Juniper Hall is believed to be the oldest surviving mansion from Governor Macquarie’s time to be found in Sydney. It was built by emancipated convict Robert Cooper in 1824 to fulfill a promise to give his third wife Sarah the ‘finest house in Sydney’.
Robert Cooper was a wealthy hotel and distillery owner from London, England, who was transported to Sydney in 1813 for receiving stolen goods. He was already well on his way to rebuilding his wealth in the new colony when he was granted a conditional pardon in 1818. Cooper in partnership with fellow emancipists Francis Forbes and James Underwood opened the first legal liquor distillery in Australia on land granted to them in the Paddington/Rushcutters Bay area. As part of their development, the three partners agreed to each take three acres for the erection of their own homes.
Cooper built Juniper Hall on his allocation of land; which is aptly named after the juniper berry used in the distillation of gin and Juniper Street which was the location of Robert Cooper’s former distillery in London.
Juniper Hall was constructed as a two storey building with a basement. Four large rooms occupied each floor, while the basement contained the kitchen. To the rear was a coach-house, stables and servants’ quarters. The house is built at the top of a ridge line which provides views from the upper levels of the house across the harbour to the north and Botany Bay to the south.
When Cooper left Juniper Hall in 1831 to return to England he leased the property to an Irish lawyer, John Kinchela, New South Wales Attorney-General. Kinchela was recommended for this role by his Irish patron the Marquis of Ormonde. Kinchela renamed the house Ormonde House in his honour (the ‘e’ was later dropped). Kinchela stayed at Ormonde House until 1838, when the Cooper family returned from England and moved back in.
In 1852 Ormond House was rented by the newly formed Society for the Relief of Destitute Children and became home to 130 children until the Society moved in 1858.
In 1858 Sarah Cooper moved back into the house (Robert Cooper died in 1857). Before Sarah’s death in 1863 she refurbished the house, possibly with a view to selling it. On her death the house passed to her trustees, who in turn leased it to a variety of charitable and educational organisations, including the New South Wales Institution for the Deaf and Dumb from 1868 to 1872, a ladies’ college from 1873 to 1879 and the Children’s Relief Board from 1884 to 1885.
In 1885, Juniper Hall was purchased by the colonial government and extended with a large addition to the eastern end. The extension was built in a similar style to the original, and was used as the probation office for the Metropolitan Shelter for Children and the Children’s Court until 1921.
The building was then sold to a shoemaker, Joe Gardiner, who planned to demolish it and build flats. A public outcry encouraged Gardiner to change his mind and instead convert the house to flats, with a row of shops on the Oxford Street frontage. At some point during this time Juniper Hall became an artists’ colony with numerous well known artists having resided there.
In 1984, after 60 years as residential flats, the building was purchased by the National Trust of Australia (NSW), with a grant from the New South Wales Government. The National Trust restored the house to its colonial appearance, demolished the shops and in 1988 revealed Juniper Hall once again.
In 2013 Juniper Hall was purchased from the National Trust of Australia (NSW) by the Moran Family and is now the permanent home of the Moran Arts Foundation Collection and is the venue for the annual exhibition of the Moran Art Prizes. It is also a permanent exhibition space for selected finalists of the Moran Prizes.