The building was commissioned by W.A. Ryan and Company who leased land from the harbour board. The building was erected after September 1905 and was possibly occupied by 1906.
The building exhibits the characteristic architectural style of Goldsbro' and Wade. The designer was possibly R.M. Wyatt although there is no firm evidence of that. The use of polychromatic brickwork in red and yellow, with decorative features in moulded cement plaster, gives the building a striking architectural appearance.
The Northern Steamship Company were subsequent owners, followed by other shipping companies. It would seem that the main associations relate to shipping.
Originally a two storey building, it has an ornate facade on its seaward side inscribed with the company name. The building was used for offices and storage, the latter being used for freight in transit. An extra storey of a similar style was added in the 1920s, and internal changes occurred when the offices were rented to other businesses after World War II. Following the closing stages of the Northern Company in the 1970s, the interior of the building underwent significant changes and modifications were made to the western wall, which required strengthening after an adjacent building was demolished.
The original pedimented parapet has been replaced with a plain plaster band. Other changes include the conversion of the western ground floor door into windows and the construction of a flat roof over the three hipped roofs. Several windows in the rear elevation have been wholly or partly bricked up and a concrete frame has replaced the original arched cart dock entrance.