University House: Renewing an icon

A brief history of University House

The iconic University House (formerly NESCA House) is a place of cultural heritage and significance in the Hunter region. It has always been a location for connection – from its earliest days advancing new technologies to its current role as a hub of learning – its spaces are rich with personal stories.

In the late 1890s Newcastle began generating electricity for street lighting. By the 1930s the Newcastle Electric Supply Council Authority (NESCA) was growing quickly and needed a new home. Construction of a new building commenced in late 1937 and in September 1939 NESCA House was officially opened. With key architectural features including rare scagliola plasterwork and one of the nation’s first revolving theatres, NESCA house quickly became a community resource for new technologies. Soon after completion, plans were made to use the building as an air raid shelter during WWII, demonstrating the building’s importance in the community.

University House is a rare example of Art Deco architecture in Newcastle and Australia. Designed by the eminent architect Emil Sodersteen – who also designed the Australian War Memorial – and fellow architect John Crust, the building’s architecture and historical significance saw it protected under conservation orders in both 1984 and 1986. In 1992, the building was purchased by the University of Newcastle and is now a key teaching space for the Faculty of Business & Law and our Conservatorium of Music program.

University House 1980's


The future of University House

University House has benefited from remodels, extensions, and preservation over its life, and due to its history of ownership it has been preserved in good condition close to its original design. However, it is now in need of a full restoration to bring it back to its former beauty.

The University of Newcastle city precinct includes plans to restore and revitalise University House into a creative and entrepreneurial hub which will:

  • Provide a technology-rich environment in which to learn
  • Ensure our students are career-ready with ‘real life’ interactions and learning opportunities in the CBD
  • Enhance the social, architectural and economic cultures of Newcastle
  • Nurture the growth of start-up companies and act as a catalyst for their rapid growth to bring ideas and innovations to reality
  • Establish a tech-enabled environment delivering a flexible and cutting-edge space for the development and transmission of ideas to the wider community

How can you be involved?

University House provides an opportunity for the University of Newcastle to carry historical themes from the past into new realities for the future. But this will not be possible without strong philanthropic and business partnerships. The University aims to raise funds towards the estimated $20 million required for a full internal restoration of University House.

You are invited to support the renewal of an icon: University House.

Donate here today.

University House