East Block building, Canberra – Fact Sheet 174

Main entrance to the General Post Office at East Block - Canberra, 1958
Main entrance to the General Post Office at East Block - Canberra, 1958 (A1200, L28751)

Canberra’s East Block building, which now houses the National Archives of Australia, was one of the three original buildings – along with the interim Parliament House and the West Block building – in the city’s Parliamentary Triangle precinct. Originally known as Secretariat Building No. 1, East Block was designed by government architect John Smith Murdoch, who also designed Parliament House and West Block. Construction work commenced in 1925 and the building was ready for occupation in 1926.

The original name – Secretariat Building No. 1 – denotes the early intention that following the completion of Parliament House, and the move of the seat of government from Melbourne to Canberra, each Minister would be supported by a small secretariat, but most departmental staff were to remain in Melbourne. The secretariats would occupy East Block and West Block (then known as Secretariat Building No. 2).

East Block’s best known tenant was the General Post Office. From 1927 the original Canberra Post Office operated from the wing of the building facing Queen Victoria Terrace, and became the point from which distances to and from Canberra were measured. Other government agencies housed in East Block included the Department of Commerce, the Department of Trade and Customs, the Auditor-General’s office, and the Prime Minister’s Department.

After comprehensive restoration and renovation, East Block was occupied by the National Archives in 1998.

Records relating to East Block

The Archives in Canberra holds a considerable range of records including correspondence files, photographs, and architectural plans and drawings relating to the design, construction and subsequent maintenance of East Block. Examples of these are included in the tables below.

Correspondence files


Architectural plans & drawings

 Title or description of recordDate rangeSeries number
SeriesAperture cards for ACT architectural plans and drawings1921–59*A9663
ItemFoundation plan and cable tunnel details1924A9663, A923
ItemGround and first floor plan1924A9663, A924
ItemSections and elevations1924A9663, A925
ItemConcrete stairs and entrance porch1925A9663, A1057
ItemHalf inch detail of front1925A9663, A1099
ItemBike shed1937A9663, 7168
ItemDetail of letter on front elevationundatedA9663, 20201
ItemBoiler houseundatedA9663, 20913
ItemDetail of entrance door handles1953A9663, 22180
ItemReconstruction of paving1954A9663, 22468
ItemDetails of glazed partitions on ground floor1954A9663, 23749
ItemExtensions – 19571957A9663, 24499

* Most items in this series are not individually dated. The series date range provides some indication of when individual items were created.

Copyright National Archives of Australia 2019