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Update, 17 April 2018

Currently (at 17 April 2018) the whole block, including the old Scott’s / DJs building and carpark are being turned into apartments, with apparently some shops on the ground floor. Last weekend (14-15 April 2018) someone on the Facebook Lost Newcastle page mentioned that there were some ghost signs on the front of the building, close to Wolfe St. They also added some photos, including an interesting blue one for KODAK. Yesterday (16 April 2018) I went down there and took some photos as well. There are 3 ghost signs — running from east to west — 2 (“LOWE’S”, “SELL IT FOR LESS.”) from the clothes store LOWE’S, and the 3rd (“KODAK SUPPLIES”) from the WASHINGTON SOUL chemist shop. (“Sell It For Less” was Lowe’s slogan.)





Original article below…


Three years ago when I started to catalogue the older buildings of the Newcastle CBD & surrounding suburbs with my camera, I started to take more notice of signs on the front of said buildings. Sometimes they were – for example – ‘halls’, ‘centres’ or ‘houses’. Near the front of the north-east corner of the old Scott’s / David Jones store in the Hunter Street Mall is the sign, ‘WASHINGTON HOUSE’. (The building is nearly opposite the trendy One Penny Black café.) See photo of the sign below…

WH 2015 tn

above, ‘WASHINGTON HOUSE’, December 2015 (photo: Matthew Ward)

George Washington portrait‘Who was this ‘Washington’ the building was named after ?’ I wondered. One wag suggested to me it might’ve been named after George Washington, one of the heroes of the American Revolution and the first president of the United States. That didn’t make much sense to me (what did the great general have to do with Australia, let alone Newcastle?), but the friend said it was possible. He is a university lecturer – the friend – so he’d have a better idea than I do, I thought…

Last week I did a search on good old Trove for the name ‘Washington House’ and ‘Newcastle’. I found an article (Newcastle Morning Herald, 17/6/1931) on how the Charleston Studios building (that had been operated by the [by then] late photographer Harry ‘Henry’ Charleston when it was stated as 163, 167 Hunter Street) had been developed into another building, leaving only the front facade and walls (according to the above article it would’ve been officially opening on Friday 19/12/1931). The article mentioned the man after whom the building was named: Washington Handley Soul (better known in the early part of the 20th century as businessman Washington H. Soul (n.b. Soul Pattinson was a subsidiary company of Washington H. Soul and Co.).  See photo of Mr. Soul below…

Washington. H. Soul portrait

above, Washington. H. Soul, portrait (Sydney Morning Herald, 14/12/1927)

Here is the Googlemaps streetview from June 2015 in case you want to ‘walk around’ the space:

Here is the full article describing the remodelling of Charleston Studios into Washington House: 


Hunter-street Building


Confidence in the future of Newcastle has been definitely expressed by Washington H. Soul and Co. in the complete remodelling and renovation of the Charleston Studios, Hunter-street, Newcastle. In future this building, which is of three storeys, will be known as Washington House. It will be opened on Friday. The premises were erected 25 years ago by the late Mr. H. Charleston. At a cost of more than £5000, extensive alterations have been made, the only portions of the original building to remain being the front and side walls. The new premises are attractive in appearance, and effective for display purposes.

Besides accommodating Washington H. Soul and Co., Washington House will serve Lowe’s. Ltd., a firm prominent in the business life of Newcastle for the past 10 years. Portion of the ground floor is occupied by Washington H. Soul and Co., and the rest of the ground floor and the whole of the first floor by Lowe’s, Ltd. The second floor is divided into a hairdresser’s suite, occupied by Miss Olive Lavington, the remainder being a dental suite and store space for Washington H. Soul and Co.

Including the modern fittings which have been installed by both firms, the work has cost in the vicinity of £9500.

Almost the whole of the old building was demolished to make way for new and modern premises. The interior walls have been replaced by a steel-framed structure carrying the new floor and motor house for the lift machinery. The old shop frontages were removed, and the whole front underpinned while new girders were placed in position to carry the existing front wall.

After this particularly dangerous work had been accomplished, modern shop fronts were installed. These are planned so as to prove effective when viewed from any angle, either inside or outside the shop. The top hamper, on which the names of the occupants have been placed, is illuminated so as to represent an enlarged electric sign by night. The arcade floor and the floor in Washington H. Soul and Co’s shop is of terazzo, shaped into diamond patterns by means of brass strips. From this arcade the lift and stairs serve the first and second floors.

Messrs. Baker and Lamb, of Maryville, were the builders, Goninan and Co., Ltd., the sub-contractors for the structural steelwork and awning, and Edmunds, Moir and Co. for the electrical installation. A Standard Waygoods lift has been installed. Messrs. H. and E. Sidgreaves prepared the window fronts and fittings. The architect was Mr. W. D. Jeater, A.R.I.B.A., A.R.T.A.A., of’ Newcastle.


The retail druggist business which is being housed in the new building represents another unit in a chain of stores established in Newcastle and on the Coal- fields. Operations were begun in Newcastle in 1907, when Soul, Pattinson (N/c.), Ltd., a subsidiary company of Washington H. Soul and Co., was formed.

The company’s activities have extended to such an extent that, including the Washington House venture, there are now six of its retail businesses in Newcastle and on the coalfields – three in Newcastle, one in Hamilton, one in Maitland, and one in Cessnock. It also has a photographic workroom in Wolfe-street, Newcastle.

The name of Lowe’s has been familiar for the past 32 years, with their six great men’s and boys’ wear stores in Sydney and a branch in Newcastle, which they opened 15 years ago in Hunter-street. The only departments carried on at this branch were tailoring and ready-to-wear clothing,and during that time quite a substantial business has been built up.

Expansion of business, however, brought a demand for increased space. At last the opportunity has come to secure premises in the heart of Hunter-street, which will be opened on Friday for the display and selling of Lowe’s many wares.

Mr. Lowe is a well-known figure in the business life of the State. He began business 32 years ago with a staff of one man and a boy with a capital of only £250. He is now Managing Director of Lowe’s big chain of men’s and boys’ stores, employing, all told, nearly 1000 people. In opening the store Mr. Lowe is displaying confidence in Newcastle, which, he states, is fast becoming the Birmingham of Australia. He will visit Newcastle on Friday.

– Newcastle Morning Herald, 17/6/1931


Here is a photo of the building as it stands today. It has been vacant for about two years. It was previously a menswear store, Gentlemen’s Outfitters (now further east on Hunter Street in the old Ell’s building). Click the image to enlarge…

Washington House, Dec. 2015

above, Washington House, Dec. 2015. Photo by Matthew Ward

Washington H. Soul passed away on 13/12/1927. Here is a short notice that appeared in the Sydney Morning Herald on 14/12/1927:



The death occurred early yesterday morning of Mr. Washington Handley Soul, at his residence, Agincourt, Albert-road, Strathfield.

Born in London 82 years ago, Mr. Soul entered the mercantile marine as a boy, rising rapidly to the rank of master. He came to Sydney in 1863, and, joining his father, Mr. Caleb Soul in business, established the well-known firm in Pitt-street, which carries his name to the present day. Mr. Soul retired from active business about 24 years ago, when the amalgamation with Messrs. Pattinson and Co. took place.

Apart from being one of Sydney’s prominent commercial men for about 50 years, he took a very keen interest in the Masonic movement of New South Wales, and held many high offices in the Grand Lodge, including that of Grand Treasurer for several years. His benevolent gifts to the Craft are widely known, his greatest donation being the magnificent Masonic Temple at Beresford-road, Strathfield, which bears his name.

Mr. Soul enjoyed excellent health until a few months ago. His wife predeceased him four years ago. The surviving daughters are Mrs. E. F. Pollock, Mrs. A. A. Nassoor, and Miss Jessie Soul.

The funeral will leave his late residence today, at 2 p.m., for South Head Cemetery.

– Sydney Morning Herald, 14/12/1927


Before Washington House, the building was Charleston Studios, a photography business where locals could have their photographs taken and framed during the late 19th & early 20th century. The business was operated by a Mr Harry ‘Henry’ Charleston.

Charleston Studios had previously been at another location, a block or so east, at 58 Hunter Street Newcastle, near the corner of Hunter & Newcomen Streets (c. 1899 –). It would have been in the same space as is now occupied by the Discount Chemist (and before that, the Commonwealth Bank, which was built to replace the old Rawson Hotel). Here is the Googlemaps streetview from June 2015 in case you want to ‘walk around’ the space:

Below is an 1891 photograph showing Charleston Studios when it was at 58 Hunter Street, Newcastle. Click the photo to see  a bigger image that will also give you a glimpse of the famous Municipal Baths that was on Newcomen Street (you’ll also notice a banner for ‘Newcastle Swimming Club’ hanging from the front of the Baths building). Photo by Ralph Snowball, Cultural Collections.

Charleston Studios at earlier premises, 58 Hunter Street, Newcastle

above: Charleston Studios at earlier premises, 58 Hunter Street, Newcastle (1891, photographer: Ralph Snowball, Cultural Collections)

And a couple of photos of the old Rawson Hotel, that replaced the above building… 

Rawson Hotel, 1959 (Photobank)

above: Rawson Hotel, 1959 (Photobank)

Rawson Hotel 1957 State Library

above: Rawson Hotel, 1957 (State Library)

Here are some photos taken at the 58 Hunter Street premises:

Here is an article describing Charleston Studios moving into the new premises, a couple of blocks west on Hunter Street (The Sydney Mail and New South Wales Advertiser, 27/2/1907):


Residents of Tamworth and district are naturally interested in the progress of Newcastle. It is here that most of those born in the northern country districts get their first sight of the ocean. On holidays the beach is always crowded with visitors from inland, who flock down to enjoy the sea air and have a dip in the briny. The Newcastle beach ever offers welcome to pleasure-seekers, and the members of the council are fortunately aware of its natural advantages. They arc constantly making improvements that will add to the comfort of the visitors and the attractions of the seaside.

Sydney Mail article

above: Charleston Studios, 1907

Newcastle is rapidly advancing. During the past five years the number of fine buildings that have been erected has made a distinct change in the aspect of the city. One cf the latest erections is among the more noteworthy. This is the building erected for Mr. H. Charleston, the well-known photographer. We reproduce a view of the exterior. The inside is even more handsome than the outside. For neatness of design and adaptability to their purpose the new Charleston Studios it is claimed, cannot be excelled in Australasia. The buildings occupy a frontage of 50ft to Hunter-street, and are three floors in height. The ground floor comprises two commodious shops and a vestibule. The latter is connected with the studios, and forms the central portion of the building. The vestibule has an imposing entrance, with a marble threshold, and is tiled with specially designed ceramic tile paving, bearing the words “Charleston Studios.” and embodying the Cornish coat-of-arms with the motto “One and All.” At the rear of the vestibule are the printing, framing, and toning rooms. A wide, handsome staircase gives access to the first and second floors of the building, comprising two studios, measuring 47ft by 33ft and 30ft by 17ft respectively, a beautifully appointed wait- ing room, with office, three handsomely furnished dressing rooms, each having the most modern lavatory conveniences ad- joining. The retouching, mounting, and finishing rooms, and the various dark rooms and changing rooms, are, in conjunction with the rest of the accommodation designed to meet the latest developments in photographic art.

The front of the building is designed in   the Flemish Renaissance style of architecture, and presents a striking and ornate appearance, being a distinct improvement to the centre of the city. Whilst they are a gain to Newcastle, the advantage the new studios will be to their enterprising owner will be enormous. For the past 17 years Mr. Charleston has had a wide reputation for artistic photography in the business conducted at the old premises, 58 Hunter-street. Notwithstanding the fact that he was severely handicapped with very unsuitable premises, Mr. Charleston maintained the highest standard of workmanship.

The number of patrons increased year by year, until “Charleston” became a household word in Newcastle and through out the northern district. Therefore the removal to new and larger studios has been a matter of necessity. Not only can a larger business be done with greater ease than in the old studio, but there will be a greater certainly in the result. The lighting of the new studios has been very carefully planned, and may be said to be absolutely perfect. In the larger studio a group of about 150 persons may be photographed with ease and certainty as to the results. The glass in this studio has been specially imported from England, and gives a light that is very soft and pleasing to the eye. The smaller studio is used chiefly for single figures, and is excellently adapted for taking children. Mr. Charleston’s portraits of children are well known. Few have been so successful with the little ones as he has. The secret of his success with children Mr. Charleston attributes to proper understanding of and sympathy with them. But when one glances at the various specimens of artistic portraiture to be seen at the studios, it is apparent that Mr. Charleston is equally successful with all subjects. Many of the pictures are printed in the most beautiful modern processes, and are splendid works of art.

In each department a specialist is employed, so that every detail gets particular attention. The enlargements made by the Charleston studios are to be seen in homes all over northern New South Wales. Special attention will be paid to this branch of work in the new premises, as the facilities for their proper production are all that could be desired. A life-size portrait, of one’s ancestor may be supplied as easily as a “locket” of the latest baby. In fact, there is nothing in modern photography that the Charleston studios cannot do, and that well. The prices are as low as, if not lower than, in any part of Australia.

– The Sydney Mail and New South Wales Advertiser, 27/2/1907)

Here are some photos taken at the later, more eastern premises:

And the Death Notice of Mr Harry Charleston, at age 66 (Newcastle Herald, 26/8/1930),

Obituary, Mr HARRY CHARLESTON (Newcastle Morning Herald, 26/8/1930)

Obituary, Mr HARRY CHARLESTON (Newcastle Morning Herald, 26/8/1930)


Other Credits:

  • Gilbert Stuart’s portrait of George Washington (Courtesy of George Washington’s Mount Vernon)

© Matthew Ward, 2015, 2018

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