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The Federal Coffee Palace/Hotel

Peter Maltezos's picture

Gone, but not forgotten! sad

The Federal Coffee Palace

Completed in 1890

Architect: Wiliam Pitt

Style: Victorian/Second Empire

From Collins, The Story of Australia’s Premier Street

There is an extensive basement under the whole structure comprising large kitchen, scullery, bakehouse and oven, cutting-up rooms, icehouse, engine and boiler rooms, and extensive cellarage. The ground floor is on a level with the pavement at the Collins Street entrance. The principle entrance is from Collins Street under an arcaded loggia of fourteen Ionic columns leading through an inner vestibule, from which are entrances to the large dining hall, coffee bar, and large billiard room for four tables.

The first floor is entered by the grand staircase. The treads of this staircase are white marble with risers of red marble all polished. Strings and hand-railing are richly moulded in Keene’s cement with balusters in red marble between ornamental bronze panels…The ground floor entrances are paved with black and white marble, with a few red marble squares introduced to match the risers of staircase…There are reading rooms, smoking rooms, manager’s offices, and two floors of offices and shops facing street frontages.

A stone staircase occupies each angle of the building; there are three passenger and goods lifts and three ditto for closets running the whole height of the building. On the first floor there are the large family dining room, ladies ditto, drawing room, bridal chamber with bath and dressing rooms under dome (a circular apartment 18 feet in diameter), reading rooms, smoking rooms, chess rooms, sitting, dressing, bed rooms, and bathrooms, with a balcony overlooking streets. The third, fourth, fifth, sixth and seventh floors contain large sitting rooms and bedrooms, baths and closets, so arranged over one another as to be easily approached by the lifts.

Besides the fireproof staircases in angles of the building, there is also a 5-feet principal staircase running from the first floor level to the top of the building opposite the marble staircase with the passenger lift running about 200 feet per minute at the side…The lifts are all being imported from Europe by Glass, agent for Messrs Waygood and Sons.

There is an extensive promenade on the roofs, and a very good view from the city can be had from the summit of the dome, which will be 165 feet from the pavement at the corner of King-street and Collins-street.

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Peter Maltezos's picture

From Historic Melbourne sketchbook

The Federal Hotel

A postcard of the Federal Hotel ~ 1950s.

The gold rush left Melbourne with huge investment wealth which swelled the boom years of the 1880s. The boom soared to a peak in 1888, when Collins Street land prices reached levels higher than they would be for the next fifty years, and when the city staged a wildly extravagant £250,000 Centennial Exhibition which lured visitors from around the world.

Most lavish of the fifty hotels waiting to pamper sightseers was the Federal Coffee Palace, built between 1886 and 1888 at a cost of £150,000. A bemused contemporary wrote: “It comprises a little of everything – Corinthian, Ionic, Doric, Early English, Late English, Queen Anne, Elizabethan, Australian – in fact, it may be called the last.” A later visitor put it more succinctly: “A castle built for a Norman earl by an architect who had been dreaming of Doré’s illustrations to Balzac.”

Guests were greeted by an inscription over the main entrance: RESTEZ ICI. SOYEZ LE BIENVENU (Stay here. You’ll be welcome), and two huge plaster dowagers, surrounded by a flutter of cherubs, guarding an inner hall which led to a great hall paved with black, white and red marble. Out of a central pediment rose “Venus, a nude figure of full life-size, drawn on the waters in a cloud chariot by four sea horses and accompanied by several other figures, the whole representing the Aurora Australis.”

Six “accident-proof” lifts carried guests to more than 500 rooms. But only eighteen months later many of the rooms were being let as offices and, in the recession of the 1890s, the Federal had to seek a liquor licence to woo back guests from the near-by Menzies Hotel. It survived until February 1972, when it closed its doors for the last time.

Demolition of The Federal Hotel was completed in 1973.

Postcard of the now demolished Federal Coffee Palace.

A photograph of its current namesake at the GPO.

To finish off, a nice drawing of the hotel as well.

Drawing by George Haddon

I collect, therefore I am.

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Peter Maltezos's picture

The Federal Hotel in colour inside:

.....And outside:

I collect, therefore I am.

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Peter Maltezos's picture

Rendering of a taller design.

Anchoring the corner and giving prominence to the site. After completion, one level shorter.

I collect, therefore I am.

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Chris Peska's picture

One of the great urban tragedies this city has ever seen... I just can't believe that people thought knocking down a building like this was a good idea... A real beauty lost, it makes me sad every time I see photos of it.  Shift+R improves the quality of this image. Shift+A improves the quality of all images on this page.

Observe. Design. Build. Live.

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MelbourneGuy's picture

The original design was great but the taller one is an absolute knockout. What a bloody shame!

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Ryan Seychell's picture

wow, i've never seen the taller design before, that looks incredible.

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Peter Maltezos's picture

Just to clear things up, I'm quite certain that the taller rendering is the original design and the completed building that was one level shorter was because of cost cutting.

How does it go again, "the more things change, the more they stay the same"laugh

I collect, therefore I am.

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Peter Maltezos's picture

I collect, therefore I am.

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