Saturday, November 30, 2013

Foy's Rooftop Fun Park


The corner of Swanston and Bourke is one of Melbourne's busiest intersections, where the mall meets the main drag.




And while the main buildings that ring this corner haven't changed for decades, there is one wonderful feature that is missing from the present day location: Foy's Rooftop Fun Park.





Foy's was a department store, along the lines of Myer and David Jones. Started in the 1870's as a Collingwood drapery by Mark Foy, the business expanded in the 1880's; The Foy family went into partnership with William Gibson in 1883 and new stores, originally called 'Foy and Gibson's' began selling a wider variety of goods. The chain soon expanded interstate, opening shops in Sydney, Adelaide and Perth.


Foy and Gibson Catalogue, 1902.

A Foy and Gibson store, around the turn of the century.

The shop was popularly referred to a 'Foy's' however and this name was officially adopted in the early twentieth century and retained, even after the Foy family sold their stake in the business.

The Rooftop Fun Park was a Christmas gimmick that began shortly after the Second World War. Foy's central Melbourne store was already known for it's elaborate Christmas decorations, including a giant beckoning Santa that featured on the facade annually, and the Fun Park expanded on the idea of Foy's as Christmas central. It was widely promoted in the local media:






The Rooftop Fun Park featured rides, a playground, a petting zoo, sideshows and even (at one time) boats. A few pictures remain of the park in operation:




Photos of a family at the park form the 1960's. You can just make out
the skyline in the background, which shows the elevation of the park.


It's difficult, if not impossible, to imagine children being allowed to ride horses on the roof of a city building in our contemporary, more regulated, age.

Sadly, the fun came to an end in the late 1960's. The Foy's chain was taken over by David Jones and the iconic Melbourne building sold to Woolworth's, relegating the Rooftop Park and the giant Santa to history. A Telstra shop occupies the street corner today.


9 comments:

  1. I designed a two story extension to the top of this Building in the 1980s. The original engineer Cyril Hudspith had designed it originally for the future extension. I believe it was the first building in Melbourne to have escalators installed in the 1950s

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    1. Actually, the escalators in the Manchester Unity building (Cnr Collins/Swanston St) date back to the 1930s.

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  2. I am a structural design engineer and at the time was working for John Connell and Associates Consulting Structural Engineers. I was able to search the MCC building archives and we were able to get the original engineering drawings and computations by Cyril Hudspith a prominent engineer in the mid 20th Century. The building was steel framed with reinforced concrete stair and lift cores providing the lateral stability against notional wind loads of (350? psf) which was the value used in early days before the SAA wind load codes.

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  3. I remember those floors being added - and that i thought they were pretty ugly then, and I still do! the building might have been designed with extensions in mind, but surely not one that's so plain and detracts from the simple art deco lines of the original so much.

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  4. I remember those floors being added - and that i thought they were pretty ugly then, and I still do! the building might have been designed with extensions in mind, but surely not one that's so plain and detracts from the simple art deco lines of the original so much.

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  5. Worked in that building in the 2000's when it was Coles Myer office space. Although very tired the grandeur was still there, with grand staircases and mysterious passageways common. Having a window seat at the corner overlooking Swanston Street and down the Bourke Street Mall was very distracting :-)

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  6. My father (John Watt) was the MD of Foys in those days. He suggested the idea of the world's largest santa after he saw the worlds largest candle in a Paris department store.
    It was only ever intended for one year but it lasted for many..

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    1. Do you have any idea where he ended up? I thought I recall hearing years ago he was still in storage somewhere in Melb.

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    2. Do you have any idea where he ended up? I thought I recall hearing years ago he was still in storage somewhere in Melb.

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