The State Records Office holds a large collection of architectural plans and drawings. These plans are mainly of government-owned buildings and works, but plans of some commercial and residential properties are also included in the collection. All of these plans have been transferred from government agencies, such as the Public Works Department, rather than from private architects. Several significant collections of plans created by private architectural firms are held by the State Library of Western Australia.
The construction of public works in Western Australia initially came under the control of Henry Reveley, the Civil Engineer for the Swan River Colony. This was to remain the case until 1877 when the first Director of Public Works was appointed. The Department for Works and Railways was formed soon after and the public works function was later transferred to the Public Works Department (PWD) in 1901.
Correspondence regarding the construction of public works for the 1800's can be found in the records of the Colonial Secretary's Office, held by the State Records Office. This correspondence does not contain plans as such, but rather deals with the initiation, progress and completion of major and minor works in the Colony.
In 1891, the Department of Works began a system of allocating plan numbers (PWD numbers) to public works plans. The department was also to do this retrospectively so that many early plans dating from the establishment of the Swan River Colony were issued with PWD numbers.
Many PWD plans of historically significant buildings and works have been transferred to the custody of the State Records Office and they form the core of the architectural plans held in the collection. A card index to these plans is held in the State Records Office Search Room and the majority of the plans themselves are available for ready access on microfiche. In cases where the PWD plans are not available on microfiche, the original plans will need to be retrieved from off-site storage.
- PWD Plans - Architectural and Engineering, 1829 - 1999, Series 399
These plans document buildings and works of significant architectural, aesthetic, heritage and historic value - past and present - that were built by the Public Works Department. Most of of the drawings have been filed in plan sets so that multiple drawings relating to a given structure have been grouped together as one set.
(n.b. The Department of Finance: Building Management and Works also retains a great many PWD plans in their custody, essentially for structures that are still government-owned and operational).
- PWD Files, 1895-1995, Series 82
As well as PWD plans, the State Records Office holds a large collection of PWD files which document the construction of public works in Western Australia. These files often contain plans and drawings of the work to which they relate.
- Goldfields Water Supply plans, 1896-1938, Series 2359
Although Goldfields Water Supply engineering plans were registered separately until 1939, many were subsequently top-numbered with PWD numbers and will be found in amongst the main PWD plan listings (see above). A separate group of Goldfields Water Supply plans are listed at WAS 2359 (Consignment 1648).
- Metropolitan Water Supply plans, 1897-1975, AN 134/8
The State Records Office also holds a number of Metropolitan Water Supply engineering plans listed at AN 134/8 (Consignment 1636). These document metropolitan reticulation and sewerage, building and residential water supply, reservoir and dam drawings, countoured and topographical data (metropolitan areas prone to flooding), etc. Although often overlooked, these plans can be very useful for heritage purposes and also contain unique and unexpected items, such as;
- Water holes and borings in Chinese Gardens in Beaufort and Bulwer Streets [plan no. 1629]
- Mt Eliza Reservoirs - position of pine trees planted by King Park Board [plan no. 4287]
- Plan of 11'-6" yacht hull for use on dams [plan no. 8479]
See also Metropolitan Sewerage Scheme Plans.
- Government Railways, 1890-1986, Series 2423
The State Records Office holds many plans of station buildings and yards (in addition to railway lines) across the State. These plans are an invaluable source to anyone conducting a heritage assessment of such works or is involved in their restoration. The main finding aid to these civil engineering (CCE) plans is a card index which is held at the State Records Office Search Room.
- Departmental Files - various
Building and Works files that have been transferred to the State Records Office from individual government departments also may have architectural plans attached to them. Construction files received from the Health department (hospitals) and Education department (schools) are particularly extensive.
Plans of Residential Properties
All local government authorities hold house plans submitted as part of the building application process. The only series which has so far come to the State Records Office is from the City of Stirling.
In many cases, the original plans of houses (and commercial properties) may no longer exist. It is, however, worth checking with your local council to determine if they still hold original building plans for your property.
- City of Stirling House Plans, 1917-1947, Series 4519
The State Records Office holds architectural plans of houses built in the City of Stirling (then called the Perth Road Board) for the period 29 August 1917 to 30 April 1947. Microfilm copies of these plans can be accessed at the State Records Office.
To make locating one of these plans easier, the State Records Office has created an index to the plans. The street name and lot number of the property are required to able to search this index.
Please note that house plans for the City of Stirling between the period 1947 and the early 1970's unfortunately no longer exist. The City of Stirling does hold plans, however, for the period after the early 1970's.
- State Housing Commission Architectural Plans, 1930-1950, Series 1381, AN 150
The State Records Office retains house plans produced by the architectural staff of the Workers Homes Board/State Housing Commission. These plans are grouped in discrete sets;
- Standard drawings used for the construction of individual homes (Accessions 1643 and 1645, Consignment 4963)
- McNess Trust Cottages (Consignment 4964)
- One-off housing drawings (Consignment 4965)
- Reconstructed Group Cottages (Consignment 4966)
- Goldfields Cottages (Consignment 5017)
- Metropolitan Sewerage Scheme Plans, 1910-1954, Series 634 and Sewerage Scheme Field Books, 1896- , Series 84
Metropolitan Sewerage Scheme Plans are a very useful source of graphical information on residential properties. Although they do not show detailed architectural information for houses, they do show excellent "footprint" information - that is, a birds-eye outline of the house and property. This information can be very useful in establishing the original layout and design of residential properties, as well as the size of the property itself.
The plans were compiled from field surveys carried out for the extension (or renovation) of the metropolitan sewerage scheme, between 1910 and 1954. A grid map to the plans is kept in the State Records Office Search Room.
The plans are now available online through the State Records Office's RetroMaps site: https://mapping.sro.wa.gov.au.
Another useful point to note about these records is that each plan also lists the field books used by survey staff of the Water Supply, Sewerage and Drainage Department in compiling this information. As the State Records Office holds many of these original fieldbooks, it is possible to obtain further detailed graphical information about a given property, street or area.
Plans of Commercial Properties
- Plans - Commercial Properties, 1903-1993, Series 1320
These plans comprise copies of architectural drawings lodged with local councils in support of building approvals. Plans in this series were referred to the State Commissioner for Taxation for valuation purposes.
Most of the sets of drawings describe commercial properties and many were constructed in the Perth Central Business District in the 1930's and have since been demolished. A list of the plans is accessible at the State Records Office Search Room.
- Plans - Licensed Premises, 1923-1994, Series 2237
These plans were transferred to the State Records Office by the Office of Racing, Gaming and Liquor and contain architectural drawings for hotels throughout the metropolitan area as well as the State. Although the hotels in this plan series are limited and do not include all hotels in Western Australia, some significant licensed premises are represented. Most of the plans date from after the 1950's but some earlier plans extending back to the 1920's are included as well. Metropolitan hotel plans are grouped at consignment 5585 and country hotel plans are grouped at consignment 5586. Full plan listings are accessible at the State Records Office Search Room.
Further Architectural Drawings
- Plans - Architectural - Public Buildings, 1926-1992, Series 1457
Under the Health Act 1911, there was a requirement for the Executive Director of Public Health to approve the opening of any public building (a function that devolved to local authorities in the early 1990's). The plans that were lodged as part of this requirement form another very useful source of architectural information. The plans cover a wide range of public buildings including halls, churches, theatres, non-government schools, club rooms, etc. The State Records Office holds a register to these plans (available on microfilm) and the plans themselves are accessible in aperture card format.
State Records Office staff at the Enquiry Desk can provide additional information on the range of education and school related records available from within the State Records Office collection. For more information contact us by telephone on (08) 9427 3600, via email at firstname.lastname@example.org or in person.