Block Court Arcade Moderne, Harry Norris design 1930, in 1985

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Block Court Arcade Moderne, Harry Norris design 1930, in 1985

Melbourne Central Activities District (CAD) Conservation Study 1985 survey images: approx 1200 Kodak colour negatives:
Melbourne Central Activities District (CAD) Conservation Study 1985 on the main building and this arcade:

`Built as the Athenaeum Club Building (plus ground level shops), it was built in the name of club secretary James H Moorhead, to the design of William Salway and on land leased from W J Lobb. The contractor was J Gillespie of Fitzroy. Occupiers listed in the 1890s directories are limited to the Club (288) and appropriate shop holders, such as tobacconists of hairdressers, filling the 292 Collins Street address. Among them were George Roberts and Montague Levy and, in the late 1890s, the chemist, George Swift, moved from Swanston Street to provide a second retailer at the club entrance. Swift was there into the 1920s, accompanied by Blight & Shannon’s tea rooms, which superseded the various hairdressing businesses at 290. After near 40 years of peaceful club life, John Lobb’s estate sold the building to the Hotham Estate Pty Ltd (1929), commencing a new, comparatively brash existence as leased offices over a ground floor zig-zag Moderne styled arcade. The club sought new premises further east in Collins Street and in its place Block Court housed mainly women’s clothing makers and retailers. Ye Old Dutch Tea & Coffee House was in the basement and the two main shops at the Collins Street arcade entry were Treasure Chest, lingerie, and the Block Bag Shoppe. In the arcade itself were the Nic Nac gift shop, Daddy Long Legs lingerie, Claire the Milliner (with workrooms upstairs), plus the generally French named dressmaking and lingerie firms who populated the four upper floors.
Harry A Norris designed the arcade renovation in 1930 as an annexe to the Block Arcade. Although not the only arcade to be either cut through an old building or built new in the 1930s (see Manchester Unity arcade), this arcade possesses the most integrity to its period and feeds from the distinct character of the adjacent block.’…

`The ground level has been totally refinished in 1930, and takes on this era, except for subsequent alterations. The arcade is finished with brass shopfront joinery, set over terrazzo plinths with ornate jazz moderne fibrous plasterwork in the ceiling. The floor is finished with a terrazzo with geometric border, again in the jazz moderne manner. Off the main Arcade is a minor lift lobby, with original lift door and architrave, with the sign `LIFT’painted in gold outline on a marble board over the head. Above that again is a Tenants’ Directory, again painted on white marble, with a number of faded names attached, as divided into First, Second and Third Floor columns. Adjacent to that is a Buchan marble dado and white marble stair, leading up to the office floors. A faded sign here reads, `LOITERERS AND HAWKERS NOT ALLOWED.’

The Arcade is an impressive example of 1930 French inspired ornamentation, with all aspects generally intact. This extends to a pair of brass framed telephone booths at the Block Arcade entrance to Block Court and a massive concrete faceted sign, spelling the Court’s name. Underneath is an illuminated display with stepped borders and stepped ends.’

Posted by Graeme Butler on 2014-08-20 08:16:00

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