The original council chambers, the Iron House, was only ever envisioned as temporary accommodation. Council was keen to have a headquarters worthy of the new municipality and so in July 1861 Councillors Trickett, Holdsworth, Phillips and Oatley were charged with the task of finding a site for a permanent council chamber. An offer from Captain John Broomfield, a shipmaster-turned-merchant, to exchange his allotment P on the Point Piper Estate, comprising 3 roods 2 perches, for £80 was accepted at a council meeting on 13 August 1861, although Council did not secure the freehold from the Estate until January 1900. This land was situated on the corner of Ocean Street and Point Piper Road (now Jersey Road), Woollahra, and is today the sites of the Goethe-Institut, Euroka Reserve and Rancliff Gardens.
Council advertised for plans and specifications to be submitted for a municipal council chamber in August 1862. The Council required the building to be "of stone, with slate roof, and so planned as to admit of being enlarged without injury to the original structure". It needed to "contain one large room, and rooms for the residence of the council clerk". At the meeting held on 14 October 1862, Council voted to accept the plans of the architect Harold Brees.
In March of the following year the tender of Turner and Cripps for the "erection and completion of a stone building" was accepted. During the course of construction it would appear that Council had a disagreement with the architect over deviations from the specifications – in particular the use of "materials of improper nature" and "inferior quality". It was decided that "the works be at once taken out of Mr Brees’s hands and that another architect be employed". Oswald Lewis was then appointed to replace Harold Brees as the supervising architect.
Early in 1864 the new chambers were completed and the building committee was "empowered to take possession" on Wednesday 24 February. The building ran between Ocean Street and Jersey Road facing the junction of these two roads. Adjoining the rear of the chambers building on the Ocean Street frontage stood the town clerk’s residence. Land behind these buildings was dedicated to the council’s depot which included (following a decision made in October 1868) an overseer’s residence and public pound.
Woollahra Council Chambers, 90 Ocean Street, c1910.
The triangular area at the junction of Jersey Road and Ocean Street, which is now the Euroka Reserve, formed the front garden of the chambers. The entire property was surrounded by a wooden picket fence with an arch forming the entrance to the chambers from Ocean Street, built by Nathaniel Goodwin, who won the tender in June 1864.
The council building has since undergone various alterations and additions, the first alterations occurring in 1889. In 1919 the architects Scott and Green undertook the remodelling work on the chambers, as they did again in 1929-1930.
In March 1918 it was decided that the building was no longer adequate to accommodate the increased staff and developing role of council, and the following year the architects E.A. Scott and Green were engaged to design an extension for the chambers. The tender of G. P. Jones and Sons to undertake the building work was accepted in June. Work, consisting of "a large one-storied office on the western side of the old building [that] comfortably accommodates the whole of the office staff together with the Engineer and staff", was completed by December 1919.
By 1929 space was again at a premium and in June Council voted to adopt the plans of architects E.A. Scott, Green & Scott for alterations and additions to the council chambers. In August the tender of Mr J. Worrall for carrying out the work was accepted. The exterior of the remodelled chambers was coloured cream with a light green trim. The extensive remodelling of the chambers that was undertaken, along with the porte cochere added in 1956, essentially created the façade that remains today. On 10 February 1930 Council met for "the first time in the new Council Chamber on the western side of the re-constructed building".
The remodelling of the building was reported in The Sydney Morning Herald in April 1930, noting that the "plan has been restricted to some extent by the old layout" while ‘portion of the interior walls still stand’. The article went on to report that "the altered building is in brick cemented and coloured … the front elevation has a recessed arcaded porch on the ground floor with balcony over the two hipped wings carried forward on either side. The roof is covered with semi-glazed tiles … [and] shutters being fixed to all windows. The arcaded porch in front leads into an internal vestibule as public space and inquiry office. On the right hand side is the general office with engineer’s department at rear. On the left-hand side is the Mayor’s and town clerk’s offices with corridor leading to the three inspectors’ offices, and entrance to engineer’s department and stairs to first floor, on which is situated the council chamber with coved ceiling, also Mayor’s room, aldermen’s room, committee room and retiring rooms … For storage of various records, the basement has been extended and a two-storied strong room has been introduced".
During the 1920s, the front garden was dominated by the 6" German naval gun captured by Australian forces in France during World War II. Presented to the Municipality in 1921 as a so-called "war trophy" to mark Woollahra’s financial contribution to the war effort, the gun was mounted in the centre of a triangular lawn edged by gravel pathways. The gun was moved to the South Head Military Reserve with the renovations of the chambers in 1930.
In 1947, after over 80 years in occupation, Council made the decision to move the chambers from Ocean Street to Redleaf, the property at Double Bay purchased by Council in 1940. The last meeting of Council at the Ocean Street chambers was held on 28 July 1947 and the first meeting of Council was held at the new council chambers at Redleaf on 11 August 1947.
First council meeting held at Redleaf, 1947.
The following year Woollahra Council leased the former Ocean Street chambers to the engineering firm, Clyde Industries Ltd for use as an administrative centre. Council retained ownership and use of the council depot and cottage at the Trelawney Street boundary as well as the front garden at the Jersey Road and Ocean Street junction while the town clerk’s residence continued to be occupied by the town clerk.
In August 1954, as Clyde Industries’ lease of the former chambers neared expiry, negotiations were opened between the parties for the purchase by Clyde of both the chambers building and the town clerk’s residence. This led to the subdivision of the site and the creation of three allotments:
In 1955 Lot B, the former chambers, town clerk’s residence and garage, known as 90 Ocean Street, was purchased by Clyde Industries. When determining the terms on which part of its Ocean Street lands would be sold to Clyde Industries, Council elected to retain the triangular garden plot at the corner of Ocean Street and Jersey Road (Lot A) which it undertook to maintain "as an enclosed garden area". The public garden was officially named Euroka Reserve in 1972.
By 1965 Council had transferred the depot and cottage (Lot C) at the corner of Ocean and Trelawney Streets to the developers Rancliff Gardens who erected town houses on the site.
Clyde Industries transferred the former council chambers and town clerk’s residence to Lorima Pty Ltd in 1970. In 1976 the property was transferred to the German Republic and since this time it has operated as the Goethe-Institut, dedicated to the promotion and teaching of the German language and culture.