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owston mapOwston Buildings

William Owston, a shipowner, also owned this building, 1903, at 9-23 High Street, occupying almost all of the space on the southern side of High Street from Mouat Street to Cliff Street.


Owston's Buildings, is a heritage listed building located at 9-23 High Street on the corner with Mouat Street in the Fremantle West End Heritage area. It was one of many buildings constructed in Fremantle during the gold boom period in the late nineteenth and early twentieth century.
Built on the site of the old Sandover building, the building was designed by the architect Frederick William Burwell and was built by Richard Rennie. The building was completed in 1903 and comprised eight shops on the ground floor and six flats on the first floor; a two storey verandah originally existed on two sides.
The building is made from rendered brick and has zero setback from the footpath. The building is separated into eight sections by pilasters on the façade giving an ashlar effect. There is a roof parapet over the moulded cornice with low balastruding and two pediments. The centre pediment has "Owston's Buildings" and "1903" featured in the stucco. The first floor has arched windows with stucco architraves.
Burwell's plans were completed in February 1903 and tenders were called for during that month asking for the erection of a building with eight shops, warehouses, and residences. It was named for William Owston, who commissioned the construction of the building. Owston was a ship's captain and a trader who had arrived in Fremantle in 1849. The property was valued at £10,000 when Owston died in 1903.
The Western Australian Bank had a branch office in the building in 1903 when its own building was being refitted across the street.
The Roma or Villa Roma restaurant was established in the building during the 1940s and remained there until 2005. The University of Notre Dame currently have offices in the building with the remainder leased by various small businesses.

Heritage Council:

Captain William Owston established the firm of Pearse and Owston, shipowners and importers of Eastern produce. The firm owned a number of vessels, including some coastal ships. Lots 31 & 32 were owned jointly in 1876 by William Owston, W. S. Pearse and George Pearse. The 1880 records show Pearse and Owston also owning portions of lot 19. At Owston's death in 1903 the property passed to William Mason Owston, his grandson (1881-1946).

Heritage Council:
Watson's Luncheon Rooms, Fremantle Library Local History Collection photo #2696, 1910. Corner of Mouat and High Streets. This building was erected in 1903 as part of the Owston Buildings. It was purchased by the Waterside Workers' Federation in 1955, when Watson's built their administration block at Spearwood. Watson's Luncheon or Refreshment Rooms operated from the site 1907 to 1914 and it then became Watson's Supply Stores.
The complex was constructed on the site of the old Sandover building and was complete in 1903. Designed by F. W. Burwell and built by Richard Rennie, there were eight shops on the ground floor and six flats above them, originally with a spacious two storey verandah on two sides.
From the 1940s to c2005, 9-13 was Roma Restaurant (established c. 1940 in Fremantle by Frank and Nella Abrugiato and family). This was run by the same family until its closure and in its time became a much-loved Fremantle 'institution'.

GG: The Roma Restaurant is still here, having opened in about 1940. It was taken over by Nunzio Gumina when long-term owners the Abrugiato family sold out, and the name changed a little to Villa Roma. In 2015, he opened a restaurant with his own name, Nunzio's, at 20 Essex St: it was formerly called The Essex. The Roma has been opened again in 2016 by Abrugiato family members, again changing the name slightly to Roma Cucina. Unfortunately, they have replaced the Laminex furniture that was one of the period features of the Roma.

Heritage Council:
In 2002, 15 was Life Editions Bookbinders; 17 was Marine Surveyors, Magazines & Journals, Tax Accountants & Graphic Design; 19 not in use; 21-23 was Notre Dame University.
In 2009, No 19 is Blink Cafe.
Physical Description
Two storey rendered building, separated on the façade by pilasters with ashlar effect, separating the building into eight sections. There is zero setback from the pavement. A roof parapet exits above the moulded cornice over nos. 9,11,13,15, 17 &19 (missing over 21) with low pier balustrading and two pediments. The centre pediment has the 'Owston's Buildings' name and 1903 imprinted in the stucco. The arched windows on the first floor have stucco architraves; the ground floor shop fronts have largely been altered. Pressed metal underside of the verandah is appropriate to the era, but possibly not original.
A Heritage Assessment was prepared in Aug 2009 by Philip Griffiths Architects for a DA submission to Council (DA0369/09) for retrospective approval of installation of an air conditioning unit.
Statement of Significance
The place is of historic significance as an example of a commercial building in the Old Port City of Fremantle dating from the gold boom period in the late nineteenth and early twentieth century. The place is significant because, when viewed from the street, it is a substantially intact example of a commercial building which contributes to the very significant Old Port City of Fremantle. Social significance for associations with the Roma Restaurant established in the 1940s and representative of the role of the Italian community in the commercial development of Fremantle. The place is of social significance as evidenced by its classification by the National Trust.
May be remains of Sandover Building.
Heritage Council.

References and Links

Article mentioning the completion of the building in 1903: "Fremantle", The Daily News, Thursday 10 September 1903, p. 3.

Roma Cucina website.

Heritage Council page.

Garry Gillard | New: 26 May, 2016 | Now: 3 April, 2024