If there was one building that could encapsulate the Parisian feel of Potts Point it would be the Macleay Regis at 12 Macleay Street.

The iconic Art Deco unit block is central to Macleay Street and is distinguished as one of Australia’s finest heritage buildings. Its grand foyer and elaborate features have been home to the upper echelons of Sydney society, many of whom have lived in the ‘Regis for decades.

The Macleay Regis oozes old-world glamour from every one of its ten floors. Read on to find out about the origins of this charming architectural gem.

History

Before 10-12 Macleay Street was synonymous with the Macleay Regis it housed two semi-detached homes known as Elizabeth Bay Villas. These belonged to Julia and Charles Eberlein, who used these properties for investments. In 1911 these villas were sold to eminent physician Charles Blackburn, who lived in No. 12 Macleay Street. And in 1920 he combined the two homes into one, which he called “Greenhithe” (named after his birthplace in England).

Harold Percival Christmas purchased the property in 1937. Christmas was a salesman and one of the founders of Woolworths, which initially sold portable low-cost merchandise. However his vision for Macleay Street was far from budget. On 2 September 1937, he applied to have the villas demolished and, less than a month later, Christmas lodged an application to erect a new block of flats whose design would be inspired (consciously or subconsciously) by none other than the Rockefeller.

Architects

Christmas selected Eric Clark Pitt and Charles Clarence Phillips from the firm Pitt & Phillips to design the new block of flats (although architectural drawings only show Pitt’s name). Prior to this project, the duo had an impressive resume of Sydney apartments including Baringa in Darlinghurst and Chesterfield and Hillside in Edgecliff. Macleay Regis, which was completed in February 1939, at a cost in excess of £100,000 would be their largest commission.

The scale of the project did not go unnoticed and its reception in the media reflected its size. The editor of the journal Building wrote:

“The name of “Macleay-Regis” has been given to one of the largest – if not the largest – block of flats in Sydney that has recently risen to dominate the land of flats. The title – virtually “King of Macleay Street” – is certainly appropriate because this building towers head and shoulders above its surrounding neighbours and is visible from all sides.”

Pitt and Phillips went on to design other notable apartment blocks in Sydney including:

  • Allenby in Potts Point
  • Caversham Court, Melrose, Somerset and Belltrees in Elizabeth Bay
  • Wentworth Towers in Point Piper.
  • Unfortunately, Pitt died in 1938 and did not live to see the completion of most of his works. Phillips took over the company and even married Pitt’s widow.

Original building features

At the time of completion, the Macleay Regis boasted 87 apartments and a substantial penthouse, with magnificent harbour views. There were ten units on each level, usually six one-bedroom and four containing two bedrooms.

Much like Potts Point developments today, the building was ambitious in catering to a prestige real estate market. This was reflected in the scope of the amenities.

They included:

  • A service kitchen on the eighth floor, which supplied residents with meals
  • A live-in concierge
  • Maid service
  • An internal telephone system which allowed residents to connect to the hairdresser, pharmacy and florist downstairs
  • In 1950 Macleay Regis was the first apartment block to provide its occupants with coin-operated laundry.

Residents

The Macleay Regis enjoyed its popularity upon completion but as World War II progressed it became a less popular place to live. In 1942 when the Japanese midget submarines entered Sydney Harbour one resident recalled “standing outside the Macleay Regis and counting 28 flats vacant.”

After the war, the ‘Regis continued on its social ascent and guests entering the building were a regular feature of Sydney Society Columns.

To this day, some of the buildings’ past and present residents include actors, interior designers, editors, restaurant critics, radio presenters and politicians.

Architectural legacy

The Macleay Regis is in meticulous condition and has retained much of the Art Deco detailing that it is known for. It’s completion in 1939 has cemented its place as one of the last buildings to exemplify the interwar style.

Standout features include:

  • Exquisite brickwork
  • Parapets above the projected bays and central portico
  • Original timber-framed double-hung window sashes
  • Steel-framed windows below the ground floor
  • Art-deco influenced portico with cantilevered canopy
  • Grand period entrance and reception area, which are both unusually large in scale.
  • Original herringbone parquetry floor
  • Sand-finished walls

In 2017, the public was gifted a glimpse of the Macleay Regis penthouse interior as it went for sale. The 350 sqm apartment had a wraparound terrace with postcard views, a palatial living room and regal dining area. One key feature that the Macleay Regis lacks is parking, but the penthouse even sold with two car spaces on title.

If you’re looking to buy or sell in Potts Point get in touch with my team today.

Article by Jason Boon

In a real estate market that is the focus of Australian, and indeed worldwide attention, Jason Boon's results in the Sydney scene make him a highly significant figure within the industry. A long-term specialist in the Potts Point and inner eastern suburbs area, he is uniquely placed to leverage his skills and local knowledge as the area undergoes significant change and diversification.Jason ha…