The sale of Newcastle’s Longworth House is causing quite a stir amongst local history buffs.
Built in 1892, the baroque-style building located on Scott Street is expected to fetch up to $3 million, despite some Novocastrians claiming it is priceless.
The building is the work of German-born architect Frederick Menkens.
During its 128-year heritage, it has been known as Wood’s Chambers, The Air Force Club, Longworth Institute, and Longworth House.
Its most recent role has been as a function centre, hosting weddings and other special occasions for thousands of Novocastrians.
Renowned for its Anglo-Dutch façade of red-pressed brick, carved sandstone features and oriel windows, the building took six months to build and was described by local media at the time as “one of the most modern and advanced buildings in the colony”.
Commercial Collective real estate agent Adam Leacy says Longworth House has been for sale since February 2020.
“It’s been a tricky year to sell a hospitality site,” he said.
“Enquiry was low for some time but, in recent weeks, we have seen a great deal of interest from buyers, two Sydney-based hospitality groups and one local.
“It’s an amazing place and it’s walk-in ready, so I’m confident it will be sold soon.”
Local history enthusiast, former radio host, Newcastle City Councillor and founder of Facebook page Lost Newcastle, Carol Duncan, says rumours the building is in disrepair are profoundly incorrect.
“The building is not going to be demolished,” she said.
“Indeed, I met with a prospective purchaser last week who was visiting Newcastle just to see it.
“Newcastle is lucky to have many wonderful and beautiful old buildings and we should be very proud of them, but they are largely privately owned.
“The building, as I understand it, was restored by Suters Architects in the late 1990s and underwent further significant work in 2009.
“It’s listed on the Newcastle Local Environmental Plans (LEP) as a heritage item of local significance.
“It is stunning – I believe it to be in very good condition and I can’t wait to see its next life.
“I hope it continues to be a space that all of us can visit.”
The NSW Office of Environment and Heritage claims the building holds a high degree of historical significance.
Its website states it is associated with a number of key phases in Newcastle’s commercial, social and cultural history, represented in its role as commercial premises built in the era of mercantile prosperity of the early 1890s.
It followed as a centre for cultural pursuits associated with Newcastle’s emergence as a prosperous, cosmopolitan city in the 1920s, and particularly as a recreational facility for servicemen during World War II.
In March 1928, the building was purchased and presented to the Australasian Society of Patriots by William Longworth on behalf of the Longworth Family.
In 1946, it became the Air Force Club.
The building was extensively damaged in the 1989 earthquake.