The beautiful Block Arcade

Originally post 22-25 June 2020

The octagonal domed space where the #BlockArcade makes it’s right angle is one of the loveliest Victorian spaces in Melbourne, and hard to photograph (my #MomentLens wide angle phone attach only just gets it).

I found a great photo from c1891 showing it, and ‘The Redfern House’ ladies tailor, and the tearoom of the Ladies Work Association (a charity that helped ‘gentlewomen’ who had fallen on hard times by getting them needlework). Another shop is to let, so could be late 1891 when the dome and Collins St leg finished, or later in 1893 when the whole thing complete, and no doubt hard to let since the 1880s #landboom had crashed completely by then. And seeing who the early tenants were I also realise it was very much a place for women, at least probably high class ones, seems logical given it was the society retail heart of Melb, named after the practice of ‘doing the block’, that is promenading along this block of Collins St on Sat afternoons, calling into the high class boutiques, music and book shops, and cafes.

Ps I also found that the @library_vic has the original plans ! Actual #blueprints. And in the c1891 photo it looks like it was all pale colours, but I’m assured that the rich colours it was restored to in the 90s are based on the original.

The #BlockArcade has some great details if you look up too – the elaborate #plasterwork has a #cartouche with CPCo for the development co that built it, the City Property Co., and a wrought iron screen with a built in clock, flanked by a pair of #trumpeters (apparently a recentish addition). The CPCo was a vehicle for major shareholder, notorious ‘#landboomer’ #BenjaminFink, who paid like 3p in the pound to his creditors when the Boom bust in 1892, so actually I don’t know how he kept building the arcade through to Oct 1893, I guess once it was started…

Just realised that the shopfronts in the #BlockArcade are in fact extremely tall, with HUGE areas of glass for the early 1890s; it was definitely a luxury shopping destination, all spacious and tall and elaborate (though the shops themselves aren’t very big, even with the upper level that’s attached to some of them).

The #BlockArcade has a few of the lovely Edwardian display cases at the Elisabeth St end, which thankfully weren’t removed as ‘not original’ when it was restored in the 90s. There’s a few nice copper framed possibly 30s ones as well where Block Place crosses. Pity the displays are terrible !

The city is still relatively quiet, so a good time to photograph what the Daily Mail claimed to be one of the most instagrammable floors #intheworld. #TheBlockArcade, 1891 and 1893. From their website : “The intricate mosaic tiled floor was designed by the UK company #CravenDunnill and each tile was imported from Italy. In fact, the Block Arcade still holds in reserve samples of all colours used, except for dark chocolate.”

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