Melbourne Daily Photo

Hello, I created this blog because Melbourne is my city and I want people to see what a beautiful place it is. So come with me on a journey of discovery as we traverse the dining precincts, the culture, the laneways and hidden gems that make Melbourne marvellous.

Waltzing Australia

Tuesday, 15 June 2010

My World Tuesday - Melbourne's Block Arcade

Melbourne's equally famous Block Arcade is an impressive and historical shopping arcade noted for its beautiful etched-glass roof and highly decorative wrought iron and timber supports and having the largest mosaic floor area in Australia. The Block's French Rennaissance-revival design was inspired by the Galleria Vittorio in Milan (with which Melbourne is now a sister city) and is one of the finest examples of a 19th Century shopping arcade.

Some early history:
From 1856 to 1883 the site was occupied by Briscoe's Grain Bulk Store. This later became the site for George & Georges Drapers until 14th September 1889 when a fire swept through the building. Three firemen died fighting the fire which caused 200,000 pounds ($100,000) worth of damage.

Like many Melbourne buildings, the previous grain store was built on bluestone foundations and because of this Melbourne is often called 'the bluestone city'. The disastrous fire could not destroy the bluestone foundations, and the lavish new arcade grew on top of the old foundations.

Above: Block Arcade's etched glass roof
The Block Arcade was constructed in two sections in 1891 and 1893 and derived its name from the tradition of "doing the block", or parading around Melbourne's fashionable shopping streets. Designed by David C. Askew for the financier Benjamin Fink, with instructions to produce something similar to the Galleria Vittoria in Milan, the end result was one of Melbourne's most richly decorated interior spaces, complete with mosaic tiled flooring, glass canopy, wrought iron and carved stone finishings.

Above: Mosaic floor
The mosaic floor runs through the entire complex framed with beautiful timber shop fronts adding to the air of elegance and olde worlde charm. The complex is classified by the National Trust and is on the register of the National Estate.

Above: Victorian weighing machine
One of the many scales that are to be found in Melbourne's arcades and shopping malls. For only a dollar you can check your weight - pay to weigh! Many of these were imported from Britain at the turn of the century.

Royal Letters Patent
The sign above the scales reads "By Royal Letters Patent" - On 25th June, 1847, Melbourne was declared by letters patent of Queen Victoria to be a city.

Above: Central Atrium
The Block derived its name from the tradition of "doing the block". In the 1880s and 1890s, fashionable Melbournians would parade in their finest dresses, suits, hats and accessories along Collins Street and Elizabeth Street and around "The Block", chatting and socialising with friends before retiring for a cup of tea.

It was fashionable to "do the block" between 2.30 and 4.30, especially if you were on the lookout for an eligible beau!

Above: Block Arcade - looking south towards Collins Street
Situated between Collins and Little Collins and Elizabeth Streets, the Block Arcade is our grandest arcade and houses some of Melbourne's most exclusive retailers offering jewellery as well as handmade toys, leather goods, lingerie, cosmetics and shoes, fashion and giftware.

Above: Haigh's Chocolates
Haigh's was founded in 1915 by Alfred E. Haigh, who was born in Adelaide in 1877. The first Haigh's store in Melbourne opened in the 1960's. Their hand-made chocolates and truffles are a delight for all chocaholics as the chocolate has that deliciously decadent melt-in-your-mouth feel which only truly first class chocolate can give.

Above: Hopetoun Tea Rooms - 1892
The Victorian Ladies' Work Association ran a tea room in the Block Arcade until 1907. The association was disbanded but the tea rooms continued under a new name, Hopetoun Tea Rooms, named after the association's founder, Lady Hopetoun.

Upon entering, you could be forgiven for thinking you had stepped back in time over 100 years, for the vintage decor remains the same. Inside, the marble-topped tables sit beneath walls swathed in glorious wallpaper shot with green, white and black triffid-like flowers and is adorned with a double-etched mirror dated 1891. Serving such delights as pinwheel sandwiches, lamingtons, vanilla slices, home made scones and tarts, asparagus rolls and Welsh rarebits.

A selection of the finest teas is available. If you come in for a light luncheon or afternoon tea, don't forget to raise your pinkie as you partake of the fragrant Earl Grey.

Above: Block Arcade - Collins Street entrance
The arcade was restored and refurbished in the late 1980's by the Buchan Group, which upgraded the complex to modern retail and commercial standards while remaining faithful to the original Victorian vision. The work involved the reinstatement of original timber shopfronts, the repairing, cleaning, painting and illuminating of the upper facades to Collins and Elizabeth Streets, and the design of a new entry canopy for Elizabeth Street.

Above: The Golden Mile
Like the Royal Arcade, the Block Arcade is part of the Golden Mile heritage trail.

Today's Quote: If men liked shopping, they'd call it research ~ Cynthia Nelms

Click here to see other photos from My World Tuesday


Luis Gomez said...

These are just fantastic! What a great set of images and wonderful info.

Sylvia K said...

What an incredible and beautiful place! How fun it would be to be able to shop there! So much prettier than the "thrown together" malls we so often see here in the states. And I love the history! Terrific post for the day and your photos are superb! Thanks for sharing! Hope you have a great week!


Regina said...

Beautiful Arcade. I love to shop on a place like this.
Great captures.
Thank you for sharing.

Hilda said...

Such gorgeous details! I would love to walk around this arcade, not to shop but to appreciate the building!

Anonymous said...

It is amazing to see this arcade. It is almost spooky. As beautiful as it is, it reminds me of the arcade in Dayton, Ohio.

If you go there, the arcade building is on the right of the page.

It went into serious decline a long time ago and was closed for decades. Now it has just been restored and shops are being leased out again.

I saw it when I was about ten years old and it was a fascinating place like your arcade is.

Your photos are excellent.

Jossie said...

Thank you for sharing these pictures. I visited Melbourne many years ago and was impressed bij the wonderful arcade. Had no camera at hand so I forgot about it and now I remember!

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magiceye said...

what a wonderful world!!

Wolynski said...

Wow, this shopping arcade is something else - wonderful photos.

AB said...

A very elegant old arcade!

Inday said...

Timeless, awesome, elegant architecture over there. Reminds me of Queen Victoria Bldg but this one looks even better. So impressive!

(Been out of circulation for a while. Am a grandma now. It's in my main blog. For memes, i have new Australia:Nature's Gifts.)

Great photography here dear.

brattcat said...

I feel as if I've been walking through the Arcade beside you!

Cezar and Léia said...

wow This mall is very impressive!Wonderful glass roof there and I would shop many chocolates and delicious cakes in that store!
Léia :)

Gattina said...

Fortunately you wrote that the place is in Australia ! otherwise I would have thought it's a building from Europe ! Really beautiful, must be nice to walk in there !

Carver said...

What a beautiful place. I enjoyed all the shots. The glass ceiling and mosaic floors were particularly beautiful to me.

Rob Siemann said...

Lovely place, lovely photos

Unknown said...

Awesome ceilings! What a great place!

Joe Todd said...

Tea and Chocolate oh my

Paula said...

Amazing place. We haven't got anything remotely like this in my small city. And probably never will, given the way our economy is going. :(
Spectacular photo set!

NatureFootstep said...

looks like a place to visit. Not for buying things though. It has a lot of nice details to study.

SandyCarlson said...

The art of life lived daily and wonderfully. Thanks for these. I am glad that place still stands and is so majestic.

Jim said...

I absolutely love these old arcades and Melbourne has done a better job than Sydney in preserving so many of them. I have often visited the Haigh's chocolate shop on my visits down there but luckily now we have one in Sydney too at our Strand Arcade. :)

Arija said...

How beautifully it has been done up. I haven't been in the Block Arcade for longer than I care to remember where I walked through it on a daily basis while training at a manufacturing jeweller in Elizabeth St.
Then, unfortunately, it was only window shopping.

Love your Flinders St. Station header. Great shot with good light

Teca M. Jorge said...

Ótimas fotos.


Lowell said...

This has to be one of the nicest arcades in the world! And your photos are fantastic! Such detail and sharpness.

I'd have to be careful, though, and leave my credit cards at home...especially passing that chocolate shop!

Melbourne Daily Photo

Hello, I created this blog because Melbourne is my city and I want people to see what a beautiful place it is. So come with me on a journey of discovery as we traverse the dining precincts, the culture, the laneways and hidden gems that make Melbourne marvellous.