Heritage Fremantle theatre building listed for first time in 100 years

Two adjoining Fremantle properties are being sold for the first time in their 100 year histories.

The former Princess Theatre, built in 1912, and the Princess Chambers, built in 1899, have been listed for sale.

Frank Biddles was a pioneering pearler who built up a massive property portfolio in WA until his death in 1932.

When he died his executors sold his portfolio which included several Kimberley pastoral stations, 32 properties in Fremantle, 17 in Broome and others spread throughout the metropolitan area from Rivervale to Nedlands.

But this property was left aside for his unborn grandchildren.

These two Fremantle buildings are being sold by his ancestors for the first time.

Biddles built the Princess Chambers to the design of architect Edwin Summerhayes – also responsible for The Rechabite Hall in WILLIAM STREET and Ancient Order of Foresters in Francis Street.

The heritage listed property, at 21-27 Market St Fremantle, is said to be a fine example of a Federation Free Classical style building, with elaborate stucco decoration above the ground floor level, that makes a significant contribution to the streetscape.

It is a three storey painted brick building with bracketed and balustraded parapet and a zero setback from the pavement.

It has has four bays divided by engaged pilasters extending through the parapet.

Only the façade is heritage listed.

The Princess Theatre, at 29-33 Market Street, was built by Biddles to the design of John McNeece and Son.

The building facade creates the impression of being a separate building but it is actually just an extension of the Princess Chambers.

According to heritage documents, the 1,850 seater theatre cost £7,000 to build.

It opened on 21 December 1912 with a screening of The French Spy and vaudeville performances by Elsie McGuire, according to newspapers at the time.

The building operated as a movie theatre until 1969. It was then converted to commercial property with retail lots on the ground floor and offices above.

It was also home to one of the earliest incarnations of the Returned and Services League of Australia, then known as RSA, when Biddles made the basement of the Princess Theatre available to provide amenities for army and naval personnel.

The building was extensively rebuilt in 1941

It is a two storey highly decorative, rendered and truncated corner building with a zero setback from the pavement, according to heritage documents.

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It has a bracketed and balustrade parapet, with decorative engaged low pilasters.

The 660 square metres of land on one title is being sold by Knight Frank.

Director Tony Delich says the building is the last piece of Biddles’ legacy and is one of Fremantle’s landmark buildings

“It has never been sold before and still belongs to his grand children who weren’t even born when he died or when the buildings were built,” Delich says.

It has 1,146 square metres of lettable area and most of the tenancies were long established, including the popular Kakulus Sister grocer.

It currently earns $278,000 per year and is being sold by an offers to purchase campaign closing on November 13.

There is opportunity for further refurbishment of unused office areas on the upper levels plus the basement area which is currently vacant.

Alistair Walsh

Alistair Walsh

Deutsche Welle online reporter

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