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List of Projects


Established: 1912


This was a partnership started in 1912 between the father and son, both named John Francis (Jack) Hennessy - Australian architects who practised in Sydney. When JF Hennessy was elected a Fellow of the RIBA in 1933 his office was in the Colonial Mutual Life Building in Sydney. It is evident that they were the architects to this business since they designed the Colonial Mutual Life Buildings in Brisbane and Newcastle, and probably the one in Adelaide, Australia as well as those in Durban and Port Elizabeth in South Africa. The competition for the Durban building caused quite a stir. Held in 1931, the competition was won by a young South African architect, JM GIBBONS. However, GIBBONS' name was not mentioned again in connection with the job and it is not certain whether any of his ideas were used, in fact he disappeared without sight. The outcry in South Africa arose as the business architects, Hennessy & Hennessy, proposed to bring Australian labourers to Durban to construct the building. In spite of protest this did happen: the Australian contractors being Lewis & Co who stayed in South Africa, eventually becoming LTA Construction. Although a resident supervising architect was appointed, LA ELSWORTH, the Architect, Builder & Engineer (Aug 1931:34) felt it necessary to point out that although 'Australia supplied the architect (sic) and key-workmen ... we have used as much South African as possible ... the stone for the building was quarried in Natal, the steel is good British steel and the cement is good Afrikander cement from Pretoria.' Sculptural details were the work of Ivan MITFORD-BARBERTON and the carving by John PINKER.

The father was born in 1853 and the younger Hennessy was born on Jan. 8, 1887. There is a birth notice in the Sydney Morning Herald, 20 January 1887, p.1. He died on 4th September 1955. The father retired in 1923 and died the following year, but the firm continued under the name Hennessy, Hennessy & Co. One of the firm’s major commissions was the new St Lucia campus of the University of Queensland.

(FRIBA nom papers 1938 (OWEN EATON); Lewis 1985; Hunt & Stewart 1985; RIBA Jnl Apr 1956:259 obit JF Hennessy; Additional information supplied by John East, Librarian, Research Information Service (Arts Faculty), University of Queensland Library, Aug 2011)

For more information on Hennessey senior visit the Australian Dictionary of Biography.

All truncated references not fully cited in 'References' are those of Joanna Walker's original text and cited in full in the 'Bibliography' entry of the Lexicon.

List of projects

With photographs
With notes

Colonial Mutual Life Building: 1933. Durban, KwaZulu-Natal - Architect
Colonial Mutual Life Building - Pleinhuis: 1934. Gqeberha (Port Elizabeth), Eastern Cape - Architect

Books citing HENNESSY and HENNESSY

Cumming-George, L. 1934. Architecture in South Africa - Volume Two. Cape Town: The Speciality Press of S.A. Ltd.. pp 94, 95