Skip navigation
The Australian National University

Acton heritage trail

The Acton Campus of ANU has over thirty individual sites that are listed on the Commonwealth Heritage List and over twenty that are listed on the ACT Heritage Database. These sites represent the earliest phases of settlement in Canberra, exhibit links to Australia's wartime history and show the development of the University from its earliest inception to the present day. This walk gives users an opportunity to understand the relationship of the University to previous settlement of the Acton site. Whether your interest is the early administrative period of Canberra, the social history of the Acton area or the architecture of the University then this walk is for you. More detailed descriptions and histories of these buildings can be found in the Heritage Database.

Download the site location map of the Acton Heritage places (pdf 1.65MB).

List of sites

Old Canberra House complex

Old Canberra House, constructed on Acton Ridge in 1913, served as the Residence of the Administrator of the Federal Territory, Colonel David Miller, until 1917. It was the first substantial brick house of one of the first subdivisions of the Territory. From 1920 the building accommodated the Federal Capital Advisory Committee (FCAC) and the Federal Capital Commission (FCC), members of which were known to have lived in Old Canberra House on a permanent basis and conducted a number of meetings in the building. These Committees were to develop Canberra through some of the most difficult years of growth.

Old Canberra House

From the 1930s to mid-1950s Old Canberra House was used as the residence and headquarters of the first four High Commissioners of the United Kingdom. The building (as well as the larger Acton area) were included in lands allotted to ANU in 1952. The University subsequently leased the premises to the Commonwealth Club until 1965, at which time it became the ANU Staff Centre; the first of such institutions in the country to welcome all academic members of the campus community. In 1999 it was altered to accommodate University offices. The gardens and tennis court were intially designed and formed by Charles Weston, Canberra's first gardener.

The complex also includes the chauffeur's cottage (constructed in 1938), the garden shed (c1925) and the gardener's cottage (c1925).

Lennox House complex

Constructed in stages from 1911 to 1927, the Lennox House complex served as accommodation for public servants until 1953. It was the site of Canberra's first guesthouse and was the location of many of the earliest social and sporting clubs in the Territory.

Of the original 14 main buildings, two laundries and a tennis court, only seven of the main buildings and one laundry remain.

Lennox House

Lennox Crossing (Constable's Cottage)

16 Lennox Crossing was constructed in 1913 and served a number of purposes associated with the Federal Capital Commission before it became the residence of the Commonwealth Police Officer (hence, Constable's Cottage) in 1936. Mrs Hilton, the wife of Sgt. R. Hilton, remained in the cottage until 1990.

Associated with the cottage are a detached laundry, wood room and WC; a corrugated iron stable ('loose-box') and a semi-detached garage on the adjacent boundary.

Lennox Crossing - Constable's Cottage

14 Balmain Lane

Number 14 Balmain Lane was constructed by the Federal Capital Commission to house middle-level public servants in 1924. Significantly, it was the residence of T.R. Casaboulte, Executive Architect of the FCC.

14 Balmain Lane

16 Balmain Lane

Like most of the Balmain Crescent cottages, 16 Balmain Lane was built by the Federal Capital Commission in the mid-1920s. The cottage is of standard construction for the time, displaying weatherboard walls supported by a 'Canberra red-brick' base. It was used to house middle-level public servants, including such notable tenants as W.E. Potts, acting Chief Engineer of the FCC and Dr R.N. Ratcliffe, Assistant Chief Division of Entomology, CSIRO.

16 Balmain Lane

18 Balmain Lane

Constructed in 1924, this weatherboard building was used by the Federal Capital Commission to house middle-level public servants. Notable tenants have included Dr H.L. Allen, Professor of English at RMC Duntroon and one of the first full-time lecturers at Canberra University College, and E.H. Clark, the Acting Registrar of ANU in 1952.

18 Balmain Lane

20 Balmain Crescent

Number 20 Balmain Crescent was constructed in 1924 and displays the ubiquitous red-brick base supporting weatherboard walls. The cottage was built for Charles S. Daley, who was the only occupant until the University adopted the site in 1966. Daley was the Secretary of the Federal Capital Advisory Committee and the Federal Capital Commission, the Civic Administrator of the Federal Capital Territory, Executive Officer of the National Capital Planning and Development Commission and, when retired, was the Assistant Secretary of Civic Administration of the Department of the Interior. He was also a Member of the Canberra University College Council and a member of the Interim Council of ANU.

20 Balmain Crescent

22 Balmain Crescent

This brick house was constructed in 1928 by the Federal Capital Commission to house prominent public servants in Acton. These have included Brigadier General J.P. McGlinn, Commissioner of the Public Service Board (1923-30); Dr B.T. Dickson, the Chief of Division of Plant Industry at CSIRO; Dr D.G. Mackeller, Resident Medical Officer of the nearby Canberra Community Hospital; Dr L.W. Nott, the Medical Superintendent of the Community Hospital and the first elected member of the House of Representatives for ACT and Professor D.G. Catcheside, Professor of Microbiology and the foundation chair of JCSMR. The building also served as the quarters of the USSR Legation for a brief time in 1943.

22 Balmain Crescent

26 Balmain Crescent

Number 26 Balmain Crescent was constructed in 1928 to house upper-level public servants. Notable tenants have included W.J. Skewes, Commissioner of the Public Service Board; W.H. Sharwood, Crown Solicitor; Dr P.R. Viljoen and J.K. Uys, South African High Commissioners and Professor C.P. Fitzgerald.

26 Balmain Cresent

28 Balmain Crescent

This weatherboard cottage was constructed in 1925 to house middle-level public servants working in the Territory. It has housed the Director of Investigation Branch of the Attorney-General's Department and the Commissioner of Police, H.E. Jones and has also served as the residence of Dr A.J. Metcalfe, the Director-General of Health.

28 Balmain Crescent

8 Liversidge Street

Number 8 Liversidge Street is similar in style to 16 Lennox Crossing. Both were constructed in 1913 to house middle-level married government employees involved in the early development of the Territory. Though the building has been altered, both internally and externally, it still retains vestiges of its original form and is reminiscent of high quality government housing at the time. Notable tenants have included FCC Chief Lands Officer J.C Brackenreg and A.W. Edwards, Clerk of the Lands and Survey Branch of the Department of Home Affairs. Edwards was also the original Assistant Secretary Housing and Commissioner of the Housing Department of the Interior. It is believed to be the only building from the early development of Canberra that is still in continuous occupation.

8 Liversidge Street

7 Liversidge Street

Constructed by the Federal Capital Commission in 1913, this building was used to accommodate high-level public servants involved in the early development of the Territory. The building was designed by and built for H.M. Rolland, FCC Architect. Other notable tenants have included Dr J.R.M. Thomson, Medical Officer in Charge of the Federal Capital Territory; C.S. Vautin, survey draftsman; J.C. Brackenreg, stock inspector (later FCC Chief Lands Officer); R.J. Rain, pioneer surveyor (who prepared the earliest survey of the Acton property in 1911) and A.K. Healey, Hansard.

The stable and buggy shed located to the rear of the building is reminiscent of the social level of the occupants and is one of the most intact examples of such a building in the Acton area.

7 Liversidge Street

5 Liversidge Street

This weatherboard building was constructed in 1926 by the Federal Capital Commission. Notable tenants have included G.H. Monahan, Clerk of the Senate, and J.F.M. Haydon, Professor of Modern Languages, RMC Duntroon (later one of the first full-time lecturers of Canberra University College).

5 Liversidge Street

3 Liversidge Street

Constructed in 1925 by the Federal Capital Commission, this building housed high-level public servants. The cottage initially accommodated P. Deane, the Private Secretary to Prime Minister Hughes, Secretary of the Department of Home Affairs and Secretary of the Prime Minsiter's Department. Other notable tenants have included J.A. Jackson, Commissioner for Taxation; Sir Raphael Cliento, UNIRRA Zone Director and the Director of General Health and Medical Services, Queensland; and Dr C. Barnard, Principal Research Scientist, Division of Plant Industry, CSIRO.

3 Liversidge Street

Old Canberra Hospital - Administration building

Constructed in 1928 by the Federal Capital Commission, this weatherboard building was the Administration Block of the Old Community Hospital; the first to be established in Canberra. It is one of four surviving buildings of the Canberra Community Hospital group.

The building is currently used by the Research School of Earth Sciences. Important work in the building has included the dating of the 40,000 year old Lake Mungo site and, in conjunction with the ANU Faculty of Geology, a study of lake sediments from across Australia.

Old Canberra Hospital - Administration building

Old Canberra Hospital - Auxiliary canteen and tennis court

The Auxiliary Canteen and tennis court were constructed for the nurses and other employees of the Canberra Community Hospital. They are significant recreational facilities that survive from early Acton and are an important contribution to the streetscape of ANU.

Old Canberra Hospital - Auxiliary canteen and tennis court

Old Canberra Hospital - Laboratory and animal house

These two brick buildings were constructed by the Federal Capital Commission as the laboratory and experimental animal house associated with the Department of Health. They are the only such facilities surviving from the 1920s and demonstrates the scientific practice of the day.

Old Canberra Hospital - Laboratory and animal house

Old Canberra Hospital - Isolation block

Constructed by the Federal Capital Commission in 1929, this weatherboard building served as the Isolation Ward of the Old Community Hospital. As one of the four surviving early hospital buildings, it reveals information of early health care in the Capital and demonstrates high quality government construction.

Old Canberra Hospital - Isolation block

Old Canberra Hospital - Nurses' quarters

The Nurses' Quarters of the Community Hospital Buildings was constructed in 1936. The building is significant for its demonstration of the design and technical achievements of the Department of the Interior, who carried out their work with great economy. It demonstrates the method of accommodating a large number of nurses who contributed to the medical welfare of the Canberra community; this method of housing is becoming increasingly rare.

Old Canberra Hospital - Nurses' Quarters

University House

University House has acted as a staff social and accommodation facility since 1954. All unmarried doctoral students were required to reside there for the next decade. University House is the principal architectural achievement of the first ANU site planner, Professor Brian Lewis, who designed the building in a deliberately relaxed, contemporary Australian style. The original furniture was designed by Frederick Ward to enhance the architectural character and collegiate atmosphere of the residential wings and the public rooms. The Ward furniture was influential in the development of the interior design and craft professions in Australia.

The integration of architecture and the landscape are important components of the site, exemplified by the pleasant central courtyard and Fellow's Garden to the west of the main building.

University House

R.G. Menzies building

The R.G. Menzies Building was the first purpose-built library on the ANU campus and houses one of ten library collections on the Acton campus. Prime Minister Menzies laid the foundation stone for the building in 1961 and Queen Elizabeth formally opened the library on 13 March 1963.

A strong architectural composition with functional zones is clearly distinguished in the massing and elevations of the building by a change of materials. The distinctive elevation of the building incorporates metal panel sculptures by artist Lyndon Dadswell and is a good example of artwork integrated into the design of a building.

R.G. Menzies building

H.C. Coombs building

The H.C. Coombs Building is named after the famed Australian economist Herbet Cole 'Nugget' Coombs. Constructed in stages from 1964 to 1975, the building is an innovative trio-hexagonal labyrinth of six hundred rooms on nineteen different levels.

In similar fashion to the nearby R.G. Menzies Building, the H.C. Coombs Building is embellished with sculptured screens that demonstrate the integration of artwork and architecture.

H.C. Coombs building

Canberra School of Art

The School of Art was originally designed by the prominent government architect Cuthbert Whitely as the Canberra High School and was constructed in 1939. It was the first of such institutions in the Territory and came to be regarded as the best high school outside the Sydney metropolitan area. During World War II the building was selected to serve as a casualty station and a refuge for the homeless.

The building was taken over by the School of Art in 1976, who operated as a separate institution until its incorporation with ANU early in the 1990s. Architecturally, the building represents the primary characteristics of the Art deco movement. The geometric, symmetrical layout has a distinct relationship to the street layout of the City Centre and the axial features of the Griffin Plan. The building exhibits geometric decoration, incised detail and a reflection of industrialised, rather than hand-made, components.

Canberra School of Art

Canberra School of Music

The Canberra School of Music was constructed in 1976 and is the hub of musical activity in the Territory. The large Llewelyn Hall is one of Canberra's principal concert venues for visiting and local performers, organisations and entrepreneurs. It provides a significant venue in Canberra for choral and musical recitals, covering students to world-renowned performers.

The building is a strong, assertive cubist architectural arrangement, with massing effects achieved by expressing the stairs, changes of level and the internal functions.

Canberra School of Music

Drill Hall Gallery

The Drill Hall was constructed in 1939 to a design of E.H. Henderson, Chief Architect of Department of the Interior (1926-36), one of the principal architects in the early development of Canberra. It was sited to symmetrically address a recreation reserve, now the Willows Oval area.

The building is one of eight drill halls that were erected in Australia in the interwar period. It was continually tenanted by the military until 1968 when it was purchased by the University. It was known as Kingsley Street Hall until 1984-85. Radio ANU, a station that was developed by ANU students, was broadcast to the halls, colleges, University Union and University House buildings from a room of the Drill Hall building from April 1973.

Drill Hall Gallery

Toad Hall

Toad Hall was constructed as student accommodation in 1974. The building reflects an attitude of greater student independence with informal and unstructured interaction and communal activity. The University adopted the name 'Toad Hall' on the recommendation of the first students of the hall. The relaxed setting of the site, with the building nestled amongst the willow trees and beside Sullivan's Creek, reminded them of Kenneth Grahame's The Wind in the Willows stories.

Toad Hall

Research School of Biological Sciences

The foundation stone of the Research School of Biological Sciences (RSBS) was laid on 14 November 1970 and was officially opened by the Governor General Sir Paul Hasluck on 10 November 1977. The School is the leading national and international centre for fundamental research and postgraduate training. Research here has changed the way we think about major biological problems. It also houses the world's best biological database, which was developed by Professor A.J. Gibbs, a world authority on plant viruses.

Research School of Biological Sciences

Updated:  21 January 2014/Responsible Officer:  Director, Facilities & Services Division/Page Contact:  Systems & Information Technology