Friday, 10 November 2017

Vanished Melbourne (Part 1)

In my Melbourne Historical app (now sadly no more), I had a category called "Vanished". This listed several memorable Melbourne buildings which had tragically been demolished. I'd like to share them with you; here are the first three...

Photo courtesy of the State Library of Victoria.

1. Cole's Book Arcade

A famous book emporium whose story is now concluded

One of Melbourne's best-remembered vanished buildings, Cole's Book Arcade was a prominent part of the city's life from 1883 to 1929.

Strong-willed proprietor Edward Cole, a firm believer in the educational and transformative powers of books, built a vast book emporium which eventually stretched between Bourke and Collins Streets. As part of this expansion, Cole paved and roofed Howey Place, a previously dingy alley off Little Collins Street.

Cole's sprawling shop beneath its skylit glass roof sold more than books, trading in confectionery and a vast array of household ornaments. It also contained diversions such as stuffed animals, funny mirrors and a changing parade of exhibitions.

Sadly, this unique emporium closed in 1929, and the building was demolished soon after.

Nowadays the Bourke Street Mall site is the home to upmarket department store David Jones, while Howey Place is lined by fashion boutiques. However, you can still see EW Cole's ornamental roof over Howey Place today.

Visit the site: 299 Bourke St, Melbourne.

Photo courtesy of the
State Library of Victoria.
2. Federal Coffee Palace

A teetotal hotel which eventually turned to drink

Like the extant Hotel Windsor in its early years, the Federal Coffee Palace was an alcohol-free hotel whose owners believed in the temperance cause.

It opened in 1888, neatly timed for the influx of visitors attending the great Centennial Exhibition of that year at the Royal Exhibition Building.

Unfortunately, its owners' high-minded ideals were unable to compete with the proximity of various pubs, and in 1897 the hotel gained a liquor licence and became the Federal Palace Hotel, then later the Federal Hotel.

The Federal Coffee Palace was decorated in a flamboyant jumble of styles which outdid even the usual Victorian-era excesses. An arcaded foyer with a glass roof soared four storeys in height, and the grand staircase was decorated in red and white marble. Outside, its lofty domed tower was a prominent landmark in those low-rise days.

Unfortunately, the Federal didn't survive the advent of sophisticated modern hotels serving the jetsetters of the post-World War II era. It was demolished in 1973.

The beautiful hotel was succeeded by a bland concrete office tower, which is now giving way to a new 47-storey apartment building.

If you want to drink an espresso in memory of the grand edifice of temperance which once stood here, head a few blocks east to the cafe beneath the Elizabeth Street colonnade of the GPO Building. Its name? Federal Coffee Palace.

Visit the site: 555 Collins St, Melbourne.

Photo courtesy of the State Library of Victoria.

3. Fish Market

A monumental market that met its maker

Whenever Melburnians bemoan the destruction of the city's grand buildings of the past, an example that always gets a mention is the Fish Market. This 200 metre long building stretched along Flinders Street, its rear curving along the railway viaduct behind the site.

Opened in 1892 upon the closure of the previous fish market next to Flinders Street Station, the market stored and sold fish, poultry, rabbits and other game. Despite this mundane function, it was an elaborate expression of civic pride, with a central clock tower, an impressive arched entry, and conical towers dotted along its length.

In the late 1950s, the market's functions were relocated to a large new site on Footscray Road, West Melbourne. The Fish Market building was demolished in 1959.

Nowadays the site is occupied by the Northbank Place commercial and residential development, completed in 2009. There's something piscine in its curving walls and steel ribs, a tribute perhaps to its memorable predecessor.

Visit the site: 545 Flinders St, Melbourne.

Next post: three more demolished Melbourne gems, including a scandalous theatre and the Victorian Parliament's forgotten first home...