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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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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.