Advertisement
3 posts in this thread / 0 new
Last post

CML Building (Equitable Building)

Peter Maltezos's picture
#1

Text mainly from Melbourne Museum http://museumvictoria.com.au/colonial/grand_building.asp

CML Building (Equitable Building)

North-west corner of Collins and Elizabeth Streets Edward E. Raht Built 1891-1896 Demolished 1960

In 1890, the Equitable Life Assurance Society of the USA paid £360 000 for a rectangular block of land, measuring 132 by 79 feet, on the NW corner of Collins and Elizabeth Streets.

The Company wanted to erect the "grandest building in the Southern Hemisphere" and spared no expense doing so. A noted Austrian architect, Edward E. Raht, was engaged to design the building.

The general contractor was David Mitchell, who had constructed many other fine Melbourne buildings. Four years and four months elapsed between the first contract for excavations, in November 1891, and the building's opening by the Governor, Lord Brassey, in March 1896. The foundation stone was laid in March 1893.

Raht opted for an 'Americanised Renaissance' style for the building. For such a mammoth construction, he wanted traditional materials in vast quantities, so contracts were let for local granite and imported marble. Like a palace, the building was supposed to last forever, so innovative construction techniques were needed to lift and lock together the giant granite blocks. When completed, the building rose to a height of 138 feet, with seven stories, and dominated the streetscape.

Grey granite quarried at Harcourt, near Mt Alexander, was used for most of the construction. Beneath the grand archway forming the entrance on Collins Street was a portico assembled from pink granite quarried at Cape Woolamai, on Phillip Island. Blocks of this granite were also used for the base-course.

Above the entrance was mounted a piece of symbolic statuary cast from metal. Corinthian columns spanned the 41 feet between the third and fifth floors. Some of the decorative friezes and capitals represented stonemasonry at its very best. The interior woodwork - ceilings, doors and window frames - was of the best cedar, joined to perfection. Not a nail was used anywhere. The interior stonework, mostly marble, was just as lavish.

White Italian marble was used for the floors and many walls. Elaborately carved and polished Belgian marble was used in skirtings, dadoes and architraves.

The roof and downpipes were of copper. The all-up cost of the building was £233,000, including £72,000 for the supply of the granite.

The Equitable Company occupied the building until 1923, when it was sold to the Colonial Mutual Life Assurance Society Ltd.ed. The new owners paid £280,000, less than half of the original total cost. Despite its status however, by the late 1950s the building was becoming uneconomic.

While structurally solid, its very lavishness, especially its high ceilings, was its doom. Experts, including the National Trust, were consulted but, despite the building's grandeur and opulence, it was not considered worthy of preservation.

In July 1959, CML's call for tenders for demolition was won by Whelan the Wrecker; by the end of 1960 the landmark building had gone.

The contents of a copper time-capsule uncovered during the demolition were returned to the New York headquarters of the Equitable Life Assurance Company.

The new building erected in its place used some of the original grey Harcourt granite for exterior facing panels. Some of the interior marble fittings were sold for use in buildings elsewhere in Melbourne.

 

The magnificent bronze statuary group, representing the 'Equitable' protecting the 'Family' survives at the University of Melbourne (first photo) and fragments of the granite facade are displayed on the forecourt of the REB/Melbourne Museum (second photo).

What replaced it.

Back to top
Peter Maltezos's picture

From news.com.au

I collect, therefore I am.
thecollectormm.com.au

Back to top
Vinny's picture

Some rue the demolition of the Coffee Palace or the Australia Building but I think this is our greatest loss. The ‘ruins’ at the museum are worth looking at.

Back to top

Development & Planning

Wednesday, December 13, 2017 - 12:00
The swirl of development activity in Footscray has found another gear as new projects are submitted for approval, or are on the verge of beginning construction. Two separate planning applications have been advertised by Maribyrnong City Council; their subsequent addition to the Urban Melbourne Project Database has seen the overall number of apartment developments within Footscray in development swell to 40.

Policy, Culture & Opinion

Monday, November 20, 2017 - 12:00
The marriage of old and new can be a difficult process, particularly when the existing structure has intrinsic heritage value. In previous times Fitzroy's 237 Napier Street served as the home of furniture manufacturer C.F. Rojo and Sons. Taking root during 1887, Christobel Rojo oversaw operations though over time the site would become home to furniture manufacturer Thonet.

Advertisement

Visual Melbourne

Friday, August 25, 2017 - 07:00
The former site of John Batman's home, Batman's Hill is entering the final stages of its redevelopment. Collins Square's final tower has begun its skyward ascent, as has Lendlease's Melbourne Quarter Commercial and Residential precinct already. Melbourne Quarter's first stage is at construction and involves a new 12-storey home for consultancy firm Arup along with a skypark.

Transport & Design

Tuesday, December 12, 2017 - 12:00
When a site spans 19,280 square metres, it becomes a 'district'. That's the case according to the development team behind the Jam Factory's pending overhaul. Reporting on the project to date has focused on the close to 60,000 square metres of new commercial space that is earmarked for the site, but more importantly from a layperson's perspective is the extensive new public realm that is planned as part of the development.

Sustainability & Environment

Tuesday, October 24, 2017 - 12:00
Cbus Property's office development for Medibank at 720 Bourke Street in Docklands recently became the first Australian existing property to receive a WELL Certification, Gold Shell and Core rating. The WELL rating goes beyond sustainable building features with a greater focus on the health and well-being of a building's occupants.