One of Fremantle's best-known buildings in the historic West End precinct is to have its heritage values recognised by the State Government.
The P&O Building in Phillimore Street will be placed on the Heritage Council of Western Australia's interim register of heritage places.
Heritage Minister Richard Lewis said the turn-of-the-century building was important historically and aesthetically.
"The P&O Building was one of several shipping offices erected in Fremantle following the opening of the deep water port in 1897," Mr Lewis said.
"This was part of the growing prosperity of Western Australia as a result of the gold rush of the 1890s.
"In particular, Fremantle boomed during this era and became established as a major trading port.
"The P&O Building also contributes to the West End streetscape of historic buildings of the same period and similar architectural style.
"It adds to the mercantile feel and historic character of that part of the Port city."
Mr Lewis said the P&O Building was originally built for the Australian Union Steamship Navigation Company in 1903.
"Before the gold boom, shipping in Fremantle had been spasmodic," he said.
"The ports of Albany and Geraldton took most of the agricultural shipping and local shipping was given a subsidy to service Fremantle.
"The gold rush saved many ship-owners from financial ruin and suddenly people from all over the world were clamouring for a ship to take them to Fremantle. Cargo ships were not far behind.
"The inner harbour was opened in 1897 and shipping companies which once ignored the port now rushed to build offices there."
Mr Lewis said the Australian Union Steamship Navigation Company had carried migrants from the eastern states to WA on the `Bulimba'.
The oldest of the major Australian coastal steam navigation companies, it decided to build new premises in Phillimore Street in 1903.
The two-storey, brick and stone building was built in the Federation Free Classical style. It was designed by prominent architect Charles Lancelot Oldham.
It featured an impressive facade, with arches balanced around the dominant, centrally located pediment.
Mr Lewis said the Australian Union Steamship Navigation Company prospered for some time, enjoying a monopoly of trade routes in both the Eastern States and WA.
The company was taken over by P&O in 1914 after the WA Government formed the State Shipping Service, which destroyed the company's monopoly.
Mr Lewis said the building had continued to be used for mercantile office space over the years.
The ground floor currently housed Maersk West Australia Line and the Danish Consul, while the upper floor was occupied by the University of Notre Dame's college of business.
Media contact : Bronwyn Hillman 222 9595, 221 1377