Harrington’s Buildings

Harrington’s Buildings (central and eastern sections) and adjacent two storey building, Collins Street, north-side,
between Swanston and Elizabeth Streets, Melbourne, c. 1920 (RHSV Collection : PH-970019)

At this time of the year gift giving (and receiving) is uppermost in many people’s minds.
This significant portion of Harrington’s Buildings, close to Block Arcade in the centre of Collins Street (Melbourne’s most fashionable street), offered much to the gift purchaser.

Kodak cameras, photographic equipment and photographic supplies were available from a shop operated by Harrington’s Ltd, photographic and cinematographic importers. Harrington’s Ltd (trading as Harrington Cameras) were a household name throughout Australasia, primarily as agents for British and Continental photographic manufacturers and for their printing, enlarging and framing services. From Harrington’s you could buy Ensigns or Brownies in either ‘Box’ or ‘Folding’ forms. Each camera was guaranteed to take good pictures and free instruction was given to all camera purchasers. Wireless sets were available from £2 to £200.

By taking a staircase to the left of the entrance to Harrington’s you could ascend to the showroom of ‘Georgette’, who would dress you – modes and robes, but particularly millinery.

To the immediate east of Harrington’s: stationary, library supplies and books could be bought from Melville and Mullen booksellers. Irish born bookseller Samuel Mullen (1828-1890) arrived in Melbourne in 1859 and opened a bookshop and library at 55 Collins Street East before later moving to these larger premises at 262-264 Collins Street (31 Collins Street East). One of its special features was a circulating library. Based on Mudie’s of London, Mullen’s library was the first of its kind in Australia that specifically catered for the intellectual elite with serious works and high quality fiction. In the 1870s, for example, Mullen had warned his staff that a Gentleman ‘appears to be buying more books than he can afford’. That Gentleman was Alfred Deakin (a leader of the movement for Australian federation, later the second Prime Minister of Australia and a foundation member of the Historical Society of Victoria, the forerunner of the RHSV). Deakin always paid. By 1925 Melville and Mullen was not in this location – replaced by the Georgian Café. Financial difficulties forced the fusion of George Robertson & Co. with Mullen’s successors, Melville, Mullen and Slade, as Robertson & Mullens (which in 1960 became Angus and Robertson). Perhaps this is evidenced with the ‘removal sign’, or maybe that is but an advertising ploy to attract customers to a ‘bargain’.

If you decided on a presentation portrait as your gift: you could take the stairs to the floor above where T. Humphrey and Co, artists and photographers would arrange an appointment for a ‘sitting’. Above them, second floor front, Fred de Valle, dentist, promised ‘painless’ treatment, maybe in preparation for a considerable festive dinner.
Your shopping spree could also include shoes and boots from A W Eckersall’s ladies bootery on the ground floor of 260 Collins Street (just next door). Or, exhausted, you could seek refreshment upstairs at the Astor Tea and Luncheon Rooms (Mrs G Helen, proprietor). Alternatively, for tea or lunch you may have walked west to the Café Australia (A. Lucas, proprietor, previously the Vienna Café, immediately next door to Harrington’s Cameras.

Reputedly built in 1879 to the plans of pre-eminent architect Lloyd Tayler (National Bank of Australasia, Australian Club), Harrington’s Buildings was an example of ‘restrained classicism and mannerist details’. It was demolished in 1938 for the erection of the Hotel Australia. In turn, this was demolished in the early 1990s and replaced by Australia on Collins (now under renovation).

Harrington’s Ltd : http://trove.nla.gov.au/ndp/del/article/19852475
Georgette : http://trove.nla.gov.au/ndp/del/article/3857136
The Vienna Café and the Café Australia : Peterson, R, ‘The Vienna Café and the Café Australia’, The La Trobe Journal, no. 87, 2011 : http://www3.slv.vic.gov.au/latrobejournal/issue/latrobe-87/t1-g-t4.html
Samuel Mullen (1828-1890) : http://adb.anu.edu.au/biography/mullen-samuel-4268
Robertson and Mullens : Turnbull, S, “Romance of Industry: Robertson and Mullens”- http://trove.nla.gov.au/ndp/del/article/4083547
Lloyd Tayler (1830–1900) : http://adb.anu.edu.au/biography/tayler-lloyd-4689