Uncertainty for historic bookshop as building goes up for sale

Uncertainty for historic bookshop as building goes up for sale
Brendan Rees

The Hill of Content, the CBD’s oldest and much-loved bookshop, is facing an uncertain future as the historic building it occupies goes up for sale.

The bookshop inside the three-storey building at 86 Bourke St, was founded a century ago and has been under the same family ownership for more than seven decades.

It opened as a bookshop in 1922 by successful bookseller Albert Henry Spencer, where he and his wife and children lived above the shop when it was owned by an unknown Jewish family.

The bookshop has remained a cherished institution for decades, but the building will go to auction on March 8, with various potential buyers eyeing its prime real estate, which is located next to Grossi Florentino.

Nick Peden, director of capital markets at real estate agent JLL, which is managing the sale, said the Hill of Content was currently on a monthly lease and “would love to stay” “but it depends on who buys it”.


“They’re obviously a fantastic tenant, they’ve been in that location for over 100 years,” he said. “It would be terrific to see them stay … but it depends on who buys it.”


“[The building has] been in the same family (ownership) for 73 years … now it’s the right time for that family to sell.”

Mr Peden said there was a “mix of buyers” who were interested given the building’s location in the Bourke Hill Precinct, renowned for its historic buildings and unique streetscapes.

“There are owner-occupiers who are looking at it for their own business given the location and the nature of the surrounding use predominantly being hospitality,” he said.

“There’s a lot of hospitality-type users looking at it but also other owner-occupiers looking at it as some sort of retail, and then there’s the local and off-shore investors, given the location.”

He added, “It’s a very unique opportunity, it’s been a long, long time since it was last available so the fact that it is on the market now is very unique and it’s got that real scarcity factor to it given the size, there’s not many of them in that east end of town.”

AH Spencer, whose legacy lives on to this day with his initials still painted on the façade of the building, wrote in a memoir that the original building had been built around 1840 when it was “two storeys and a ramshackle”. 

The bookshop got its name after Spencer went for a walk in the Fitzroy Gardens “when ‘the elm-trees and the plane-trees and the poplars said, ‘Call it the Hill of Content’.”

Spencer and his family lived in “very cramped conditions” until 1925 when, until his five-year lease came to an end, that he suggested the building be demolished, which was agreed. •


Caption: The building that is home to the Hill of Content building is up for sale. Photo: Hanna Komissarova.

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