In 1814, William Jameson was commissioned to lay out the Fawcett Estate and work began in 1815. By 1840, neighbouring John Street, Frederick Street, all of West Sunniside and some of East Sunniside was constructed and occupied. Public buildings such as the Athenaeum, as well as parks and churches were situated here. William Jameson is commemorated in the name of a Wetherspoons public house situated on the south-east corner of the street.
In 1836, the Bridge Commissioners cut through Building Hill (now in Mowbray Park) to form a direct southerly route to Stockton-on-Tees from Wearmouth Bridge. This took much of the traffic that had used the old turnpike through Bishopwearmouth. Fawcett Street thus became a busy thoroughfare and succumbed to commercialisation as retailers moved closer to their potential clientele, first along High Street West, then spilling into Fawcett Street and Bridge Street.
After the opening of the Gas Offices at the southern end of the street in 1867, the new Sunderland station in nearby Union Street in 1879 and the new Binns department store on the street in 1884, the middle-classes began to move south from the Fawcett Estate to the developing suburb of Ashbrooke. Today, most of the city's commercial focus is situated within The Bridges, a shopping centre to the west of Fawcett Street, but the street is still the main banking sector of the city.
The Elephant Tea Rooms is a Grade II listed building. The building was constructed from 1873 to 1877 by Frank Caws for a local tea merchant in the Hindu Gothic style, in reference to the tea sold there.
The exterior is ashlar with pink granite plinth and columns, a slate roof and cast-iron gates. The rusticated ground floor has high plinths to the Tuscan porches of the outer bays, linked by balustrades in the second and third bays of the east elevation and interrupted by opening to the area in third bay; there are pediments over the pulvinated friezes of the panelled doors. The three central round-headed windows between the attached columns have renewed glazing. The ground floor entablature projects over the porches and supports the recessed first-floor windows with Ionic pilasters and dentilled pediments. There is a sill string to the second-floor casements with Tuscan pilasters; the top has a dentilled entablature and blocking course. The Mansard roof has five dormers with round-headed lights under the scrolled pediments. The left return has three bays in similar style to the front; the first bay at the left projects under the Mansard roof and there are tripartite windows in the lower central section.
The ground floor is of grey granite, with ashlar above and a slate roof. Each floor has five windows on the east side and six windows on the south side and there is a canted corner bay; the end and corner bays are banded. The intermediate bays have Corinthian columns with a heavy modillioned cornice to the top entablature which breaks forward at the ends and back at the corners. The south door, now blocked, is on an angle below the oriel with long brackets. The ground floor has a heavy, pulvinated, banded rustication and the windows are deeply recessed below the masked corbels of triple keystones. There are similar keys to the first floor windows in pilasters with entablatures, bracketed pediments, and balustraded balconies. The second floor windows have architraves and bracketed sills.
The exterior is ashlar with cast-iron balconies and a slate roof. There are renewed doors and semi-circular overlights in the end bays of the rusticated ground floor, with architraves on the impost strings of the keyed round-headed openings; the renewed round-headed windows in the other bays have recessed panelled aprons. There are Corinthian columns above with square pilasters at the corners and attached round columns to the intermediate bays, linked by the elaborate first floor cast-iron balconies. The lugged keyed architraves to the first floor sashes, with glazing bars, rise to the floor string between the pilasters and to the elliptical-headed second floor sashes on moulded sills and aprons. The large top entablature has a pulvinated frieze and modillioned cornice. The hipped roof has side consoles to Oeil-de-Boeuf dormers in the central and end bays and taller segment headed dormers between. The right return has three bays in similar style without doors and with three segment headed dormers, and four set-back bays with a rusticated ground floor having doors in the outer bays and triple-keyed ground floor tripartite windows. There is plainer treatment to the upper floors with cornices, pediments and keyed architraves to various windows.
The exterior is ashlar with cast-iron window guards and balconies and the roof is of light grey slate with tall, corniced ridge chimneys. The rusticated ground floor (now altered) has a double panelled door in the third bay in a round-headed opening under a bracketed segmental hood; the central bracket has a draped escutcheon. The Corinthian pilasters define the bays above. The plain sashes on the upper floors have keyed architraves, those on the second floor have segmental heads and projecting aproned sills. The iron guards link the pilaster bases and, in the central bay of the five-bay bank at the right, project as a balcony. The top entablature has a pulvinated frieze and modillioned cornice. The side consoles to seven segmental-headed dormers with keyed architraves to the plain sashes.
Corder House and Sydenham House are two, adjacent, Grade II listed buildings in Sunderland. Designed by Frank Caws in the Neo-Moorish style, they were constructed in brick and terracotta from 1889–1891.