercising this discretion, Denison Miller chose Sydney for the Bank’s Head Office. Sections 22 and 23 of the Act allowed the Governor to ‘…establish branches or appoint agencies of the Bank in any part of the Commonwealth or of any Territory under the Commonwealth’ and ‘…with the consent of the Treasurer, establish a branch in London in the United Kingdom, and may with the like consent establish branches in any other places beyond the Commonwealth’. Miller quickly developed a London office of the Bank, and through the existing Post Office agencies was able to establish the Bank throughout Australia.
Miller took a personal interest in the proposed Head Office and noted that it should be in the centre of the city, surrounded by other financial institutions, on a plot that would accommodate a substantial building. A site on the corner of Moore Street (now Martin Place) and Pitt Street was proposed and compulsorily acquired for £93,000 in October 1912 (compulsory acquisitions in Sydney and other states were generally undertaken by the Commonwealth Government for national interest purposes). Architects John and Herwald Kirkpatrick were commissioned to design the building and supervise the construction works. They would also designed other buildings for the Bank, including in some of the state capitals, giving them a distinctive style and presence.
The foundation stones for the Bank’s Head Office were laid on 14 May 1913. Despite delays, including the outbreak of the First World War, the building was opened in 1916. Moore Street was a busy thoroughfare and the construction of the building generated much interest amongst the general public. Miller’s increased profile during the war years also influenced the public’s interest in the Bank.
Intending it to be an imposing and elegant structure, Miller insisted that Australian materials be used, where possible, to reflect the heritage and context of the building. Wood and stone from around the country featured prominently throughout the building and in decorative finishes. The state shields adorned the façade, emphasising it was a bank for all Australians. While its style acknowledged the past and the continuity this represented, it was also one of the most modern buildings in Australia at the time and had many innovative design features. These included:
- a pneumatic tube system – a network of motor-powered blowers that propelled brass tubes between the ground floor banking chamber and the first floor, allowing staff to send passbooks and other documents between the two floors
- teleautographs – installed in the banking chamber and on the first floor, a pencil on the transmitter was connected to an electrical current and could capture the motions of a person writing and duplicate the writing in real time on a machine on another floor
- a ducted vacuum system
- air conditioning
- a mail chute running throughout the entire building
- electric clocks
- continuous hot water.
An underground tunnel linking the General Post Office to the Bank was also installed.
The Bank’s new Head Office quickly became a symbol of patriotic and nationalistic sentiments and a focus for the war effort, including the raising of War and Peace Loans. When Edward VIII, then Prince of Wales, visited Sydney in 1920, he was greeted at the entrance to the building.
The building was one of the first large-scale, all steel-framed structures in Australia and rose to the full height allowed at the time – 150 feet. For a young institution, such a grand and imposing building was a symbol of confidence in its future. As the Bank’s operations expanded, alterations were made to the building. The Bank took over some surrounding sites to increase its footprint, including in Rowe Street, which ran behind the Bank.
The building remained the Head Office of the Commonwealth Bank until separation of the central and commercial banking functions in 1959, after which it was utilised by the Reserve Bank of Australia as its Head Office. In 1965, after the Reserve Bank had moved to a new purpose-built Head Office at 65 Martin Place in Sydney, the building was formally transferred to the Commonwealth Banking Corporation for its use.
In addition to the Head Office building, the Bank utilised other buildings in Sydney for its business purposes. The War Loan Department was created after the first Commonwealth of Australia War Loan was issued on 24 July 1915, at which time Treasury placed the management of the loan and all future issues in the hands of the Bank. Before 31 August 1915 when subscription lists closed on the first loan, the Bank was appointed to conduct Inscription Registries at each capital city (except Melbourne, where the Registry for a short while continued to be in the hands of Commonwealth Treasury officials). Initially, the Registry works for New South Wales were carried out at Stanway House in Sydney, but the enormous volume of work necessitated the opening of a War Loans Department in Dalton Chambers, 115 Pitt Street. These premises were made available to the Bank free of charge by The Trustees of the Late Thomas Dalton. Both the War Loan Department and the Inscription Registry opened for business at these premises on 24 January 1916.
The volume of work continued to grow and, in June 1917, the Bank acquired Post Office Chambers for the operations of the Department and Registry. On 17 April 1920, the premises in Post Office Chambers were vacated and, on 19 April, the same operations reopened in the Mercantile Mutual Building, 118–120 Pitt Street, on the corner of Rowe Street.
The Savings Bank Department was for a time managed from leased premises at 30 Castlereagh Street. The Department administered over 656 Post Office agencies across New South Wales at the time, extending the Bank’s reach throughout the state.
From the outset, Denison Miller had envisaged a truly national bank, with a network of branches and offices throughout Australia and in London. Then the financial capital of the world, a London presence was essential if the Bank was to trade in the international markets and raise money for the Commonwealth and state governments, and so the Bank opened a branch in leased premises there in 1912. Later, in 1927, the Bank opened an agency in leased premises in New York.
Through mergers with other banks, the Bank had inherited a number of existing buildings across the country, which allowed it to expand its presence. As the Bank grew, Miller and subsequent governors increased the number of branches in each state, including within the Northern Territory and Northern Queensland, and remote areas of Western Australia and PNG. They recognised the need to compete with other banks and to have a presence in every suburb, town and city so that a customer was never far from a branch. The Bank also erected temporary banking facilities in wartime training camps and on warships during the First and Second World Wars, and for workers constructing the Trans-Australian Railway between Kalgoorlie in Western Australia and Port Augusta in South Australia. As a national institution, it was seen as imperative that all Australians could access banking facilities either directly or via the Bank’s agents.
That the Bank was able to establish branches and offices so quickly after its establishment – and maintain and grow these – was undoubtedly down to government support, the management and commitment of Miller and subsequent governors, and the Australian public’s pride in its new bank.
The Governor was central to the Bank’s success and connections to the community were seen as vital. In 1947, in order to reach even the remotest of the Bank’s branches, the Bank purchased an aircraft. This enabled the Governor and senior staff to visit branches that would otherwise take days to reach by other means.
Of particular importance to the Bank, and central to its success, were the state offices, which were established in every Australian state and territory from 1912. They ensured the Bank had a presence outside of Sydney, and also managed the Savings and General Banking Department works, Registry work, and branch and Post Office networks in each state. The managers of the state offices were in constant contact with the Governor, and their reports and information kept him informed of any financial or other issues.
The first branch of the Commonwealth Bank’s Savings Bank Department opened on 15 July 1912 in Melbourne, and on the same day at the 489 Post Offices throughout Victoria (which were acting as agents of the Bank). Through this arrangement with the Post Offices, the Bank was able to capture a significant number of existing customers across the state without the need to build new premises or lease office space.
The General Banking Department opened for business on 20 January 1913 in Collins Street, Melbourne, and simultaneously in other state capital cities. The Bank moved the Department to larger premises in the Equitable Building on the corner of Collins and Elizabeth Streets on 1 May 1913.
In 1917, the Bank leased rooms in Collins House, 360–366 Collins Street, for the War Loan Department, after it had outgrown its allotted space in the Equitable Building.
In 1919, the Bank purchased the Old Exchange Building in Melbourne for £70,000 and, a short time later, Findon House in Little Flinders Street for £25,000. The Old Exchange Building had a frontage to Collins Street and Findon House had a frontage to Little Flinders Street to the rear of the Old Exchange Building. The Bank moved the War Services Homes Department into Findon House almost immediately, taking over other areas from existing tenants as their leases expired. The Bank’s Note Issue, War Gratuities, General Banking, Savings Bank and Stationery Departments, as well as the Architects offices, moved into the premises over time.
As the building required extensive work and was not functional for banking purposes, a new building was designed by architects John and Herwald Kirkpatrick in 1921. Swanson Brothers successfully tendered to construct the building for £207,000, plus £3,250 for an extra storey added later to the plans.
On 26 July 1922, just 10 years after the Bank was established, the two foundation stones of the Melbourne Office were laid by Prime Minister Billy Hughes and Governor Denison Miller.
The plans for the building included seven storeys with a basement. As in the Head Office building in Sydney, the construction materials were to be Australian or of Australian manufacture, where possible. The façade of the building contained orbost granite from Victoria for the base and trachyte granite from New South Wales for the columns. The structural steel and rods were supplied by BHP Steelworks in Newcastle. While the architectural design of the building was Grecian in style with Ionic columns at the main entrance, the interior was modern and, as in Sydney, featured many innovative features.
The Melbourne Office moved to the new building on 26 May 1924. When the Duke and Duchess of York (later King George VI and Queen Elizabeth) visited Melbourne in April 1927, the building was placed on their itinerary. In March 1929, the Board approved further alterations to incorporate Findon House into the main building.
In addition to the state office, Melbourne was also home to the Note Printing branch, after this function was transferred fully to the Bank in 1924.
Just two months after opening the savings bank business in Victoria, Denison Miller travelled to Brisbane to inaugurate the Savings Bank Department in Queensland. An office was established on the first floor of the General Post Office (GPO) while Miller proceeded to arrange premises and engage staff. Subsequently, the Bank rented premises in City (‘Finney’s’) Buildings in Edward Street, Brisbane.
On 16 September 1912, savings bank business commenced in Brisbane and at 194 Post Offices throughout Queensland, with the chief agency at the GPO. In addition, the Bank set about acquiring premises that could be adapted for banking purposes and selected a site at 259 Queen Street, adjoining the GPO. On 20 January 1913, the Bank opened at the Queen Street site for general banking business. On 31 March 1913, the Savings Bank Department transferred its operations to Queen Street, uniting the two departments in one premises. In March 1921, following the amalgamation with the Queensland Government Savings Bank, the Savings Bank Department moved to temporary premises in Creek Street.
The foundation stones for the new building in Queen Street were laid on 24 October 1927. Early in 1929, the General Banking Department moved into the new section of the building; the remainder of the office was completed in 1930. On 9 May 1932, the Savings Bank Department moved from the Creek Street premises to Queen Street.
Due to the expansion of the savings bank business, the Bank purchased a property on the corner of Adelaide and Albert Streets (King George Square), which contained two existing buildings; the first was remodelled for the establishment of the new Savings Bank branch, while the second was held for future development. The Savings Bank branch, known as King George Square, was opened for business on 3 August 1937. Commonwealth Savings Bank administration for Queensland was transferred from 259 Queen Street to the King George Square branch in December 1942, following the extension of the building. The branch then became known as the Commonwealth Savings Bank, Brisbane. Savings Bank branch facilities continued to be available at 259 Queen Street, solely for the use of those depositors who found it inconvenient to attend at the main branch.
By 1952, the savings bank business at King George Square had outgrown the building. On 15 September, the Bank opened a Savings Bank branch at 344 Queen Street, and transferred the remaining savings bank business there. Although this relieved some of the pressure on King George Square, its capacity was limited. To ease the situation, the Bank purchased a building on the corner of Queen and Edward Streets (known as Queen Street, Brisbane), where a new branch was opened; all business conducted at 344 Queen Street was transferred.
On 21 October 1912, the Savings Bank Department of the Commonwealth Bank opened in Darwin on an agency basis, with the central agency located at the Darwin branch of the English, Scottish and Australian Bank Limited (ES&A Bank Ltd). Agencies were also established at Post Offices in Darwin, Brocks Creek, Katherine and Pine Creek. The expansion of the Bank throughout the Northern Territory was a departure from normal banking practices, as the ordinary banking institutions and the Savings Bank of South Australia had previously confined their operations to the territory capital.
The arrangements with the ES&A Bank Ltd continued until the Bank opened a full branch on 16 March 1938, with a staff of three, in temporary premises at the old Town Hall in Darwin.
In 1937, the Bank initiated enquiries regarding a site on Smith and Bennett Streets. Designs for a two-storey building of reinforced concrete, with an infill of concrete blocks, glass and fibro-cement louvres – all suitable for the local conditions – were commissioned and approved on 13 June 1939. Tenders for erection of the building were advertised in the Sydney, Brisbane and Darwin papers.
In 1942, due to bombing raids over Darwin, staff were evacuated to Adelaide, where the business was conducted as a separate branch from 16 March 1942. In June 1944, staff returned to the Darwin branch and the General Officer commanding the Northern Territory Forces coordinated the Bank’s operations with Army control. These conditions were withdrawn towards the end of 1945.
On being re-established, the Darwin branch provided banking facilities for the Australian Navy, Army and Air Force, the US Navy and Army, Dutch Forces and British Forces during the Second World War. (Later, as the Reserve Bank, a new building was built in Bennet Street, which was one of only a handful to survive Cyclone Tracy.)
The Commonwealth Bank’s Hobart Office was established in 1912. Prior to its establishment, the State Savings Bank of Tasmania carried out savings bank business. On 3 January 1913, the Savings Bank Department opened for business in the Old Post Office Building (on the corner of Macquarie and Murray Streets) and at 147 Post Offices throughout Tasmania. Soon after, the office moved to leased rooms in the Banking Department building in Cook’s Building, Elizabeth Street. Within two years, more space was required and the Bank took over upper floors of the building.
By the early 1930s, the Bank’s premises were no longer adequate and the Bank agreed to a 10-year lease of the site on which it would erect a building for the Hobart Office. Department of Works’ architects were commissioned to design a building that would satisfy present requirements of the Bank and future needs of the Postal Department, which would also share the building. While building was in progress, the Bank moved into temporary premises in Webb’s Billiard Saloon, located in Tasma House, 85 Collins Street. The Bank’s business expanded after the Second World War, and an additional storey was added to the Hobart Office. A year later, further space was taken on the first floor of the adjacent building.
In mid-1945, the Deputy Governor visited Hobart and investigated sites in Liverpool and Elizabeth Streets, and the Bank’s Administrative Committee later recorded the Bank’s purchase of these sites. The Department of Works was the designer of the new building. Made of reinforced concrete, it had two basements, ground and four upper floors, and mezzanines on the first two floors. The building was opened in 1954.
The Savings Bank Department of the Commonwealth Bank opened for business in Adelaide on 13 January 1913; the General Banking Department commenced business exactly one week later. Both departments were situated in rented premises in a portion of the Royal Exchange Building, 96 King William Street. In 1922, the building was compulsorily acquired by the Bank for £110,000 and alterations to modernise the building were undertaken. In 1933, the Bank commenced a major refurbishment of the building. Once again, Australian materials were used, where possible.
By the end of the Second World War, the Commonwealth Savings Bank had expanded to the extent that more space was needed. Premises in Currie Street became available in 1946 and the Bank purchased this site for £65,000. The Bank modernised the building and took occupancy on 1 February 1949, delays having been caused by post-war shortages of building materials. A feature of the banking chamber was a series of innovative photo-murals – a composite of photographs and drawings depicting South Australian activities. Staff amenities included a gymnasium, as well as flats to be used as temporary accommodation by officers on transfer.
Prior to separation in 1959, the Bank purchased a site from the South Australian Government on the corner of Victoria Square. The Reserve Bank later developed 182 Victoria Square for its Adelaide Office.
The Savings Bank Department of the Commonwealth Bank opened for business in the Canberra suburb of Acton on 13 January 1913. In October that year, the Bank moved to a single-storey building nearby that the Department of Home Affairs had erected for the Bank’s sole use.
In March 1914, a Central Office of the Savings Bank Department was established at the Canberra branch. Agencies located on the far south coast of New South Wales and in the Monaro district were then attached to this branch.
While the First World War delayed the development of the Canberra Office, progress was made in other building works, including houses, hotels and government buildings. In June 1925, the Chairman of the Federal Capital Commission wrote to the Bank regarding a permanent premises in the city. He noted that the Bank’s present accommodation would soon be inadequate once Canberra became formally established as the nation’s capital in 1927 and the number of government and private accounts increased as a result.
Later in 1925, the Deputy Governor visited Canberra and submitted a report on available sites. In April 1926, the Chairman of the Federal Capital Commission informed the Bank that an auction of leasehold sites in the business area of Canberra (Civic Centre) would be held during May and that he thought it desirable that the Bank acquire one of the sites. In light of this advice, the Bank acquired the leasehold of a site on the corner of Northbourne Avenue and City Circuit (now London Circuit) for £5,600. Due to the uniform design of the two original blocks in Civic Centre, built in a ‘Spanish Mission’ style, it would appear that the Federal Capital Commission prepared the basic plans, with each leaseholder then erecting premises to conform to this style. Tenders for the erection of the Bank’s new premises closed in November 1926. The successful tender, which was also the lowest, was from Simmie and Company of Melbourne at £11,326.
In October 1927, the Bank moved from Acton to its new premises.
In preparation for the opening of the Savings Bank Department in 1913, Denison Miller leased rooms in the Stock Exchange Building at 49 St Georges Terrace, Perth, which were subsequently converted for banking purposes. On 13 January 1913, the Savings Bank Department opened for business in the remodelled premises and also at 162 agencies in Post Offices throughout Western Australia. A week later, on 20 January, the Bank opened for general banking business in the same premises. On 3 November 1922, the Bank purchased the Stock Exchange Building for its banking business.
From June 1924, the Bank operated a savings bank sub-branch at 7 Forrest Place; however, by 1927 the savings bank business had outgrown these premises. At the same time, the Bank was looking to grow its general banking business – in direct competition with the State Savings Bank of Western Australia – and recognised that a centrally located building was imperative if the Bank was to expand its operations successfully. It had also outgrown the St Georges Terrace building.
In 1927, the Bank purchased a partial site on the corner of Forrest Place and Murray Street for £30,000. In November 1927, the additional land on the site was purchased for £50,000, allowing for a more substantial building to be erected.
The plans for the new Perth building were approved by the Board on 13 September 1928 and tenders closed on 13 January 1930. The new building – which consisted of a basement, five upper floors and a mezzanine floor – was opened for Savings and General Banking business by Chairman of the Board, Sir Robert Gibson, on 22 March 1933.
In November 1914, a Launceston branch of the Commonwealth Bank was opened, with 94 Savings Bank postal agencies attached. At the opening of the branch, Tasmania became the only state with two offices – Hobart and Launceston – with the Launceston branch taking over the already well-established Post Office network in the north of the state.
The branch premises were situated at 100 Brisbane Street, with a street level shop and upstairs room converted to the Bank’s requirements. Interior fittings were of Tasmanian oak. On opening, about half of Hobart’s branch business was transferred to Launceston. A further increase in business saw the Bank move to new premises on the corner of St John and Brisbane Streets in 1919. In November 1922, a Registry of Commonwealth Government Inscribed Stock was established in Launceston.
In 1931, the Bank purchased premises in a building known as ‘Granite Pillars’, located on the corner of Brisbane Street and The Quadrant. Plans for alterations were drawn up by the Department of Works. It allowed for a main entrance through double swing doors fronting on Brisbane Street – the old granite pillars, which gave the building its name, remaining in their original state on each side of the doors – and a second entrance from The Quadrant. Work on the alterations commenced on 11 November 1931, to be completed by 29 February 1932. The branch opened without ceremony on 13 June 1932 with a staff of 20.
In May 1949, additional property adjoining the branch building in Brisbane Street was purchased and the ground floor area was incorporated into the banking chamber.
The London Office of the Commonwealth Bank opened in 1912. Its establishment – which preceded that of most domestic branches – reflected the importance Denison Miller placed on the Bank’s expansion, including outside of Australia. The Bank initially leased a suite of rooms from the Bank of Egypt in Egypt House, 36–38 New Broad Street. In 1915, additional space was obtained by leasing rooms in Friars House. The Bank expanded further in 1917 to assist with the increasing volumes of business being handled at New Broad Street. The Strand branch, situated in the recently completed Australia House, opened in October 1917 and dealt with Military Accounts and Savings Bank business for emigrants.
From 1929, the London Office operated out of premises at 8 Old Jewry, where it expanded its banking business and monitored the financial markets on behalf of the Australian Government. It also managed Australian loans and investments for both the federal and state governments.
New York (1927–1929)
In the 1920s, the United States emerged as a growing market for international loans. The Australian Government had historically raised funds through London; however, with the growth of markets in the United States, it began to look beyond the United Kingdom for government and semi-government loans.
An Agency of the Bank opened for business on 12 December 1927. A lease was obtained from the Hooker Electrochemical Company for the ground and first floor of a building at 25 Pine Street, New York – a site regarded as advantageous as it was very near to Wall Street. While the main purpose of the Agency was to raise loans on behalf of the Commonwealth, it also sent regular reports to the Governor of the Bank in Sydney, keeping him informed of the economic conditions in the United States.
The volume of general business conducted by the Agency remained small and the difficulties in working under a restricted licence made the Agency at times ineffective. Further, in 1929, the owner of the building in which the Agency operated notified the Bank of the proposed sale of the premises. As a result of these complications, the Agency closed for business on 10 June 1929. Staff were each paid a gratuity equal to three months’ salary. Among the staff, Mr SC Maslin, the Agency’s Accountant, returned to the Bank’s London Office. The Agency’s stenographer, Miss Barnett, also accepted a position in London. Alfred Mason was transferred to the Head Office Inspection Staff in Sydney from 8 August 1929.
The Federal Reserve Bank of New York agreed to keep the Commonwealth Bank’s Head Office informed by taking over another of the Agency’s former functions: cabling information on market prices of Australian and other British Dominion issues, as well as New York call money rates, on a regular basis.
Papua New Guinea (1914–)
A temporary banking facility was established in 1914, to serve the civil, naval and military population. At the time, PNG was under the administration of Australia.
By 1916, the Administrator of New Guinea had formally requested the Commonwealth Bank open a branch in Rabaul to cater for the 1,200 Australian military personnel stationed there. A branch was established in the former German Administration’s Treasury building. All military accounts were transferred to the Commonwealth Bank, and all outlying area agencies came under the Bank’s control. By July 1917, agencies existed at 12 locations.
In 1942, due to Second World War hostilities, all Bank branches and agencies in PNG were closed. By October 1944, hostilities had ended and the territory was under military administration. A Commonwealth Savings Bank branch was established at Port Moresby, becoming a full branch in October 1945.
At separation in June 1959, there were 53,442 savings accounts held by Papua New Guineans, with a total balance of £1,123,000.
At separation, the Bank’s state capital office buildings and the Head Office building in Sydney generally passed to the Reserve Bank of Australia (RBA), as the successor in law to the original Commonwealth Bank of Australia.
As the commercial banking functions of the Bank passed to the new Commonwealth Banking Corporation (CBC), and included the suburban and regional branches, these buildings generally remained with the CBC (which would later take the name Commonwealth Bank of Australia).
The Head Office building at Martin Place and Pitt Street was transferred to the CBC after the RBA moved to its new Head Office building at 65 Martin Place, Sydney. Like Denison Miller, Governor Coombs encouraged the use of Australian materials, including granite, marble and wood, along with a strong and confident style of modernist architecture for these new buildings.
Denison Miller saw the Commonwealth Bank as a bank for the people, and its growth a reflection of the trust placed in the Bank and a new nation. Successive Governors including Dr Coombs continued this belief and legacy. Sites for the Bank’s buildings were strategically chosen, to provide maximum visibility and became a feature of Australian life. The Bank’s buildings projected a sense of permanence and strength, and a confidence in the future.
This information is drawn from records held by the Reserve Bank of Australia and the following external sources:
Cornish S (2010), The Evolution of Central Banking in Australia, Reserve Bank of Australia, Sydney.
O’Callaghan J, P Hogben and R Freestone (eds) (2016), Sydney’s Martin Place: A Cultural and Design History, Allen & Unwin, Sydney.
Reserve Bank of Australia Museum, ‘Reflections of Martin Place’.
The majority of the records relating to the Bank’s buildings from 1912–1959, under the name of the Commonwealth Bank of Australia, can be found in the Bank Premises Department series of records and in the Bank’s photograph collection (including the Bank’s glass plate negative collection, which depicts early street scenes, particularly in Sydney).
See Unreserved for the Bank Premises Department Series Guide, which lists the relevant records, and for a selection of photographs relating to the Bank’s Head Office building in Sydney and branch buildings in Australia and overseas, including in the Glass Plate Negatives collection.
Prior to the establishment of the Bank Premises Department in 1929, the Governor’s role had oversight of the establishment and construction of Bank buildings. Further information regarding this can be viewed in these records, and especially in the records of Denison Miller. See the Series Guide for Denison Miller for a list of relevant records. The records of the New York Agency, Papua New Guinea and the London Letters also contain information relevant to the establishment of a presence in those countries.
Premises - Branches - 124 Nicholson Street, Footscray - Clients waiting to enter Bank (copy a) - August 1952
Premises - Branches - 124 Nicholson Street, Footscray - Clients waiting to enter Bank (copy b) - August 1952
The Bank at Work - Head Office 65 Martin Place - Accounting Department - Punch and verifier operators punching data into cards for input to the computer. Each woman can process up to 1,000 cards an hour - January 1972
Head Office Building - January 1963-January 1965 - Looking along the 12th floor corridor - January 1965
Bank Premises Department - Sydney - Head Office - Somerset House & Gibbs Chambers - Moving of Tenants - 1954-1955
Bank Premises Department - Sydney - Martin Place, Castlereagh & Elizabeth Streets - C.S.B. Building - Windows and Grilles - Repairs - 1936-1949
Bank Premises Department - Note Issue Department - Fitzroy - Victoria Parade - Lifts - Maintenance - 1935-1946
Bank Premises Department - Note Issue Department - Fitzroy - Victoria Parade - Laundry, Boiler Room, Store & Engineering Services - 1940-1944
Bank Premises Department - Note Issue Department - Fitzroy - Victoria Parade - Flood Lighting - Basement - 1944
Bank Premises Department - Sydney - Martin Place, Castlereagh & Elizabeth Streets - C.S.B. Building - Lifts - Maintenance - 1929-1941
Bank Premises Department - Note Issue Department - Fitzroy - Victoria Parade - Strongroom Extensions - 1930-1941
Bank Premises Department - Note Issue Department - Fitzroy - Victoria Parade - Renovations - Roof - 1934-1940
Bank Premises Department - Specification - Sydney (Amended), includes Memorandum of Agreement - 1913