HIDDEN HERITAGE: NORTH ROUTE
by Rohan Storey
START: Tasma Terrace, East Melbourne
FINISH: Kings Domain
FIELD NOTES: This ride is an easy eleven kilometre loop that shows the north⎯end of town has more stories to tell than just the Exhibition Building and Parliament house.
Starting at National Trust Headquarters, the impressive yet delicately detailed Tasma Terrace (2⎯12 Parliament Place, East Melbourne) is one of the finest in Melbourne. Saved from demolition by the Trust in the 1970s, the terraces were built in two stages (1878 and 1887). Their great size and proximity to the CBD meant they mostly operated as private hotels, where guests dined together in the front sitting rooms, and often stayed for long periods. Take a look inside to see the fine detailing, or what’s on in the gallery.
Australia’s first modern skyscraper, ICI House (4 Nicholson Street, East Melbourne) was completed in 1957. This slick, nineteen⎯storey all⎯glass tower was designed by Bates Smart McCutcheon, and famous for being the first building permitted to be higher than the city’s turn⎯of⎯the⎯century 132⎯foot limit. These restrictions were scrapped soon after, and Melbourne’s skyline was changed forever. Now known as the Orica Building, it was the first modern office tower to be officially heritage listed.
Benvenuta (48 Drummond Street, Carlton)
This wonderfully ornate mini⎯mansion was built in 1892 for Mrs Leah Abrahams, who inherited a fortune from her deceased husband, a small⎯arms manufacturer. The profusion and flowing style of fine stuccowork and mouldings of the building is unsurpassed⎯together with the equally exuberant ‘Rosaville’ next door at 46 Drummond Street, the pair epitomise the styles of the ‘boom’ period of the 1880s.
Next stop, enter Melbourne University around gate four and ask anyone to point you towards the Old Quadrangle. In a nod to the ancient colleges of Oxford and Cambridge, the first building for Melbourne University was this charming little Gothic cloister, built between 1854 and 1857. A shortage of funds meant only three sides were built, so it was not a full quadrangle until the south⎯wing was completed more than one⎯hundred years later in 1970. Hidden between the Botany and Environment faculties, the System Garden was laid out in 1856, with concentric beds displaying plants by botanical classification (hence the name ‘System’)⎯a few trees are now all that remain. The central octagonal tower was added in the 1860s. Your halfway point, the garden is one of the city’s lesser⎯known green pockets and a fine spot to rest in the sun or the shade.
Hugged by the Melbourne Cemetery on one side, College Crescent is a unique strip. A great curving street along the University’s northern limit, it’s home to a fabulous array of mostly Gothic nineteenth century residential ‘colleges’, each assigned to various religious denominations.
A brief ride east through Carlton and Fitzroy’s quiet side streets, the massive building at 277⎯285 Brunswick Street was built originally the Moran & Cato grocery store⎯the first and largest chain store in Melbourne. Founded by cousins Thomas Moran and John Cato they began with just two stores in Carlton and Fitzroy. By 1890 the pair had more than thirty⎯five stores across Melbourne and it was ‘conceded by all conscientious persons in Victoria that Moran & Cato are the largest, cheapest and best cash grocers in the colony’.
Before Brunswick Street boomed, adjacent Smith Street was once one of only two major shopping areas outside the CBD. Home to large clothing and furniture department stores, Foy & Gibson was the biggest and had three huge stores in Smith Street. Today, the ladies store at 145⎯163 Smith Street survives, along with a huge complex of stylish industrial structures down the hill along Oxford Street and Cambridge Street, which was home to their huge manufacturing empire. Raw wool went in one end of these buildings, and completed garments were placed on a rack for sale at the other.
In an enclave of immaculate Victorian architecture and grand abodes, Queen Bess Row is certainly one of East Melbourne’s grandest. Built in 1887 in a Queen Anne style, the chunky building towers over the neighbouring cast iron verandas of East Melbourne’s terraces. While built to hotel proportions, it has in fact always been private residences.
Wrap up at Fitzroy Gardens, perhaps the city’s best nineteenth century park. Divided by beautiful tree⎯lined avenues in a Union Jack arrangement dating from the late 1850s, this was always…
Rohan Storey is Architectural Historian of the National Trust. www.nattrust.com.au