Cafe Australia, 1916, a long lost Griffin masterpiece.

The Cafe Australia really was quite extraordinary, equal to Walter & Marion Griffin’s other great interior, the Capitol Theatre. Created in 1916, it was a complete rebuild of the Vienna Cafe, closed as too German in World War I, so Greek Australian owner Antony Lucas revamped it with a national name and features, like murals of gumtrees, and sculpted tea trees and fig trees (and three Greek muses by Margaret Baskerville) amongst the characteristic Griffin geometric patterns and lots of gold tiles. There were three rooms, culminating in the great skylight vaulted main dining room. It’s sometimes said this room was saved and incorporated in the 1939 Australia Hotel, but no that was a new stylised version. Last image a table now in @ngvmelbourne collection. Info from the very thick ‘the griffins in Australia and India’, 1998, photos @nationallibraryaus, arranged main room, ‘fountain room’, then ‘fern room’ (the fountain was actually between them). The last revamp of the arcade in 2019 finally deleted the use of ‘Australia’ from the site.

There’s many photos, not quite sure what they all are, and this shows that clearly the tree sculptures in the Fountain Court came later – at least after the photo.

The first photo is clearly the Palm Court, with its single column, but I don’t know which room the second one is, also the Palm Court ? But with cane furniture not the Griffin furniture, and no column, different ceiling too.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.