After an interesting history with the building, the City of Sydney has finally purchased the historical Customs House at Circular Quay from the Federal Government.
Sydney Customs House was originally a single-storey building constructed in 1844 to house the Customs Service, which was responsible for all imports and exports, immigration and control of narcotics and morally corrupt goods. Designed in the Georgian style by Mortimer Lewis, it was extended to 5 storeys in 1885, with an attic built in 1917. Its large windows apparently allowed staff to keep an eye on the harbour’s shipping activity.
The Council’s history with Customs House dates back to 1990 when their offer of $36 million for the building did not proceed. In April 1991 the leasehold was offered for sale with an asking price of approximately $45 million, but was not sold. Early in 1993 the Federal Government offered a 60-year lease of the building to the Sydney City Council, plus $24 million towards its refurbishment, if the then Colonial Mutual development at East Circular Quay could be reduced in height by four levels; the council approved the development in March 1993. Revised development applications lowering the height of the buildings on the East Circular Quay site were approved in September 1994 and it was approved by the Central Sydney Planning Committee in May 1995.
Today the building has been modernised after several refurbishments and now houses the City of Sydney Library and various restaurants and bars with Hub Australia currently refitting two floors for the opening of 2,341 sqm of their co-working space in August 2019.