Lands Board Office
The Maitland Land Board District comprised 13 land districts under the administration of the Crown Lands Act of 1884 . In each of these 13 districts was a Lands Board. To manage the responsibilities and transactions of the Land and Surveys offices of such a large area, staff were stationed at East Maitland and a Crown Lands Agent appointed to each district.
The Lands Board was first opened at East Maitland on 1 January 1885. For the purpose of carrying on business, a school-room in Banks Street was leased from the authorities of St. Peter’s Church of England, however when the introduction of dairying in the Hunter led to many landowners dividing their holdings into smaller portions, the resulting in an increase in the workload of the Lands Board required a larger premises.
The need of new and more extensive premises soon became apparent.
A new site for a Lands Board Office was originally surveyed in 1891, however, it was not until December of 1894 that steps were made to purchase the land for a Land and Survey Office. In a memorandum of March 1895 it was confirmed that the site on the corner of Banks and Newcastle Streets had been purchased from the authorities of St. Peter’s Church for £650 and tenders were called for the construction of the new office and caretaker’s quarters.In August 1895 the tender of Thomas Henley, of Balmain, for £4,530 was accepted, with the estimated time of construction being eight months. The building was designed by the then Government Architect, Colonel Walter Liberty Vernon and erected under the supervision of Mr. W.A. Lewis, Clerk of Works.
By mid-1896 work was well underway, with the building having been substantially completed by the end of that year. Extra work, principally on the foundations, brought the final cost to £4660.
In a letter from Public Works on February 2, 1897, the Lands Department was informed the new Maitland Land Board office was completed. The office was subsequently officially occupied in mid- March 1897 and the first meeting of the local Land Board for the Land District of Maitland was held in the new court offices on 3 April 1897.
A separate portion of the building also housed Public Works and Roads Department.
Accounts of the opening in the local press described the compact three-storey building in minute detail: the stone base course had been constructed from rock quarried from Ravensfield. The bricks used in the building came from Wallsend and internal bricks from kilns near Maitland, while American green slate tiles covered the roof, capped with decorative cresting. Decorative stonework had been applied to the façade, a cedar staircase lead to the upper floor and that the floors were laid with teak from the Richmond River.
Cedar joinery was used extensively throughout the building; cedar coupled with kauri was used in the panelling, while the upper rooms were built from kauri and beech. Internal walls were finished in Keene’s cement for the lower level with a dado five feet high, above which the wall was finished in shell-lime plaster.
The building remained virtually unchanged until the mid-1980s when the increasing number of staff necessitated the department to look at possible extensions to the original building.
On March 15, 1984, the Minister for Public Works announced tenders for the new extensions would be called for towards the end of the year, with the two storey additions estimated to cost in the vicinity of $800,000.
The Public Works Department subsequently won the tender and commenced work on May 20, 1985. The new two storey extensions housed plan printing rooms, records room, office areas and board room.
The new extensions were officially opened by John Aquilina, Minister for Natural Resources, on February 28, 1986.