Radisson Blu Plaza Hotel Sydney

History of the Radisson Blu near Sydney Harbour


The sandstone building that houses the Radisson Blu Plaza Hotel Sydney has a rich and colourful history that began in 1924. Many of the building’s unique architectural details are still present throughout the hotel, especially in two rooms that now serve as meeting spaces. Listed on the New South Wales State Heritage Register, the building enjoys a protected status so that guests can appreciate this gem at the intersection of Pitt, Hunter and O’Connell streets for years to come.

John Fairfax and Sons: 1924 – 1955

The original building on the site, the Wales House, dates back to 1856 and was home to the publishing company John Fairfax and Sons, which produced Australia’s oldest continuously published newspaper, The Sydney Morning Herald. When the paper became successful, the Wales House was demolished in 1924 to make way for the impressive palazzo-style building that now sits in the heart of Sydney’s central business district.

Architects Manson and Pickering designed the nine-storey building with its blend of palatial and functional architecture, and the Stuart Brothers contract firm brought the architects’ vision to life, dividing the project into three phases that took until 1929 to complete. The finished building stood 50 metres tall — the maximum height allowed by the Height of Buildings Act at that time. To create the illusion of added height, Manson and Pickering designed a cupola to sit at the pinnacle of the building.

Bank of New South Wales: 1956 – 1997

When the Fairfax company expanded again, the building was sold in 1956 to the Bank of New South Wales, now known as Westpac. The bank soon opened as a public branch and converted the basement space into a car park.

The Radisson Blu Plaza Hotel Sydney: 2000 – Present

The Walter Construction Group updated the building between 1998 and 2000 to create an intimate, boutique-style hotel that still maintains its historical character: the five-star Radisson Blu Plaza Hotel Sydney.

During the renovation, the 920-tonne cupola was raised 3.9 metres to aesthetically balance the building after three additional levels were built. While the interior was completely redeveloped, some important architectural features were retained. The original offices of Sir Warwick and Sir James Fairfax on the mezzanine level were restored and now serve as beautiful meeting rooms. The design of the 364 guest rooms and suites complement the stunning heritage sandstone façade. The original lavish public hall at Hunter Street now houses The Fax Bar.

In 2010, coinciding with the hotel’s 10th birthday, the hotel underwent a multimillion-dollar redesign, which transformed the lobby to include the reception desk, the concierge, the lounge and The Fax Bar. In 2017, the hotel completed a $13.5 million redesign that included renovating all guest rooms and function spaces.