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Architectural heritage in Fremantle’s West End

28 April 2022

Fremantle’s West End is brimming with interesting heritage elements and architecture. Most of the West End’s original buildings date back to the 1890s! And it has the State’s highest density of heritage listed buildings.

Look up

The Round House stands like a limestone sentinel at the top of High Street. Feel like you’re being watched? Architect Henry Willey Reveley designed Western Australia’s oldest public building in the unusual panopticon style, allowing everyone inside to be observed from a single point. Following its opening in January 1831, the Round House served as an eight-celled jail for 55 years, before becoming a lock-up and then police accommodation.

This historic building has served as a tourist site since 1982, after it was saved from demolition by the City of Fremantle. Open daily, the Round House offers breathtaking views of the Indian Ocean, Bathers Beach and High Street. Keep an ear out for the 1pm firing of the cannon.

Look down and all around

heritage facade with exposed brick and the letters REPUBLIC OF FREMANTLE

Image: Republic of Fremantle / Credit: Jillian McHugh Photography

High Street leads you into the architectural heart of Freo–a journey best enjoyed from the footpath. As you walk, look out for interesting brass doorknobs and knockers, window shapes, friezes and designs on the brickwork frontages. 

Fremantle lies on a series of limestone hills known by the Nyoongar people as Booyeembara. Can you spot where many West End buildings have made great use of this plentiful sedimentary rock? The Warders Hotel the in the vibrant heart of Fremantle offers a unique opportunity to stay in the old limestone cottages that were once the Fremantle Warders’ homes.

With warehouses off its side streets, there’s a unique warmth to High Street, which started as a classical commercial street. Banks, offices, commercial spaces and hotels–all had different forms, but somehow shared a theme as they serviced busy port city life. Verandahs populate the main street and you might notice a different character to the side streets and more enclosed facades.

From popular eateries to fashion houses, galleries and bookstores, many local businesses have made their home in the West End. The University of Notre Dame’s activity buzzes behind various buildings’ doors. Local warehouses have been converted into stylish loft and apartment living. Step inside Bread in Common, Moore and Moore Cafe and Republic of Fremantle to admire their adaptive reuse of the space–notice the richness of the original buildings' bricks.

Look beyond the West End

two people paddle a kayak through water in a limestone tunnel

Image: Fremantle Prison tunnel tour

Fremantle’s interesting architecture and heritage buildings also extend beyond the West End! Within our historic port city, more than 250 buildings have been classified for their heritage value, including Fremantle Prison which is recognised on the National Heritage List. including Fremantle Town Hall, the Basilica of St Patrick, Fremantle Markets, Fremantle Arts Centre, Kidogo Art House and the WA Shipwrecks Museum.