Spring has sprung

Spring has sprung
Roses at the Cottage

Tuesday, 22 July 2014

A hidden gem in the Block Arcade

Now everyone knows and loves the heritage shopping Block Arcade which was built between 1891 and 1893. It was modelled on Milan's grand Galleria Vittorio Emanuele - and it has stood the test of time magnificently.
The gorgeous Block Arcade
The building was originally a bulk grain store and was sold in 1837 for the princely sum of 18 pounds! (The building was recently sold for around $100 million!) In 1889 it was taken over by George and George, Silk Mercers and General Drapers before a spectacular fire burnt the building to the ground! The new owners The City Property Company erected the current building in 1893. The famed department store Georges moved up to the 'Paris end' of Collins Street until its closure in 1995 (as far away as possible from their original site!). 
Uplifting elegance
Running between Collins Street and Little Collins Street it has an air of gracefulness which is sadly missing once you step into the city streets and laneways. It has a timelessness about it while wandering over the magnificent mosaic floor and gazing up at the glass canopy. 
Detail of the mosaic floor
The shopkeepers and tenants seem to be 'from another era'. There's always a queue for a sweet treat at the Hopetoun Tea Rooms which had its beginnings in the Arcade in 1893 as the Victorian Ladies Work Association before moving to it's current location in 1907! The move prompted a name change to The Hopetoun Tea Rooms - named after Lady Hopetoun the wife of seventh Earl of Hopetoun (1860-1908) who was Australia's first Governor General. (Lady Hopetoun also had a ferry named after her!) 

Not a calorie in sight at the Hopetoun Tea Rooms!
And then of course there is Haigh's Chocolates - being an Adelaide 'girl' myself I couldn't fail to mention this icon of indulgence. 
No calories here either!
But it's the hidden gem on Collins Street that most don't know about. So I'll let you into the secret. Go into the shop on the corner of 282 Collins Street and the Arcade - currently leased to Crabtree and Evelyn - and look up! You'll see cherubs, clouds and much, much, more. The magnificent hand painted ceiling dates back to 1907 when it was the Singer Sewing Machine shop! 
The 1907 Singer Sewing Machine ceiling mural
Interestingly when I photographed it one morning en route to a meeting, I happened to pass it again on my return and the pedestrian in front of me stopped for a few seconds, peered in the window and looked up to the cherubs and clouds. I suspect he does that little ritual every time he passes. I know I do!

You may want to take a free Behind the scenes of the Block guided tour (Tuesdays and Thursdays at 1pm - meet outside the Hopetoun Tea Rooms)

Exit the Arcade either into Elizabeth Street or via one of Melbourne's iconic laneways en route to Little Collins Street.
The laneway through to Little Collins - early morning
What a contrast - the corner of Little Collins - UGH!
Did you know about the Singer Sewing Machine ceiling? Are you going to include it in your ritual when you're passing?

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