The Dawes Point site of this house is on Cadigal land at Fort Street, which began as a track from Fort Philip to the barracks and battery at Dawes Point, through the quarry that formed the southern boundary of Argyle Place.
In the 1830s, this area was becoming a booming real estate location driven by merchants, bankers and builders. The land on which the house is built was first granted to convicted tailor Samuel Lyons around 1835, before being sold in the early 1840s to William Wallis. A successful builder and undertaker, Wallis built the Residences following the pattern books for “London first-class” residences.
These Georgian-style townhouses were the first to be built along the eastern side of Fort Street and followed several substantial houses erected on the western side of Fort Street after the mid-1820s.
In 1845 the houses were occupied by Reverend Grylls and Thomas Walker, the latter a nephew of William Walker, owner of the wharf below his villa that is now 7–9 Lower Fort Street. Both William and Thomas Walker were involved in the Bank of New South Wales. While in the 1850s, suffragette Maybanke Anderson lived on the property. Despite building the property, the Wallis family didn’t live in the Residences prior to 1880.
From the beginning of the 20th century, the house operated as a boarding house until the current owners, the Emmett family undertook a conscientious conservation project to bring it back to its former grandeur. It had suffered neglect but not any major modification since its original build, making it highly significant in Heritage Conservation terms. The owner wanted to retain the original fabric by treating it like an antique, and it was restored using traditional techniques and materials.
With the help of Interior Designer Maria Emmett and Heritage Conservation Builder François Crespel, the Emmett family has reclaimed the initial glory of the house. It is, for the first time in its 175 years, home to its owners.