Interiors

Only a handful of our grandest interiors, including the main theatres, churches, government buildings (such as GPO and Town Hall), and, a few commerical ones (such as Manchester Unity and Royal Arcade) are protected by the Victorian Heritage Register. Protection of interiors in the CBD has fallen through the cracks, there are far too many buildings that are not significant enough to be listed on the VHR (see our ‘About Planning and Heritage’ section for more on this), but which are of considerable local significance. Most interiors in Melbourne have no protection at all (even where the facade has a heritage listing) because local controls are outdated. These interiors are all vital to the character of our city, and should be protected by the City of Melbourne. Instead they have has fallen behind other councils by not listing a single heritage interior and only focusing on street facades, despite having the power to protect ‘outstanding’ examples.

MHA has been concerned about the lack of protection for interiors in Melbourne since our group formed in 2011. In 2014 this concern was sadly realised when the City of Melbourne dragged its feet on listing the interiors of the Palace Theatre, which meant the owner was within their legal rights to order them to be severely damaged. Below are our top 15 unprotected interiors – you can see a photo gallery of more here.

Palace Theatre | 20-30 Bourke Street
This was Melbourne’s oldest surviving theatre interior. The balconies and auditorium ceiling dating to 1916, intact 1923 lobby in a matching Roccoco style and elecletic features from other periods through out, currently under immiment threat of demolition and recently damaged, though hopefully not beyond repair.
Auditorium Ceiling Rose
Auditorium Ceiling Rose
Block Court | 288 Collins Street
Likely to be Melbourne’s oldest Art Deco commercial interior, with very ornate plaster ceilings, brass shopfronts and terazzo floor. Remodelling in 1929 inside a Victorian era building by renowned architect Harry Norris, who later on in the decade designed many of of
Melbourne’s best Art Deco buildings.
Block Court Arcade, Collins St. 1929. Melbourn'es first and still one of its best Art Deco interiors
Block Court Arcade, Collins St. 1929. Melbourne’s first (and still one of the best) Art Deco interior.
Royal Bank Chambers | 287 Collins Street
Constructed for the ES&A Bank in 1941, this imposing Moderne bank building features a white marble-clad foyer and a grand staircase. The  clock, light fittings and tiled floors are all original. This interior is a perfect example of the transition from the ornate pre-war style of banks towards the streamlined modernism of post-war.
Royal Banking Chambers, Elizabeth/Collins St. 1940
Royal Banking Chambers, Elizabeth/Collins St. 1940
Pawson House | 141 Flinders Lane
Construction of this Art Deco rag-trade workshop finished in June 1935. The lobby is still intact, with tiled walls, terrazzo flooring, timber mailboxes, lift door and one of the Melbourne’s few remaining original lift-cars. The mailboxes are now used as Melbourne’s second smallest art gallery.
Pawson House, Flinders Lane 1935.
Pawson House, Flinders Lane 1935.
ACA building | 118 Queen Street
This 1936 building is intact as ‘old-world’ style partitioned offices throughout, but the ground floor lobby is it’s most interesting interior. The signage, deco light fittings, black marble
walls, heavy plaster cornices and curved balustrades are all original. It is one of our most stylish and important interiors.
ACA Building, Queen St. 1937. Intact throughout with black marble clad lobby
ACA Building, Queen St. 1937. Intact throughout with black marble clad lobby
Pellegrini’s Espresso Bar | 55 Bourke Street
A Melbourne icon. The bar opened in 1955, and remains almost completely as it appeared when it first opened. The mid-century interior features the original mirrored walls, wooden bar, tiled floors, and fixed stools.
Pellegrini's Espresso Bar, Bourke st. 1955. totally intact down to the stools
Pellegrini’s Espresso Bar, Bourke st. 1955. totally intact down to the stools
Victoria Club | 131 Queen Street
Site of the great bookie robbery and once home to the Victoria Club, whose ornate and uniquely 1920’s boardroom still exists upstairs. The ground floor is now home to a Bhuddist temple, and retains it’s bee-hive like entry ceilings and chamber with ornate ceiling and columns. Not even the façade of the 1928 building is currently protected! It is time for the entire building to receive proper protection.
Victoria Club, Queen St. 1928
Victoria Club, Queen St. 1928
Centenary Hall | 104 Exhibition Street
Built in 1935 as a Hall for protestant revival meetings, and later becoming (to this day) the headquarters for the Victorian Liberal party, the foyer features a terrazzo floor with Orange order star, marble dado and stylised frosted glass doors.
Centenary Hall, Exhibition St. 1935
Centenary Hall, Exhibition St. 1935
Naval and Military Club | 7 Alfred Place
Built in typical Boom-era extravagance in 1885 as the German Club, with its still intact grand staircase, heavy cornices rooms and lecture hall hosting the likes of Ferdinand von Mueller, the German immigrant responsible for much of the Royal Botanic Gardens early conception. Anti-German sentiment during the First World War forced the club out, the building was later used by the Naval and Military Club, followed by Mietta’s Restaraunt and it is currently the temporary venue for Stokehouse while its St Kilda premises is rebuilt.
Naval and Mili (5)
Gossard’s Lingerie Stage | 65 Franklin Street
Hidden inside the Edwardian Cyclone Wire Factory (now RMIT) is this 1940’s stage and auditorium, used as a fashion runway during the buildings life as a Lingerie factory. Highly detailed and angular stage framing and ceiling.
Gossards Lingerie Showroom, Franklin st, c.1930's
Gossards Lingerie Showroom, Franklin st, c.1930’s
Argus Advertising Hall | 284 La Trobe Street
This advertising hall was recently cleaned up with a new lick of paint and some fantastic plaster restoration, but still has no formal protection for the future. The room is currently bare but may contain murals hidden behind paint along the back wall.
The Argus advertising hall, Elizabeth St. 1926. Recently restored but sill not officially protected
The Argus advertising hall, Elizabeth St. 1926. Recently restored but sill not officially protected
Sir Charles Hotham Hotel | 580 Flinders Street
This building is filled with art nouveau tiling and plasterwork. Of particular interest is  the laundry room, which may have  originally been an entry hall. Ornate ceilings, tiled walls and decorative windows are found throughout the buildings. The building’s façade is heritage listed , but current interest from developers means it under threat of façadism and all these rare interiors could all be lost.
Sir Charles Hotham Hotel, Spencer St. 1913
Sir Charles Hotham Hotel, Spencer St. 1913
ANA building | 28 Elizabeth Street
The former Headquarters of the Australian Natives Association, who were strong advocates for Federation. Built in 1939 the building features unusual Australiana themed interiors, including kookaburra bannisters on the generous stairs. There may also be an original boardroom behind locked doors further up the stairs.
Australian Natives Association, Elizabeth St. 1939. Art Deco Kookaburra staircase and wooden Koalas over the first floor lifts
Australian Natives Association, Elizabeth St. 1939. Art Deco Kookaburra staircase and wooden Koalas over the first floor lifts
Centreway Arcade | 259 Collins Street
A Post-Modern interior to round off the list, designed in 1987 by Cocks Carmichael Whitford inside the 1920s Centreway Building, its angular forms, stark colours and clear references to the Art Deco period (typical of 1980s design) make it one of Melbourne’s most interesting recent interiors, and potentially worth future protection along with selected other interiors and buildings from the era. The pattern of words on the ceiling above the shoppers spells out ‘we live in a society that places an inordinate value in goods and services’, a typical post-modern comment on life.
1987 Post-modern interiors of Centreway Arcade, Collins St.
1987 Post-modern interiors of Centreway Arcade, Collins St.
Druids House | 407 Swanston Street
Built in 1926 for an Ancient Order of Druids, which included Winston Churchill in its worldwide member ship at the time, The building retains much of it’s charm throughout, the narrow entrance lobby featuring terazzo flooring, multi-coloured marble dados, copper joinery and a druidic-looking pedestal light stairwell.

If you know of any great interiors we might not know about behind locked doors, let us know.

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