1850 is a significant year for Melbourne.
This was the last full year before the gold rush took hold. In 1851, gold was discovered in Clunes, north of Ballarat, and the state was never the same.
A flood of people and money poured into Victoria, into Melbourne, the high tide of which was enough to wash most of the original city away. Melbourne would be rebuilt in grand style with high hopes and deep pockets. And some of the new buildings were among the biggest, and grandest, in the world at the time.
Sadly, many of these remarkable old buildings have been lost to us. Some due to shifts in taste, some due to financial considerations, and some for no obvious reason at all.
What follows is a brief tribute to Melbourne's lost buildings...
THE FINKS BUILDING
276 Flinders Street
When built in 1880, this office block was Melbourne's tallest at ten stories. In 1897 it, and most of the block of Finders Street that it stood on, was destroyed in a fire, one of the worst the city has seen. Only the facade was left, although the building was considered such an icon that it was rebuilt. In 1967 it was finally demolished outright. Present day, this stands in its spot:
MELBOURNE FISH MARKETS
Flinders St, between King and Spencer Streets
Of all of Melbourne's vanished buildings, this one is probably the most spectacular. Built in 1890, for more than 50 years this was used as a commercial market for fish and other fresh produce. In the lead up to the Olympic games in 1956 it was decided to demolish a number of Melbourne's older buildings in order to 'modernise' the look of the city. Sadly, incredibly, this was one of the buildings to go, although the demolition was not completed until 1959. It was replaced - sadly! incredibly! - with a carpark... the block now also shared by a nondescript office building:
THE FEDERAL HOTEL AND COFFEE PALACE
555 Collins Street
Built in 1888 to coincide with the Melbourne Centennial Exhibition (marking 100 years of Australian settlement), this was once one of the largest and most opulent hotels in the world. The first two floors housed impressive dining, reading, smoking and billiard rooms, with the remaining 5 stories given over to luxurious guest rooms. The interior was so impressive that the building became a tourist attraction in its own right:
As an added historical footnote, the hotel was also conceived as a 'Coffee Palace' as part of the 19th century temperance movement. No alcoholic beverages were served at the hotel when it was built, which was something of a fad at the time, as public drunkenness was perceived as a serious problem. This wonderful piece of architecture and history was demolished in 1973, the site sold for redevelopment. Pleas to have it saved as a heritage building were ignored by the Government of the time (there was no heritage protection legislation as we know it today). It was such a popular local landmark that thousands of people turned out to watch it go. This dreary brown box was built in its place:
THE MENZIES HOTEL
140 William Street
Built in 1867 to accommodate the visit of the Duke of Edinburgh, the Menzies was another of Melbourne's most impressive luxury hotels. Among the famous guests who stayed there; Sarah Bernhardt, Alexander Graham Bell, Mark Twain (who helped stoke the hotel boilers as part of his fitness regime), Herbert Hoover and General Douglas Macarthur. In 1969 it was demolished to make way for, the admittedly pretty stylish, BHP Plaza:
WOOL BROKING PREMISES
111 Williams Street
Built in 1891 for the John Sanderson company, this block length building showed exactly how important the agricultural industry was in fledgling Australia. Demolished in 1969 to make way for the AMP Building, which is itself currently under redevelopment:
444 Collins Street
Built in 1860, and substantially remodeled between 1910 and 1914, Scott's hotel enjoyed a reputation for supplying some of Melbourne's finest food and wine. Dame Nellie Melba and English cricket legend W.G.Grace were two among many notable people who stayed at the Scott, which was also a favourite haunt for local racing identities. Sold to the Royal Insurance Co in 1961, when it was Melbourne's oldest continuously operating hotel, the building was demolished to make way for another in a series of drab office blocks (to the right of this picture):
THE ORIENTAL BANK
Corner Queen Street and Flinders Lane
Built in 1856 when the twenty year old city was still finding its feet (note the muddy track that is Queen St in the above photo), this Greek temple themed design was the product of a competition held by the bank among Melbourne's architects. Unfortunately, the bank itself would go out of business in 1884, and this building was demolished shortly afterwards. The same spot today:
THE APA TOWER
Corner of Collins Street and Queen Street
A great example of Melbourne's art deco heritage, the tower was added to this already existent building in 1929, making it the city's tallest for 30 years. Taken over by the firm 'Legal and General' in the 1950s, it was demolished in 1969 when they wanted a more up to date, and considerably less stylish, headquarters:
COLONIAL MUTUAL LIFE BUILDING
316 Collins Street
The 'Equitable Company' set themselves the ambition of constructing 'the grandest building in the southern hemisphere' for their Melbourne headquarters. Which, with a five year construction and £500 000 price tag, this wonderful building may well have been. Taken over by Colonial Mutual in 1923, it would serve as their grand offices for thirty years. But high maintenance costs and outdated fixtures made the company want rid of it by the 50's. A bland office block stands in its place today, with the logo 'CML' emblazoned across its street level pillars, to remind people of what once was:
THE AUSTRALIA BUILDING
43-45 Elizabeth Street
The world's third tallest building, at 12 storeys, when it was constructed in 1889, this building dominated Melbourne's skyline for decades. At one time visible from anywhere in the city, the Australia Building was also the first tall building to employ mechanical lifts (powered hydraulically by high pressure water pumped from the Yarra). In 1980 its distinctive red facade and ornate roof was demolished to make way for this:
THE EASTERN MARKETS
Exhibition Street between Bourke and Little Collins Streets
Established in 1847, the Eastern Market was embryonic Melbourne's principal fresh produce market for thirty years, before being superseded by the Queen Victoria Markets in the 1870's. The Eastern market survived for nearly another 100 years, however, operating as a flower market and tourist attraction. The markets were demolished in 1962 to make way for the uniquely stylised 'Southern Cross Hotel':
The 'Southern Cross' was undoubtedly one of Melbourne's most striking buildings, although it attracted as much vitriol as admiration. Famous guests of the hotel included; The Beatles, Marlene Dietrich and Judy Garland. Frank Sinatra stayed there during his infamous 1974 tour of Australia, when he created a storm by referring to local female journalists as 'hookers.' And both the Brownlow Medal and the Logies were hosted in its function rooms. In 1999 it was sold off and slowly demolished, with the site sitting vacant for several years. The location is now occupied by this, considerably less flamboyant, mixed use building:
THE TIVOLI THEATRE
235 Bourke Street
Very few pictures or drawings remain of the Tivoli Theatre. When it opened in 1901 (from a design by William Pitt) it was originally named 'Harry Rickards' New Opera House', after it's first owner. The theatre presented a variety of live entertainments, including music, comedy and vaudeville. Harry Houdini,W.C. Fields and Chico Marx are among the famous names who performed there.
|Coming to the Tivoli... Houdini!|
Sold by Rickards in 1912, it was renamed the Tivoli shortly after and continued to present live entertainment right through until the 1960s. Converted in that decade to a cinema, the fate of many of Melbourne's old theatres, the building was destroyed by fire in 1967. The 'Tivoli Arcade' stands on the site today:
THE QUEEN VICTORIA BUILDINGS
Swanston Street, Between Bourke and Collins Streets
Built in 1888, the Queen Victoria Buildings ran the length of the block on Swanston Street, opposite the town hall. A rare local example of French Second Empire architecture, the elaborate facade and roof of the building was further ornamented by a number of statues, including a sizable one of the monarch it was named after. The building was used for high end retail shops and featured a glass topped arcade, The Queens Walk, that ran between Bourke and Collins:
|Queens Walk in 1957.|
In the 1960's, the Melbourne City Council began to consider the construction of a large public park in the city centre. Across a decade or more, it gradually acquired parts of the Queen Victoria - and other adjacent - buildings for this purpose. Demolition commenced in the late 1960's and took several years (The Regent Hotel was also acquired and scheduled to be knocked down as part of the same project, but was saved by a union ban). The new open space was dubbed 'City Square':
Windswept and largely ignored, part of it was sold for development in the 1990s and the Westin Hotel was built on this section. The remainder of the park was redesigned and remains for public use:
MELBOURNE/QUEEN VICTORIA HOSPITAL
172 - 254 Lonsdale Street
Built in 1911 of bluestone, with stylish towers and iron railings, the Melbourne was almost too elegant to be a hospital. It's graceful facade was further complemented by a lush garden (visible above) that ran around two sides of the grounds. Initially home to the principal hospital for the city, in 1946 it was reconstituted as a specialised institution for women and children (and was solely staffed by women for a time), and renamed the Queen Victoria. The hospital closed in 1987 and the site was then used for a variety of unlikely purposes, including a mini golf course and a craft market. In 1992 the site was purchased by a development group and three of the four hospital buildings demolished. The bulk of the property was then turned into a mixed commerical premises, the QV Building:
|The site today|
The one remaining hospital building was refurbished and returned to its previous use, once again offering care to women and children, in 1994.
264 - 270 Collins Street
One of Australia's most famous architects, Walter Burley Griffin, designed the sumptuous Cafe Australia, a remodeling of an existing cafe on Collins Street. Opening in 1916, the cafe bore all of Griffin's trademarks; an elaborate facade and entryway, delicate concrete ornamentation and highly stylised interiors.
Cafe Australia was only shortlived, however. It closed and demolished in 1938 and was replaced by the similarly named Hotel Australia, which borrowed much from Griffin's design, but lacked the overall panache of the previous establishment.
This building was then reworked into the current occupant of the site, 'Australia on Collins', an up market retail space.