In 1900, J.G. Porta organised the custom design and build of a bellow making factory. Mr J.G. Porta who received his training from his father who had been making bellows for over 34 years. Over time, the business slowly pivots away from bellows making and into trolley and trucks all under the banner of Federal. This remains the case till 1975. The building has since been gutted and fully renovated twice to end up as it does today.
J. G. Porta (Bellows Maker)
Son of a bellows maker J.G. was destined to follow in his father’s footsteps. Joseph Porter (J.G.’s father), is said to have “founded the bellows-making industry”. He and his son were innovators, making “small, circular ones, double action or single action bellows; those you could carry about from the kitchen to the wash house if you wanted to, and big ones used by blacksmiths”. (The Age, 27 April 1940)
J.G. Porta “erected a factory for the manufacture of bellows of every description, from the tiny decorative and useful drawing-room one to the heavy blacksmith’s necessary article. He is the eldest son of the late Mr. Joseph Porta, the oldest manufacturer of this class of goods in Victoria and has associated himself in this work three of his sons, who are competent tradesmen, and employs some 20 hands. The entire works is done on the premises, and although the factory has been in existence this year, it has had to be extended to double its original size. Mr Porta has a large South African trade, principally with the gold mining districts”. (Fitzroy City Press, 12 Oct 1900). This gives a great description of what the factory would have looked like in late 1900.
The firm created “smiths’ bellows, portable forges, double and single action circular bellows, and others, for which they receive large orders from every part of the State”. The Cyclopedia of Victoria, 1903-1905, Vol 2, p. 167-168, indicates that J. G. Porta designed the factory and that 9-10 employees worked at the site. The lower number of workers may have been as a result of the downturn in the late 1890’s.
In 1905, J. G. Porta applied for a patent for his new ‘Blast Bellows’ (The Herald, 28 Mar 1905).
J.G. Porter passes away in 1913, but the company continues in the family with one of his son’s taking over.
The company operated as a bellows maker for at least the next 40 years. In 1925, Sands and MacDougall have the location known as the Federal Bellows & Truck Co. The site is still listed as a factory for bellows making and in 1940, the name of the company remained the same. By 1960, the company was no longer listed as a bellows maker, but rather as truck makers which remained the case till 1975. This is due to replacement with electric fans.
Events at Federal Bellows
1913 – Edward Porta, son of J.G. Porta, is reported by his father to the police as “behaving strangely in the factory, George Street. Young Porta was using bad language and flourishing a tomahawk.” A scuffle occurs and “after a long struggle witness managed to get him out of the factory. They continued to wrestle for about twenty minutes, most of the time being surrounded by a crowd”. Eventually the witness (Constable McFarlane) and another Constable managed to get him in the lock-up. Edward, appearing the next day in court “said that the whole of the trouble was brought about through over-indulgence in drink”. (The Herald, 6 Nov 1913).
1914 – William T Porta, bellows manufacturer “was the victim of a savage assault and robbery on Saturday night”. Porta was walking from the George St Factory down Napier St and as he approached Webb-st when he was set upon by a group of men who knocked him out and stole from him his gold chain and watch. A fruit hawker ‘William Reid’ was arrested in association with the assault. (The Age, 29 Jun 1914)
The factory was taken over by William George Porta (1905-1997) who worked at the factory until he was 87. After retiring he sold the property in 1992 to a developer who created the remodel. At the time of William Porta owning the site, it was operated as a factory and managed commercial sales for hand trolleys and commercial trolleys (hand trucks). According to William’s grandson Damien, the back of the property contained an old stable area and loading area with a cobble stone floor. Inside it had large oregon timbers in the roof and the mezzanine floor. (Many thanks to Damien Porta for supplying the additional information, images and reference material)
By 2013, the factory had been completely remodelled to make it into a home. This was listed on the market in October. The inside has a tuscan feel with blonde terracotta tiles and warm red furnishing.
The next owners then completely redesigned the building again, capturing a retro feel on the outside (top photo) and inside, adding luxury throughout, including a plunge pool and spa. All of these photos can be seen on Realestate.com.au.