Sunday, January 17, 2010

"Old" Melbourne

I have had an absolutely mad week at work. Over the past few weeks many other services have simply been closed because the Christmas/New Year period coincides with many people’s summer holidays. The spin-off of this is that the numbers of people accessing our services have exploded. We have been having up to 250% of our usual numbers! As a result, I have been coming home a bit too weary to think about posting. Things should ease this coming week as most other agencies such as the Salvation Army homeless service have now reopened.

Now “all work and no play make Jack a dull boy” so I had much of yesterday off and today is all mine! So here I go with a post.

As I have posted before, Melbourne in the mid to late 1800s was the richest city in the world, thanks to the wealth generated by the Victorian gold rushes. The city that is now Melbourne exploded in population and in municipal areas.
In the older suburbs, as well as in the city centre, there remain grand (perhaps grandiose) statements of how much wealth was sloshing around the boroughs of Melbourne in those days.

As you know I love pointing my camera at almost anything. Yesterday I drove around just a few of the older and innermost suburbs of Melbourne to grab a few piccies of the grandest statements of old (should I say oldish? None of these buildings are over 150 years old). I speak of municipal town halls. Here are a sample of 6 of the 24 town halls scattered across Melbourne. Most of these buildings are quite close together, some as little as a good old mile apart (we have used kilometres here since 1975).

Preston Town Hall in northern Melbourne.I took this so close as it is difficult to shoot because of the trees out the front.
This is one of the more restrained buildings. Neo-classical features are at a minimum and there is no clock tower. I love the contrast between the warm bricks and the white stucco.

Northcote Town Hall, again in the north.The painted stucco look is a bit more gaudy but the building is still comparatively simple.

Now we get a bit grander. North Melbourne (formerly Hotham) Town Hall adds a clock-tower to the stucco façade.With amalgamations of municipal councils in recent decades some town halls no longer fulfil their original function.
North Melbourne is one of them.

Fitzroy Town Hall goes all out for the grand imperial statement.
The Neo-Classical look is taken to the extreme. This building would, I expect, feel quite at home somewhere in London.

Like many Fitzroy also had a public library attached to the council chambers.
Just a few blocks across from Fitzroy is Collingwood Town Hall.
The clock tower at Collingwood is as gaudy as they come and I would guess the tallest in Melbourne.

Last, but definitely not least, South Melbourne (formerly Emerald Hill) Town Hall.
Apparently this structure, like Collingwood’s is in “Second Empire” style.
I find the attention to detail of these former craftsmen amazing.Like the capitals atop these Corinthian columns.

So there you have it. Statements from the burghers of old Melbourne about their wealth and power, but also their commitment to Empire.


Christy Pinheiro, EA ABA said...

I love architecture. We don't have anything old and beautiful like this in California. The closest thing is the old victorian homes downtown, but they are getting bulldozed by the dozens to make way for high rise buildings.

Rebecca said...

love it. Now I want to go and see more... thanks Al.

Lisa said...

Well, they just about reached the point where there was no room left to add any more ornamentation!

Al said...

Hi Christy,
I love old architecture. Most of the newer stuff leaves me cold.
We have incredible heritage legislation to protect the older buildings in the city. The plus side is retaining treasures. The downer is it can really tie knots around what people can do with their own places.

Hi Rebecca,
You'll have to shoot down here for a holiday some time :) An d the bonus is you know at least one person down here!

Hi Lisa,
Some of them are so over the top that they almost become ugly. There is a lot to be said for classical design, but burying it ornamentation can be too much.

arlee bird said...

I've really got to get to Australia one day. If I were to leave the confines of the U.S., Australia would be one of my first choices. And I like the fact that you guys almost speak American. What?

Al said...

Hi Lee,
Try it sometime there is a whole other world out there.
Nah, we speak an odd dialect called Strine (try Googling it) which is a variation of that obscure language English :)