Monday, November 12, 2012

Obscure Highlights from the Victorian Heritage List

It's easy to complain about Melbourne.

I do it all the time. The weather is terrible, the beaches are non-existent and the rise of the hipster doofus continues, unchecked.

But there are wonderful things about this city as well; the arts, the MCG, the cheap Thai place in the Port Phillip Arcade. I mean, how many cities have an art deco football grandstand? I'm guessing... none. Apart from ours.

What follows is a collection of pictures highlighting some of the wonderful buildings on the Victorian Heritage list, with a focus on the less focused upon (the well known entries on this list I'll save for another time).

These buildings certainly give the city character, and character is one of its strongest points.


Address: 34 Linda Crescent, Hawthorn

Designed by Stuart Calder and built in 1938 the grandstand, now called the 'Michael Tuck Stand,' is an iconic part of Hawthorn's original home ground at Glenferrie Oval. The unusual design was chosen deliberately by the club to help differentiate themselves from other Victorian Football
clubs, who had all chosen Victorian style buildings for their grandstands.

A school sports day at the oval in 1958.

In 1965, the early season Hawthorn v Carlton clash drew 36 000 people to the ground, which remains the attendance record. But the Oval's position between suburban streets and a railway line meant its ability to cope with large crowds was limited and also prevented the club from expanding the ground  The last VFL game was played at Glenferrie in 1973 - Hawthorn over the Saints by 20 - although the club kept their administrative offices there until 2006. Today the oval is open to the public.


Address: 477 Collins St, Melbourne

The Olderfleet building - with its clock tower, striking red colour and stunning Gothic facade - is an unlikely office building, but this is the function it has always served. Designed by Melbourne's premier 19th century architect William Pitt (who designed the town hall and the royal exhibition buildings, among many others) it was built in 1889, when it was very much of a type with the rest of Collins street;

The original tenants included various merchants, and there was a large warehouse behind the offices on Collins Street for their goods. The warehouse section was demolished in 1984. The Olderfleet stands out a little more now, particularly in comparison to the Rialto Tower, immediately behind;


Address: 560 Church Street, Cremorne.

The 'Bryant and May' factory is hard to capture in one photo, as it is simply enormous. Built for an English firm in 1909 (also from a design by William Pitt, one of his last), in what was once the industrial heartland of the city, the factory was originally used for manufacturing matches.

The factory in 1912.

At its peak, 280 staff were employed there and were treated in some style; the complex featured a bowling green, garden and tennis courts, all for employee use. B & M was also one of the first companies in Australia to employ an onsite nurse.

An aerial shot from 1924. The factory
dominates the surrounding suburb.

Match use declined throughout the 20th century and the company abandoned manufacturing at the site in the 1980's, when the factory was redeveloped into business offices, reflecting the overall demographic changes in the area.


Address: 1 Forrest Hill, South Yarra.

Situated on a lush green hill overlooking the Yarra, Melbourne High sits on a a prime location. Built in 1927, the school stands as a marker of a crucial juncture in education in Victoria. At the turn of the 20th century, the state Government only supplied primary level education; after finishing year 7, the only option for secondary education was through a private school, unaffordable for most families. Children who couldn't afford this were sent out to work.

The state government started to rectify this situation in 1905 when they funded a co-ed state secondary school, 'The Melbourne Continuation School,' initially located on Spring Street in the CBD. Such was the popularity of this school that by the twenties the faculty had outgrown their city building.
The new continuation school in 1928.

The Government then decided to build a new campus in South Yarra and split the school along gender lines, moving the boys to the new facility and leaving the girls in the city. Melbourne High remains the only state run selective school for boys in Victoria.


Address: 88 - 110 Queen Street, Melbourne.

Built in 1890 from a design by William Pitt (surprised?) for the Melbourne Stock Exchange - the chairman of which owned the land and so netted himself a tidy profit - this gothic styled building was originally the home of the Melbourne Safe Deposits company.

Drawing of the building in 1890.

The basement vaults were the first of their kind in Australia and the building itself was advertised as the country's strongest and most secure. The building is now used for corporate offices.


Address: Oddy's Lane, Cremorne.

Built in 1891 for the 'Australian Lighting and Traction Company,' this was one of Australia's first power stations to supply alternating current (or 'AC') power. Generating electricity for the surrounding suburbs of Prahran, Richmond and South Yarra, the site was taken over by the government owned State Electricity Commission in 1930.

The power station in 1925.

It was used for power generation until 1976, when pollution concerns forced its closure. The power station, and the surrounding massive plot of land, then sat fenced off and unused for nearly twenty years. When the Kennett Government privatised Victoria's electricity supply in the early 1990's, SEC assets, including this site, were sold for redevelopment. Today, the old Richmond power station is the smart headquarters for fashion label 'Country Road,' situated at the heart of a plush new business park.


Address: Princes Street, Kew.

Built in 1871 and operating for more than 100 years, the Kew Asylum was one of the largest hospitals ever built in Australia. Its construction was largely forced upon the Government of the time, as Melbourne's two main mental hospitals - in Carlton and Abbotsford - were both poor facilities and terribly overcrowded.

The asylum in 1885.

A different angle, from 1894.

The asylum had a chequered history, with a number of investigations (and even a royal commission) examining complaints of mismanagement, poor sanitation and patient abuse. The hospital closed in 1988 and was sold to private developers who turned the main building into apartments. Probably not somewhere I could live myself...


Address: 420 - 438 Swanston Street

The first public baths in the city were opened on this location by the Government in the 1850's, to try and prevent people from bathing in the Yarra. These baths were taken over by a private operator, who allowed the original buildings to fall into disrepair. They were closed by Government order in 1899 and replaced by this, considerably more elaborate, construction in 1903.

The baths pictured in 1914.

The new baths came with a new set of rules. Men and women were strictly separated and there were two categories of facilities; second class in the basement and first class on the ground floor. These restrictions were abandoned in 1947, which dramatically increased the popularity of the facility.


Address: Corner Victoria Parade and Gisborne Street

Built in 1891 and put into service two years later, this used to be the main fire station for the city centre (replacing the first city fire station, originally situated on Bourke Street). Fireman lived on the premises and the watchtower was manned 24 hours a day.

A photo of the station in 1891.

The station was decommissioned in the 1980's and now houses administration offices for the fire service and a museum.


  1. The decline of match use accelerated when disposable cigarete lighters appeared, advertised as cheaper than matches (which apparently could be true if you were quick enough.) Bryant and Mays ran a temporarily effective TV campaign for their "Redhead" matches, saying you can do a lot of other things with matches, (illustrated with red-headed actors puzzles & picking their teeth etc.). A bit later they released collector matchboxes with images of famous redheads such as Elisabeth I, Shakespeare and Van Gogh. But during this time supermarkets started selling much cheaper homebrand matches. It was accurately pointed out that these cheap matches, from Finland I think, frequently broke while struck and the burning head sometimes fell off. But that looked hypocritical when B & M switched to Swedish? made product and closed the Richmond factory.

  2. University High School near Uni of Melbourne and MacRobertson Girls High School near Albert Park Lake, the first Modernist architecture school constructed in Victoria, are other selective Government schools.

  3. Our Machine have less power consumption pipe threading machines for sale to need contact us