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History

A page in time

Constructed between 1901-1903, this former convent has been quietly observing the gradual transition of Surry Hills from a place of poverty and ill-repute to a vibrant inner-city suburb.

Sister of the Good Samaritan

The convent was home to the Sisters of the Good Samaritan, a religious congregation established in Sydney in 1857. Originally located in Pitt street, the Sisters were required to relocate in order for the construction of Central Station. The Former Primitive Church, located next door at 82 Albion Street, was acquired on behalf of the Sisters in 1901. The St Francis Primary School was soon established by the Sisters at the former church site.

Until the opening of the convent in 1903 the Sisters were temporarily housed in the building within the former church grounds. The Sisters continued to provide education to local children in Surry Hills from the former church site until a new school building was constructed at 96 Albion Street in 1921. Declining school numbers led to the closure of the school in 1968 with the Sisters moving out of the convent in 1969.

Architecture

The convent is a fine example of the Federation Free Classical architectural style which was prominent in Australia from 1890-1915. The article below provides a description of the convent at its opening in April 1903.

Education and Welfare

Between 1903 and 2014, the convent has been used by a number of community groups, including the Sisters of the Good Samaritan, St. Vincent de Paul Society and the Bobby Goldsmith Foundation. Their groups have provided assistance to many members of the community through the provision of accommodation, education and health services.

In 1969, after the Sisters moved out of the convent, it was purchased by the St. Vincent de Paul Society. The Society renamed the convent Scholastica House, after Sister Scholastica Gibbons who had established the Pitt Street convent. The Society operated the convent as a residence for homeless women and children.

Between 1996 and 2014 the convent became the Bobby Goldsmith Foundation and the Department of Housing operated it as a ten-unit residential facility providing support and services to people living with HIV/AIDS.

St Francis de Sale Group

The convent has strong links with its neighbouring building at 80, 82 and 96 Albion Street. Collectively the four buildings are known as the St Francis parish. This collection of religious and educational buildings contrasted sharply with the poverty and violence that exemplified Surry Hills during the early nineteenth century when notorious criminals such as Kate Leigh and Tilly Devine were operating.

Adaptive Reuse

Since the 1960s, the convent has experienced extensive change – both internal and external. Major modifications have included the remodelling of the double-height chapel space and the construction of the three-storey brick addition at the rear of the building.

When the convent was acquired in 2015 by 8Hotels Boutique Hotels Co it was in a neglected state. After undergoing extensive conservation and refurbishment, the building was acquired by Crystalbrook Collection in 2018.

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