Lost Victorian skyscraper No 5

A lesser known and curious bit of #lostmelbourne once in Market Street, one of the ‘massive edifices’, a 19thC skyscraper that was all side really, and a rather odd front, ‘pasted on’, as an old RMIT lecturer once said.

It was built for the Colonial Mutual Life Insurance Company, and completed in 1891, just as the Land Boom was starting to bust. The architects were #SmithAndJohnson, not their best work, a bit thinly applied and stacked up elements of Renaissance detailing. It was actually red brick with render dressings, but the photos make it look like a dark mass (years of dirt). There were 9 floors (counting the basement and attic), with access via a ‘perfectly safe’ rope lift, fitted with an air cushion should the rope break (!). CML left in the early 20s when the first 2 images taken, to occupy the old Equitable Building, which they would then demolish in 1960. This lasted a few more years to be replaced by a brown brick box, still there, but now a beige hotel.

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