158-164 Gertrude Street, Fitzroy

This building was constructed in 1887 – 1888 for Cuthbert R. Blackett, a chemist, to the design of architects, Tappin, Gilbert and Dennehy.

Google Image – Dec 2020

“This building is of considerable architectural importance. It provides an excellent example of an English Queen Anne Revival Commercial building. The triple windows, the three centred arches of the first floor loggia and the use of the aprons under the windows are derivatives from Richard Norman Shaws work in England (in particular, Bedford Park, Bath Road of 1881). There appears to be quite a novel use of a semi-circular loop at the bottom of the pilaster panels. The radiating gable end motif is also typical of Queen Anne work and can be seen applied to gable ends in modest domestic work in Melbourne.

The building is intact apart from the ground floor shop fronts which have all been altered (only the dividing pilasters with incised capitals survive). At first floor level, the window openings appear to be intact with some surviving lead-lighting in the side lights. Some makeshift structures have been inserted into the balcony but apart from removal of a small panel of wrought iron, the building has not been altered. The cantilevered bull-nose verandah is a later replacement, but the wrought iron brackets make it sympathetic to the original building. IT is recommended that the verandah be painted an appropriate colour to unify the verandah and façade.” (South Fitzroy Conservation Study, 1979, p. 129-130)

“This building resembles the East Melbourne Coffee Palace (cnr. Hotham and Simpson Streets) of 1888, also by Tappin, Gilbert and Dennehy. There is a similar use of Queen Anne motifs: tripartite windows, three centred arches, projecting gable ends, cement trim, and intact cement trimmed chimneys. Whilst this building is in an excellent state of intactness the detailing to the Gertrude Street building is considered superior; face freestone and cement trim, pilaster, sill aprons, gable end decorations and an elegant loggia produce a more sophisticated design solution for this smaller building. Tappin and Gilbert were also undertaking work in Ballarat at this time: in 1886 they were architects for Reid’s Coffee Palace, 128 Lydiard Street and in 1888, Tappin Gilbert and Dennehy undertook the extensions. This Ballarat building is not in the Queen Anne Style but displays a high Victorian eclectic use of classical motifs.” (South Fitzroy Conservation Study, 1979, p. 129-130)

The upper floor interior was not inspected, due to the use of the upper floors as private boarding accommodation. The consultants were informed that they have been re-modelled and are not intact. The ground floor shop to number 164 is of considerable interest. It has mas maintained the original use as a chemist and the original cedar counter, glass cabinets, medicine drawers, shelving, mirrors and lining boards surviving excellent condition.” (South Fitzroy Conservation Study, 1979, p. 129-130)

Cuthbert R. Blackett (Chemist)

Blackett was a chemist of some importance, as described in Victoria and its Metropolis of 1888: “1879 he was elected to represent Fitzroy in the Legislative Assembly and took part in the memorable political struggles of that period… In 1880 he was appointed a member of the Royal Commission for the great Exhibition, was chairman of two important juries, and was soon afterwards appointed a member of the Royal Technological Commission of which body he is now president… In 1882 he was again returned to Parliament as member for Fitzroy, but at the next general election, he was defeated… His private residence is Burlington Terrace, East Melbourne, and his laboratory is in the Old County Court, Swanston Street”

Image held by Fitzroy Library. Photo 1978
East Melbourne Conservation Study collection 1979 – sourced from Flickr – Graeme Butler

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