Viking Buildings (1912-1970)

 

The Architect

The Viking Buildings (soon renamed Viking House and later, National House) were situated at 49 William Street, Perth. Termed a skyscraper in newspapers of the day, it was also the home of the National Insurance Company.

Costing £25,000 to build, the 115 feet tall, six-storeyed building had a 58 foot frontage and a depth of 108 feet. Designed by Joseph Allen for Paul and Richard Strelitz in the modern Gothic style, it was an imposing presence on Perth’s skyline and provided excellent panoramic views of the city and surrounding suburbs from the roof.

The building was comprised of more than fifty offices, either suites or single occupancy, each with its own strongroom. Each floor had its own modern bathroom facilities and a caretaker lived onsite in a three-room flat. The building’s main entrance and hall had a nautical look with decorative tiles featuring ships and the top floor, leased by the Amateur Sports Club, had an ornate oak ceiling, with complementary furnishings not seen before in Perth.

Windows were of the Old English style which added further character to the building, and there was underground cabling for electricity and the automatic telephone system, which gave the building a clean, uncluttered visual facade.

One of the first automatic lifts to be installed in Perth smoothly delivered clients and tenants to each floor, but on 10 January 1913, in the final stage of construction, it was the cause of a shocking fatality.

David Carlton (42), a talented artist, prolific writer and former Fremantle customs agent, was preparing to move into his art studio on the second floor. The lift was coming down from the fourth floor and although the lift’s motion bell was ringing loudly, Carlton apparently did not hear it and put his head through an opening at the side of the lift shaft to speak to someone below. He was almost decapitated and died instantly.

Destruction

National House was demolished in 1970 and the site then remained vacant alongside the old David Jones department store which had closed down in 1979. In 1986 the entire site was acquired by the Superannuation Board of Western Australia, Bond Corporation and Laurie Connell and Partners who planned a 51-storey skyscraper. Construction began in 1988 and continued until 1992, and Central Park, as it is known, is still the tallest building in Perth. Where the Viking Buildings once stood is now part of the AMP Building plaza and the Western Australian Visitors’ Centre.