Power Without Glory – Festival Hall to be Demolished

This weeks story is somewhat predictable.

“Festival Hall in Dudley St West is to be demolished. Chris Wren, the current Director of the company that owns and operates the venue is a direct descendant of John Wren who established the venue over a 50 year period from 1915 onwards. John Wren is a famous (or infamous) Melbourne figure from early last century who was the subject of the Book and Television series authored by Frank Hardy – Power Without Glory. The plan is to knock down the building whilst retaining elements of its facade. Twin Towers will be constructed – one 16 stories high (apartments) and one 10 stories high – retail and office.”

Festival Hall Interior

The building currently has a Heritage overlay – based not on its architecture – but on its historical and social importance to Melbourne. This interim heritage protection granted by Planning Minister Richard Wynne last year expires on March 1st, 2018.

Festival Hall is a good example of the confusion that ‘Heritage Listing’ can imply.

Festival Hall Melbourne

The original building was constructed in 1913. It was originally known as the ‘West Melbourne Stadium’, shortened to ‘The Stadium’. It was built by a Sydney Boxing Promoter Mr R.L. Baker. It was purchased in 1915 by John Wren and his General Manager Dick Lean. The Wren company Stadiums Limited staged Boxing matches and Pro Wrestling there for over 70 years. It also featured Roller Derby, Ballroom Dancing, Religious gatherings and even an indoor Tennis exhibition match with John McEnroe when he was in his prime. World Champion Boxers such as Lionel Rose, Johnny Famechon and others such as Anthony Mundine, Lester Ellis and Barry Michael have also featured there. The Melbourne Painters and Dockers Union used it as a meeting place as did many other unions and during the Great Depression, unemployed men would gather at Festival Hall to be picked for Dockwork.

Festival Hall development John Wren ll (left) and Chris Wren of Stadiums Pty Ltd

In 1955 the original Stadium was destroyed by fire but rebuilt in time to feature Boxing, Basketball and Gymnastics events during the 1956 Melbourne Olympics.

Dick Lean’s son Dick Lean Jnr set about establishing Festival Hall as a Music Venue from the 1960s onwards. (Either he was very focused on profit or was terminally deaf – the acoustics are simply frightening) Frank Sinatra, The Beatles, Pink Floyd, The Doobie Brothers, Little Feet, The Eagles all performed major concerts there from the mid 1960s through until the late 1980s. It was the only venue capable of holding the numbers to ensure these tours were viable in Melbourne. When the Docklands Stadium venue was built many of the touring bands opted to appear there from early 2000 onwards. As well they now have the options of Hisense Arena and Margaret Court Arena and a refurbished Myer Music Bowl.

Melbourne’s development juggernaut can bulldoze Festival Hall, but not our memories

The proposed demolition of another historic venue reminds us even Australia’s live music capital can’t escape the cold, hard realities of commercial real estate.


Like millions of others, I have fond memories of live entertainment at Festival Hall. Sure, the room was lacking in atmosphere, bonhomie, charm and sound quality – almost anything, actually, that makes a great music venue – but that doesn’t stop me treasuring the experiences of seeing the Ramones in their late-career dotage and Nirvana at their absolute apex, despite Kurt Cobain being obviously ill.
So it was a sad day in Brisbane when, in 2003, the building was demolished to make way for the construction of an apartment block. We’d been through it all before too many times, most notoriously when the beloved Cloudland Ballroom was knocked down in the dead of night in 1982 by the Deen Brothers, the premier/hillbilly dictator Joh Bjelke-Petersen’s demolition firm of choice. Their slogan was “All we leave behind are the memories”.

Demolition plan to bring curtain down on Melbourne’s Festival Hall

For Melbourne, the potential loss of its Festival Hall for another proposed block of flats has nothing to do with acoustic or architectural aesthetics – unlike, for example, the historic Palace Theatre. Like Brisbane’s version, Festival Hall was designed for sporting spectacles, mainly boxing. It was the simultaneous arrival of television and rock’n’roll that resulted in the room throwing open its doors to live music, most famously the Beatles in 1964, as also happened in Brisbane.

It’s about memories, the loss of a rare midsized venue that can hold between 4,500 and 5,500 punters, and the blow to the self-image of Australia’s self-proclaimed live music capital. The local industry first flexed its muscle in January 2010 after the (mercifully temporary) closure of the punk venue The Tote in Collingwood – an event that prompted a rally of more than 10,000 people to march through the city against punitive liquor-licensing regulations.

It made Melbourne quite literally evaluate what it was in danger of losing. A Deloitte study, commissioned by Arts Victoria the following year, found that live music was worth $500m to the state’s economy, with attendances of more than 5 million a year employing more than 17,000 people. According to the state’s peak advocacy body Music Victoria, the city has more live music venues per capita than anywhere in the world.

The slow death of music venues in cities

So the music sector’s muscle is built on solid economic foundations. That’s to say nothing of its priceless cultural contribution. Try, for a moment, to imagine the cities of Liverpool, Manchester, London, New York, Sydney (particularly during the 1980s) and smaller centres such as Brisbane and Dunedin in New Zealand without reference to the artists who helped to define their history and legacies.

The proposed apartment project on the site of the Melbourne_s Festival Hall

The proposed apartment project on the site of the Melbourne’s Festival Hall

The subsequent passing of the “agent of change principle” by the Victorian government in 2014 imposed obligations on developers to protect existing live music venues from noise complaints by residents. This means that the onus is on developers to provide noise attenuation measures should their plans fall within 50 metres of an existing venue, unless it is the venue which plans to expand, in which case the onus is reversed.

But that hasn’t insulated Melbourne’s music scene from the cold, hard commercial realities of real estate. Since the 2010 groundswell, Melbourne has lost not only the Palace Theatre but the Ding Dong Lounge in the city (which held its last drinks only 10 days ago), the Caravan in Bentleigh and a number of St Kilda venues, including the Palace, the Greyhound Hotel and the Esplanade, although the latter is scheduled to reopen in October.

In a statement, Music Victoria’s CEO Patrick Donovan urged the developer and local and state governments to retain and protect the “iconic” Festival Hall. “The developer’s proposal comes at a time when all eyes are on Melbourne and Victoria as a world leader in live music,” he said. “Melbourne has been recognised as a global music city, hosting the international Music Cities Convention in April.”
But Festival Hall’s owners have made a commercial calculation that there is more money to be made from selling the site than in continuing to compete with similar more modern venues, including Margaret Court Arena (which is slightly bigger, with a capacity of 7,500 people). And as much as the City of Melbourne and the state government have done to work with the music sector, there’s no agent of change principle or heritage listing at stake here.

And that’s why the pleas of Music Victoria will probably fall on deaf ears. At the end of the day, the city is not in the business of protecting memories. At the entrance to what is now Festival Towers in Brisbane, there’s a rather sad collection of photographs from gigs gone by that few other than the building’s residents will ever see. The application for the Melbourne development speaks blandly of “harness[ing] the emotional aspects of this venue”.

Which will mean absolutely nothing to anyone who ever passed through its doors to see the Beatles, Stones, Kanye West and homegrown acts including AC/DC and Courtney Barnett.

Back in Brisbane, Hutchinson Builders’ Scott Hutchinson – a music tragic who also built the Triffid in partnership with the former Powderfinger bassist John Collins and the band’s manager, Paul Piticco – is now starting work on a 3,500-capacity venue to “replace” Festival Hall in inner-city Fortitude Valley.

Perhaps Music Victoria might consider sounding out the state government or a similarly philanthropically minded developer, should any exist, about a long-term investment in a purpose-built midsized music venue – one with better acoustics and atmosphere than Festival Hall could ever offer.

Source: theguardian.com

Festival Hall was still holding major concerts up until as recently as 2008. And there are still many international and local acts using the venue. But quite simply the venue has seen no real technical investment for many years. As such it is an inferior choice for touring bands.

The Architecture is awful. From the outside it could be a warehouse. Located next to the West Melbourne Railway Goods Yards, frankly its appearance was never an issue.

But there is a really good lesson to be learned here. A Cultural Heritage listing is nowhere near as powerful as an Architectural Heritage listing. And it is really important that the two types of listing are not confused. By doing so the case for preservation using either Heritage listing is devalued.

Compare this to last week’s discussion on the Heritage value of two buildings to be partially demolished by St Vincent’s Private Hospital – if it can have the Heritage listings removed. Both buildings were constructed in the 19th Century. The Brunswick St property Dodgshun House in 1865 and the Eastern Hill Hotel about 1854-56. Both also have Cultural Historical Significance. The area the buildings stand has a full suburb heritage overlay – on architecture.

From the Age Newspaper 24/01/18…

Heritage advocates not throwing in the towel in fight to save ‘House of Stoush’

Heritage Victoria is considering an application to save Festival Hall from the wrecker’s ball and list it on the state’s heritage register.

The official, but anonymous, request to save the venue was submitted this week after The Age revealed its owners have applied to knock down all but the hall’s facade and build an apartment complex in its place.

“Heritage Victoria has received a nomination to the Victorian Heritage Register for Festival Hall,” a spokesman for the Department of Land, Water and Planning said. “The nomination is under consideration.”

For reasons of privacy, it has not been revealed who nominated the hall for protection.

Festival Hall is in a part of West Melbourne that is under development pressure

Festival Hall is in a part of West Melbourne that is under development pressure

[IMG Festival Hall is in a part of West Melbourne that is under development pressure]

Its heritage listing, if accepted, would not upend the developer’s plans to build 179 apartments on the site.

But it would require the developer to gain a heritage permit, which could include conditions that require it to preserve more of the hall.

The building already has some heritage protection, however the developer argues its proposal does not breach those controls.

A planning application lodged with Melbourne City Council is for a 16-storey residential tower and a 10-level tower with a mixture of retail and office space.

1516835500388The Dudley Street facade and main entrance would be retained and given a gold and grey finish, and an imprint of the boxing ring and stage would be built into the design of a ground-level public plaza.

But most of the hall, built in 1955-56 after the original 1915 building was destroyed by fire, would be demolished.

An image of Festival Hall from developer Urbis' application to demolish all but its facade.

An image of Festival Hall from developer Urbis’ application to demolish all but its facade

Festival Hall currently has interim heritage protection, granted by Planning Minister Richard Wynne in March last year, however this is due to expire on March 1.
Mr Wynne said in granting interim protection to the venue and several other unprotected West Melbourne buildings that the historically industrial suburb “is a rapidly changing part of the municipality and is under significant development pressure”.

Developer Urbis argued in its planning application that the design respects Festival Hall’s history and meets the conditions of the interim heritage control.

“(A) key consideration for Festival Hall being recommended for heritage controls is on the basis of its historical and social significance and not on its architectural merits,” Urbis said.

“As such, an interpretation of the past use (being the public plaza landscape response) is considered to be an appropriate mechanism for preserving the social and historical significance.”

The department’s spokesman said a final decision on whether Festival Hall warrants heritage protection will be made by the Heritage Council of Victoria, which is separate to Heritage Victoria.

Advocacy group Melbourne Heritage Action said the hall was important enough to preserve.

“It has such a high historic and social significance that it is a good candidate for the Heritage Register,” spokesman Rohan Storey said.

The Beatles, Frank Sinatra and Shirley Bassey all performed at Festival Hall, which was for many years Melbourne’s only large concert hall.

It also hosted gymnastics and wrestling during the 1956 Melbourne Olympics and many blockbuster boxing matches.

But its owners said this week the venue increasingly struggles to compete for bookings with Margaret Court and Hisense arenas and is on course to become unprofitable.

Its website shows it has just 10 performances scheduled in the next four months.

Chris Wren, descendant of Melbourne identity John Wren and director of the company that owns the century-old venue, said it could not survive “facing up to a younger, bigger, stronger opponent”.

Source: theage.com.au

Festival Hall is culturally important to Melbourne. As is suggested in The Age article reprinted here, the real issue is to ensure the developers provide and create a realistic and significant window into the way the venue has shaped life in Melbourne over the last 100 years.

A living museum, perhaps an entertainment venue, but it needs to be considered and included in any new architectural plans for the site. And the push for this requirement needs to be backed up by the State Government, the Melbourne City Council and Heritage Victoria.

As the Beatles song all those years ago cried out – ‘HELP’ (or was it ‘When I’m 64’?)

Either way with inaction we again have much to lose.

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Balance Architecture recognises the importance of Historical Architecture. We specialise in the renovation and restoration of Heritage Buildings.


Heritage Dispute in Old Fitzroy

Last week one of our readers, Simon Ryan, brought to our attention the planned demolition of a series of building components of Heritage protected sites on Victoria Pde and Brunswick St in Fitzroy. The whole of the suburb of Fitzroy enjoys a significant heritage overlay, but it would appear that again, the St Vincent’s Hospital Board feels it can claim immunity from such heritage registrations. To put it mildly the proposed alterations to facilitate the new 11 storey extension to St Vincent’s Private (Not Public) Hospital show little or no respect for the rich heritage of Fitzroy.

Belvidere-Hotel eastern hotel

Belvidere aka The Eastern Hill Hotel

First there is the very famous Eastern Hill Hotel (VHR H0816)(no longer trading), a three storey Gold Rush era Hotel constructed circa 1854-1856. This was the meeting place for Unionists and the actual Headquarters of the Eight Hour Day movement. The Eight Hour Day was significant in that it is now the accepted norm for all workers, regardless of industry or status, universally in most democratic nations.

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Dodgshun House Fitzroy, formerly Edensor

Then there is Dodgshun House (formerly Edensor) at 9 Brunswick St – a two storey Italianate Mansion dating from 1865. The site is also the location of Marino Cottage, the birth place of Saint Mary McKillop, Australia’s first ‘Catholic’ Saint in 1842.

Read the ‘Memorandum of Advice’ from GJM Heritage on the proposed ‘works’ here It is a long read but most informative.

St Vincents Heritage Permit Advice 14 November 2017.

Now have a read of the article initially proposing the new St Vincent’s Private Hospital 11 Storey Extension…



St Vincent’s substantial expansion plans unveiled

With links onsite that span back to the 1890’s, St Vincent’s Private Hospital is now pursuing a new phase of expansion in order to keep pace with Melbourne’s growing population.

St Vincent’s Private is now considered at capacity, with plans afoot to create an 11 storey building across 59-61 Victoria Parade, Fitzroy. With the development’s anticipated construction cost approaching $60 million, the overall value of the expansion weighs in at $94 million.

Included in the proposal before City of Yarra is provision for new consulting suites, 91 new multi-day beds for patients, 12 new same-day beds, additional operating rooms and pre/post operation stations.

Set above a new podium to both Victoria Parade and Brunswick Street, the building’s overall height is pencilled in at 43.36 metres.

A need for expansion

“It is now vital for St Vincent’s Health Australia to undertake a major expansion project at this flagship private hospital, including an additional 91 net beds and eight (8) operating theatres, to ensure that it will have the capacity to meet future demand and compete within key market segments. No major footprint expansion of SVPHF has occurred over the past 44 years.”

“Frequently during the working week SVPHF faces ‘bed block’ and non-elective or urgent private patients are redirected to other hospitals. In addition all private consulting suite space at SVPHF is fully occupied. Additional private consulting rooms and theatres are vital to the future of SVPHF and improved healthcare to the community.”

Planning report, Meinhardt


St Vincent’s Plaza perspective

To facilitate the proposed expansion, demolition is required across a number of sensitive buildings.

The existing hospital at 59-61 Victoria Parade would partially make way for the new development, as would 77 Victoria Parade, a.k.a. the former Eastern Hill Hotel. The latter is on the Victorian Heritage Register, with the development team seeking removal of its western wing to the rear of the building.

Partial demolition of Edensor House is also proposed, and mainly confined to the Victorian Heritage Register-listed building’s rear. Full demolition is sought for 63-71 Victoria Parade (the former Easthill House), with the building considered to be Individually Significant from a heritage perspective.

Building design

Shades of natural and midnight copper cladding would provide the design highlight over the East and north facades, with the balance a clad consisting of compressed fibre cement sheet cladding in a banded finish.

The southern facade is predominantly glazed, with elements of purple, charcoal and white, and its angular nature suggesting that it lends in some small way from the Victorian Comprehensive Cancer Centre which was completed earlier in 2016.


St Vincent’s Plaza perspective

“The proposed new building complements the existing building in terms of height and form but contrasts in colour and material to express it as a contemporary insertion into the existing fabric. Together the existing and the new hospital form a pair of buildings that create a distinct identity to the hospital and an appropriate backdrop to the scale of St. Vincent’s plaza.”

“The proposed podium facade along Victoria Pde complements the fenestration of both the three storey heritage building as well as the existing hospital podium and acts as a transition element in terms of both distribution of openings as well as parapet height”

“The proposed materiality of the podium responds to both the glazed brickwork of existing hospital and the painted and render brick facade of the East Hill Hotel by utilising a porcelain stone clad finish to complement the existing heavy materiality of the streetscape”

Urban context report, Billard Leece Partnership


An expanded 93-99 Victoria Parade

Also in the works is an expansion of the existing multi-storey car park at 93-99 Victoria Parade.

Of more interest from a design perspective than in terms of what benefits it could provide to the larger community, an expansion would see the already colourful structure capped with three new levels of parking. 185 additional car parking spaces would be added if approved.

The new levels would be finished in metal screens, accentuated by rectangular openings featuring small planter boxes.

“The design intention is to mimic balconies of an apartment building making reference to the many examples in Melbourne of residential and commercial spaces sitting on top of multi deck carparks. The screen consists of closely spaced vertical steel angles powder coated in multiple colours. The colours ranges change as the screen presents itself to different solar orientations.”

Urban context report, Billard Leece Partnership

Source: urban.melbourne

Note the rather matter of fact mentioning of the heritage status of the Eastern Hill Hotel, Edensor House and East Hill House, and the assumption that would seem to be this would not provide any real problems. And the very salient point that the new building will compliment the existing Private Hospital building. It will not however compliment the long standing Heritage Status of Fitzroy, its look or its feel.

It’s apparent that a number of people are most unhappy with the planned development and its partial demolitions. Read the comments here…


Bilby wrote on Mon, 12/12/2016 – 14:35

This is a reprehensible plan in terms of Fitzroy’s heritage. Easthill House is under a Heritage Overlay and the idea of full demolition should not even be contemplated. St. Vincents has recently demolished the historic 1920s “Druid’s Wing” and has indicated that their preferred option would also be to demolish the other historic buildings on site, including the internationally significant 19th century “Freethought Hall”. Council needs to move quickly and purposefully on this issue, or we stand to lose some of the most significant heritage buildings in Fitzroy and indeed, in Australia:

George D wrote on Mon, 12/12/2016 – 16:38

“Council needs to move quickly and purposefully on this issue, or we stand to lose some of the most significant heritage buildings in Fitzroy and indeed, in Australia”

What’s special about this particular building? I don’t have an opinion either way, but heritage is something that gets thrown around quite a bit depending on who’s using it.

Bilby wrote on Mon, 12/12/2016 – 22:12

At the most basic level, George, Easthill House is an Individually Significant building under the local South Fitzroy Heritage Overlay. The Eastern Hill Hotel, on the corner of Brunswick St. and Victoria Pde. is one of the rarest, most intact examples of a large Gold Rush era hotel in the country.

“Why is it Significant?

The Former Eastern Hill Hotel is of historical significance as one of only a small number of gold-rush era hotels to survive in Victoria and for its associations with the Victorian Eight Hour Day movement. The Former Eastern Hill Hotel is one of the largest and most intact of the few remaining 1850s gold rush era hotels left in inner Melbourne. As such it provides important evidence of the impact of the gold rushes on Melbourne’s development. In 1856 and subsequent years the building provided the venue for many functions and meetings concerned with, and allied to, the eight hour day movement. The building unionists supporting the eight hour day, who used the hotel as their headquarters, were known as belviderites. The eight hour movement played a very significant role in the early industrial and political history of the colony, and of Australia, and is still celebrated by the union movement.

The Former Eastern Hill Hotel is of architectural significance as one of the most substantial, elegant and externally intact remaining hotels of the early 1850s”

Reference: vhd.heritagecouncil.vic.gov.au

Source: urban.melbourne

As well the hospital plans to use the rear of 11 Brunswick St for a modern development.

View the planning documents here

Consider Old Fitzroy; St Vincent’s Private is a backdrop to this heritage precinct. It simply beggars belief that the Hospital Board can just press ahead with plans to destroy Heritage listed locations and to change irrevocably the character of the Historical Fitzroy Precinct. St Vincent’s Private Hospital is in fact a large and profitable medical business, not a public Hospital.

Would it not make sense to position this facility in a more suitable and less historically sensitive location? Perhaps elsewhere in suburban Melbourne?

This occurred with the expansion of the Mercy Hospital with its Heidelberg relocation and the Freemason’s Hospital’s expansion to the existing Epworth site in Richmond.

The case to hear objections, backed by Yarra Council was scheduled for a VCAT hearing commencing in November, its purpose was to object to the lifting of the existing Heritage Listings to permit new works on the St Vincent’s 11 storey extension to begin. Site visits have now occurred. The matter is proceeding. Let’s hope that some value is given to what is a precious part of Melbourne’s heritage and history and sanity prevails.

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Balance Architecture recognises the importance of Historical Architecture. We specialise in the renovation and restoration of Heritage Buildings.


Melbourne – Do you know its real history?

Originally settled in 1835, Melbourne (then known as Bearbrass – also at the time Bareport, Bareheap, Barehurp and Bareberp) the final naming of the ‘town’ occurred in 1837 with the opening of the Post Office by Governor Bourke of New South Wales.


This time we look at many of Melbourne’s pre Gold Rush buildings, built to service a small agricultural and pastoralist outpost established by John Batman – or John Pascoe Fawkner – take your pick.

Very few such buildings survive, but some do and may find yourself a little surprised at their locations. This article from the Herald Sun, written by Christopher Talbot gives some excellent insights.

Pre-gold rush Melbourne: take a look at the city’s oldest buildings

Melbourne was a crude settlement in 1835.

It grew to only 23,000 people in its first 15 years.

In July 1851, Victoria separated from New South Wales and gold was discovered a few months later — causing the population of the state to explode.

By 1860, the population of Victoria was 700,000 — and the city’s new found wealth resulted in a redevelopment of the city — with many of the pre-gold rush buildings torn down.

Take a walk through Melbourne and discover buildings with links to the pre-gold rush days that managed to survive as Marvellous Melbourne boomed around them.

St James’ Old Cathedral

THE oldest building originally built in Melbourne is St James Old Cathedral which was built in 1839 on the corner of Collins and William streets — and later relocated to King Street in 1914.

Mr Robert Russell, a London architect and surveyor, designed the building, which is made from bluestone and sandstone.

The foundation stone was laid by Charles La Trobe, Superintendent of the District of Port Phillip, on the 9th November 1839.

La Trobe had also brought a gift from Queen Victoria to the new colony, a baptismal font from St Katherine’s Abbey in London, which remains the font at St James’ today.

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Picture of the Melbourne skyline in 1881. St James’ Old Cathedral can be seen in the centre-right of the picture. Picture: State Library of Victoria.

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St James’ Old Cathedral once stood in a different spot. Picture: State Library of Victoria

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The font inside St James’ Old Cathedral was a gift for the new colony from Queen Victoria. It was brought to Melbourne in the 1830s and still resides in the church. Picture: Supplied

On the 29th June 1847, Charles Perry was consecrated in Westminster Abbey in London as Melbourne’s first bishop. He returned to Melbourne and was enthroned at St James’ on January 28, 1848 and it became the Cathedral church of the new diocese of Melbourne.

When Melbourne was booming and one of the wealthiest cities in the world in the 1880s, St Paul’s Cathedral was built and St James’ lost the title of Cathedral and became a parish church.

It was hardly being used in the early 20th Century, and plans were made for it to be demolished, but people protested and it was eventually decided to relocate it to another location.

The church was moved stone-by-numbered-stone to a new site on King Street, opposite Flagstaff Gardens and reopened in 1914.

Minor changes were made during the rebuilding, most noticeably to the third level of the bell tower which became square instead of octagonal.

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St James’ Old Cathedral as it appears today. Note the changes to the bell tower, which was altered when the church was relocated in 1914. Picture: HWT Library

300 Queen Street

THE former residence at 300 Queen Street is one of the oldest surviving houses in the central city area.

The beautiful Georgian building was designed in 1848 and built between 1849 and 1852 for one of Melbourne’s earliest settlers, J T Smith — a publican and theatre entrepreneur who was Mayor of Melbourne seven times during the 1850s and 1860s.

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300 Queen Street was once a stately home owned by a seven-time mayor of Melbourne. Picture: Heritage Victoria

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JT Smith was the first owner of 300 Queen Street. He was mayor of Melbourne seven times. Picture: State Library of Victoria.

The house was next occupied by David Munro between 1879 and 1889 — a successful railway contractor and land speculator who was bankrupted during the economic crash of the early 1890s.

300 Queen Street is a rare surviving example of the simple but elegant Georgian design by two of Melbourne’s earliest architects, Charles Laing and David Ross.

The building is now part of Victoria University.

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300 Queen Street as it looked in 1963 when it was being used as government offices. Picture: Heritage Victoria

Job Warehouse (Crossley’s Building)

JOB Warehouse is one of only a handful of surviving buildings in central Melbourne dating from before the first gold rushes.

It was build in 1848-49 as a two storey row of brick shops that stretches from Crossley Street to Liverpool Street.

It remains mostly as it appeared when first constructed, except for the shop windows and some minor changes to the facade.

The part of the building at 60-62 Bourke Street was built by a well-known butcher William Crossley as a shop, slaughter yard and residence.

The Crossleys trained many of Melbourne’s leading butchers in the 1880s.

Distinguished landscape painter Eugene von Guerard also lived in no. 56 in 1857 and 1858, one of Australia’s leading colonial artists who helped establish the Victorian Society of Fine Arts.

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It’s not much to look at, but Job Warehouse — also known as Crossley’s Building — is one of the oldest buildings in Melbourne. Picture: HWT Library.

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Job Warehouse has barely changed since it was built in 1848. Picture: HWT Library.

 Former Black Eagle Hotel

THE former Black Eagle Hotel is the oldest surviving building in the former red light district once known as “Little Lon”.

It was built in 1850 by William Kennon as a pair of two-storey bluestone and brick houses, but was probably used as a hotel from the beginning — though it was not described as such until 1853.

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The former Black Eagle Hotel’s customers would have included the men who frequented Madame Brussel’s brothel, which was two doors away. Picture: HWT Library.

The building was listed officially as a pub in 1853 and the first licensee was William Brandt, who held it until 1858, when Kennon took over the license until the hotel was purchased by the Melbourne Brewing and Malting Company in 1882.

The pub would have been busy and profited greatly from the activity at the infamous Madame Brussel’s brothel, which was two doors along the street.
The pub closed down in 1908, along with many others in the city, following the Licenses Reduction laws of 1906, and after this was home to various businesses.

It was a lodging house for some years and from 1918 was occupied by a Chinese cabinet maker, W H Chinn.


In 1919 the property was purchased by the printer Joshua McClelland who in 1920 built a large single-storey brick printing shed at the rear and operated it as a printing business until 1977.

The building has been restored and is now used as a shop on the ground floor with storage and office space above.

The rear facade is incorporated into the new office building called 50 Lonsdale.

There are remnants of early twentieth century painted signs on the corner of the building, and internally some original floor and ceiling joists remain.

Some of the walls are lined with illustrations taken from nineteenth century newspapers and magazines which is covered by was mid-to-late-Victorian wallpaper, now partly burnt off.


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Some of the original Victorian wallpaper inside the attic of the former Black Eagle Hotel, which was built in 1850. Picture: Hertitage Victoria.

Oddfellows Hotel

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The former Oddfellows Hotel on Little Lonsdale Street is one of the oldest buildings in Melbourne. Picture: Heritage Victoria.

THE former Oddfellows Hotel is one of the oldest surviving buildings in the City of Melbourne.

It is significant for its association with Melbourne’s Little Lon district, home to the city’s poorest residents and many immigrant groups, particularly the Chinese.

During the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries the area was notorious for its poverty, crime and prostitution.

The Oddfellows Hotel was constructed in stages between 1848 and 1853, started by carpenter Henry Charles Wills, who built a single storey cottage with a carpenter’s yard for himself.

He then built a large house with a cellar and 15 rooms — part of which became the Oddfellows Hotel.

The hotel lost its license along with many others in the city with the Licenses Reduction laws of 1906 and closed in 1912.

After the hotel closed the whole building became a furniture manufacturing workshop and in 1914 the property was bought by the well-known merchant Cheok Hong Cheong, a missionary and social reformer in the Chinese quarter of Melbourne.

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The former Oddfellows Hotel was once used by Chinese furniture makers. Image: State Library of Victoria.

The building was occupied by Chinese cabinet makers until 1948 when it was acquired by the Commonwealth Government.

The building was restored in the 1990s with the interior rearranged for commercial use, and in 2005-06 an extension was added at the rear and the interiors were largely gutted as part of its conversion to a bar and restaurant.

The building’s original facade is largely intact, and it is a now rare demonstration of the commercial buildings once common in the city.

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The former Oddfellows Hotel as it appears today. The building has been a pub among a host of other things, and is one of the oldest buildings in Melbourne. Picture: Google Maps

Cook’s Cottage

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A photograph of Cook’s Cottage in Great Ayton in England before it was moved to Melbourne. The cottage is technically the oldest building in Melbourne. Picture: State Library of Victoria.

This inclusion may be contentious — but the oldest building in Melbourne is technically Cook’s Cottage in the Fitzroy Gardens.

The house was built by Captain James Cook’s father in 1755 in Great Ayton in England, and in 1933, the last owner of the cottage, Mrs. Dixon put it up for sale.

It was suggested that it would make an ideal focus piece for Victoria’s centenary in 1934, and wealthy Melburnian Russell Grimwade puts plans in motion to secure it as a centenary gift for the state of Victoria.

Mrs Dixon wanted the cottage to remain in Britain and had rejected offers from wealthy Americans, but she was eventually persuaded by Grimwade on the premise that Australia was still “in the Empire”.

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Russell Grimwade bought Cook’s Cottage and moved it to Melbourne in 1934. Picture: Screen Australia.

In 1934 it was moved brick-by-brick from Great Ayrton to Melbourne, shipped in 253 crates complete with an ivy cutting which had grown on the original building.

Today the cottage is covered by the same original ivy.

The site in Fitzroy Gardens was selected and construction work was completed in six months — when the cottage was handed over to the Lord Mayor H. Gengoult Smith by Russell Grimwade on the 15th October, 1934.

The cottage has undergone two restorations. The first in the late 1950s and the most recently in 1978, when it was decorated with period furniture and surrounded by an 18th Century style garden.

Captain James Cook never actually lived in the house but it’s thought he would have visited his parents there from time-to-time — or at least we hope he did.

The cottage was vandalised in 2014 and the exterior was spray painted with “26th Jan Australia’s shame”.

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Cook’s Cottage as it appears today. The ivy on the outside of a building was grown from a cutting that grew on the building before it was moved. Picture: HWT Library.

Source: heraldsun.com.au

It would seem that even Cook’s Cottage has a somewhat tenuous grip on being the home of Captain James Cook. The truth is that it was his childhood home.

To get a real sense of the grandeur, largess and excess generated by the Gold Rush times, the following boom and the ongoing pastoral wealth, the video ‘Old Melbourne: Heritage Buildings, Mansions and Markets’ gives us a wonderful insight into the city’s historic development.

Many of these homes and locations have been discussed and written about in previous blogs by Balance Architecture + Interior Design.

Now take a walk back through time and ponder what was once there and what is now there.

In 1835, 20,000 people from the Wurundjeri, Boonwurrung and Wathaurang tribes of our first Nation indigenous peoples lived here in the Greater Melbourne Region as hunter gatherers. In under 200 years look what has now evolved.

In some regards Melbourne has retained many interesting and important heritage buildings. The period from about 1960 until 1985 saw much of the city’s valuable heritage destroyed.

It is often stated that Melbourne is considered the world’s most liveable city. Is it? One of our staff was involved in beautifying the Bourke St Mall over nearly a 10 year period from 1998 through to 2008 when the new mall layout was completed.

His observations are telling.

“The city is limited in the light it receives during daylight hours. Tall buildings create massive wind tunnels. It is as if we have built a man-made mountain. Peregrine Falcons prey upon pigeons that live at the lower levels. The streets are bitumen, stone and concrete with steel features. In summer nothing can actually live in these conditions. Flower displays may only last a few weeks even when watered and fertilised.”


Think of the future. We are leaving a strange heritage. What would we offer as the ‘markers’ of our time here? Which locations? (Federation Square? Southern Cross Station? Docklands?) What will future generations make of our time and our contributions to posterity, to heritage.

Is ‘it’ there or have we ‘missed the boat’?

You be the judge.

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Balance Architecture recognises the importance of Historical Architecture. We specialise in the renovation and restoration of Heritage Buildings.

Rivers of the West or Unbridled Development?

For many people there is a strong link to rivers and our heritage. In the 19th Century, pastoralists and landowners were nearly always inclined to build their residences and have their properties around good water sources. Nowhere is this more true than in Melbourne’s North and West. With the Maribyrnong now being considered for major development, as per our blog featured several weeks ago, the idea and values inherent in preserving our fragile waterways has become immensely important.

Rather than a series of unconnected multi-storey riverbank developments, from Kensington and Footscray through to Arundel on the Maribyrnong, why not a recreational green space, as has been accorded Melbourne’s Eastern Corridor with the Yarra River Protection Act. Whereas the Industry remnants are actively being removed from the Yarra banks (APM Papermills), in the west new facilities are being built adjacent to waterways.



Note that Deep Creek and Jacksons Creek were integral to places like Rupertswood (Sunbury) and Glenara (Bulla) Estates (we have featured these wonderful Heritage buildings and Estates here and here). As well Flemington Racecourse and the Footscray Gardens take full advantage of the Maribyrnong.

Heritage Building - Rupertswood Estate Mansion


The River continues out west to the junction of both Jackson and Deep Creek. Much of its course is undeveloped and unprotected.

Push for tougher laws to protect rivers of the west

Rivers and creeks in Melbourne’s west deserve the sort of planning and environmental protections given to the Yarra, a campaign launched by environmental, legal and local river groups says.

The Rivers of the West campaign, which is being co-ordinated by legal group Environmental Justice Australia, wants similar tough planning rules to those brought in last year to protect the Yarra from inappropriate development.


“We want to shift these rivers from industrial drains to well-functioning waterways,” said lawyer Bruce Lindsay, of Environmental Justice Australia.

The campaign wants to replicate the protections granted along the length of the Yarra in 2017 under the Yarra River Protection (Wilip-gin Birrarung murron) Act.


Mr Lindsay was a key figure in the three-year campaign to convince both sides of politics in the lead-up to the 2014 state election to pledge for better protections for the Yarra.

The Rivers of the West campaign will urge the state’s political parties to back increased protections for the Maribyrnong and Werribee river catchments, and their tributaries including Jacksons Creek, Deep Creek and Steele Creek.

“We need this campaign because our creeks and rivers have had such a history of abuse and pollution,” said local creeks campaigner Helen van den Berg, who is a leading figure in the campaign.

The treatment of creeks and rivers in Melbourne’s west compared with the east was terrible, said Craig Rowley of LeadWest, a lobby group for the western suburbs.


The rivers there had “run with the blood and the guts flowing out of abattoirs and tanneries [because] the west provided the rest of Melbourne with its meats and leathers,” he said.

Mr Rowley said Werribee had long ago been selected to treat much of the city’s sewage “that had previously flowed directly into the Yarra”.


Today, he said, there was a Yarra River that had bountiful parklands and picnic spots, and state government planning controls to protect it. In the west, it was left to local community groups to “try their best to restore and protect our region’s creeks”.

“Too many of the west’s creeks are treated like industrial drains,” he said.


The campaign will:

  • call for an end to over-clearing of vegetation in catchments feeding into the Maribyrnong and Werribee rivers, because of the impact on water quality;
  • ask that wetlands be restored along rivers to also improve water quality;
    demand tougher planning measures to prevent urban growth directly affecting the Maribyrnong and Werribee rivers and their catchments, in areas such as Werribee, Sunbury and Romsey;
  • propose better ways of managing contaminated stormwater runoff into rivers;
  • propose a similar system of governance for the Maribyrnong and Werribee rivers as was granted to the Yarra.

The massive Commonwealth Defence site at Maribyrnong is highly contaminated right next to the river and is earmarked for large-scale development. This would have potentially damaging consequences on the lower Maribyrnong, Mr Lindsay said.

A quarry adjacent to Brimbank Park has been also earmarked for residential development, and Mr Lindsay said there were concerns about contamination from it too.


In 2017, the Andrews government’s Yarra act identified hundreds of parcels of public land the waterway flows through, and co-ordinated 14 public authorities operating along the river. It also established a new “Birrarung Council” to act as an independent voice for the river.

The government brought in stronger planning controls to protect against inappropriate private development on the river’s banks, set tougher rules to prevent overshadowing, and introduced mandatory height limits on the river’s edge.

The western suburbs campaign envisages similar laws.

Maelor Himbury is secretary of Friends of the Maribyrnong Valley, which has campaigned for decades to improve the health of the river.

Mr Himbury, who has lived near the Maribyrnong in Niddrie for 30 years, said huge improvements had been made to the waterway as the three councils in his area – Moonee Valley, Maribyrnong and Brimbank – had become more serious about managing it.

“The councils now take it really seriously,” he said.

But river groups needed to “make a bit more pressure on the politicians to take you seriously”, he said.

Another campaigner wanting better protection for the west’s rivers is John Forrester, who has lived 100 metres from the Werribee River for almost four decades.

He acts as the Werribee “riverkeeper”, a voluntary position. The part-time Yarra Riverkeeper was integral in campaigning for that river’s increased protections this year.

Mr Forrester said the Werribee River, much like the Maribyrnong and Yarra, passed through three multiple council areas – including Wyndham, Melton and Moorabool – and each had different laws.

He said the entire corridor for both the Werribee and Maribyrnong rivers should be declared a public park.

This would reduce the amount of firewood being taken without permission, make managing 4WDs and motorcycles easier, and restrict development on the river banks.

“Big buildings are being constructed on industrial estates with huge concrete walls or [large] wire fences. If they were putting them in with an aesthetic regard for the river, fine, but they just aren’t,” he said.

Both the Andrews government and the opposition said they were prepared to work with the western suburbs’ groups to better protect rivers like the Maribyrnong and Werribee.

“At a time of significant population growth, it is imperative to act to protect the Maribyrnong River,” said opposition environment spokesman Nick Wakeling.

Water Minister Lisa Neville said the government wanted to safeguard rivers in the west. Having passed laws this year to protect the Yarra, the government would “consider similar protections for other landmarks”, she said.

Source: theage.com.au

Large areas of riverbank on the Maribyrnong are currently locked up.

Flemington Racecourse through until the Essendon Boulevard are relatively safe but still need development environmentally. Architecture reflects its environment. Lets ensure that future development on these waterways provide recreation and enjoyment for all – not just a few apartment dwellers. In this dry land water is still life. We give full support to the Rivers of the West campaign.

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Balance Architecture recognises the importance of Historical Architecture. We specialise in the renovation and restoration of Heritage Buildings.