Sunday, March 27, 2011

Federal Hotel (Coffee Palace) Melbourne

Andrew just posted about the glorious but sadly lost Federal Hotel (former coffee palace) and it niggled at my grey matter....so I trotted over the collection of books I've amassed on Australian pubs (yes, a fair few for someone who rarely darkens their doorstep *snort* I live vicariously through my tomes)  and dug out a book where I found a couple of little extra tidbits about this beautiful building.

The design of this flight of fancy was decided by an architectural competition ; the owners hankered after the exterior drafted by the firm W.H Ellerker and E.G Kilburn (first prize) but second prize went to W. Pitt, who had a bit of nouse about how a hotel actually functioned, for his interior designs and the two different firms worked together.

The dirty digging and foundation - performed with elan and flair by N.Kingston of Richmond and which signalled the start of  the Grand Prix construction in 1886 - alone cost close to £10,000 while the finished product - furnished to the gunwales by decorator T.Cawthorne and slapped together by builder T.Cockram & Co - lightened the owners hip pockets by £154,000.

It was originally meant to lodge up to 600 bodies in beds but the small issue of an economic depression kinda kicked that detail to the kerb, leaving just 400 beds and rooms for the poor people to lounge, write (that thing we did with our fingers before computers, kids), read, relax, smoke  and play billards while the ice plant in the basement cooled the delicious foodstuffs and drinkie-poos lolly water (remember, it was a temperence-influenced coffee palace at this stage, no alcohol allowed) in hot weather as the residents whipped up and down with gay abandon to their bedrooms in the 6 Waygood and Sons 'accident proof' lifts.

Fire regs were starting to bite so stone stairs at each corner and in the centre were thrown in for good measure while fire hoses - with their own water supply from tanks on the roof - stood ready at every landing, oil lamps were kept lit just in case the gas lighting gave up in an emergency and a couple of porters trotted about the hallways each night, all night keeping a beady eye out as an early warning system along with those 'new fangled electric bells'.

Source: The Australian Pub by J.M Freeland

I won't post a photo of it here as there are many availble in the following links showing what a gorgeous creation once graced our skyline.

Further details and photos on this lost architectural beauty available in the following links -
Marvellous Melbourne; Federal Coffee Palace.
Walking Melbourne ; Federal Hotel and Coffee Palace.
Walking Melbourne; Melbourne's Lost Hotels.
Australian Postal History; Federal Palace Hotel to Battle Creek.
eMelbourne; Federal Coffee Palace.

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