366 Napier St, Fitzroy (Paper Box Factory)

“The single storey brick building was built in about 1890 for the proprietor of the American Candy Co., MacPherson Robertson. It was later occupied by Walter H. Hooper, as a paper box factory in 1900. Subsequently it was taken over by the Fitzroy Box Factory by 1920 which is believed to have been a subsidiary of MacRobertsons producing fancy cardboard packages for the confectionery works” Lina Favrin – Yarra Past Port

William Johnson

Going right back to the beginning – this was one of the first sites to be developed north of Johnston Street, in fact Napier Street, finished at the house of William Johnson who lived here in 1875. The next listed site was St Luke’s Church for the short period it spent at 476-484 Napier Street.

Google Image – June 2019

Johnson remains at the property until he passes away aged 57 years in October 1877 (The Argus, 19 Oct 1877). It appears that the house is left idle until all the items in side are sold in 1882 (The Age, 23 Nov 1882). The house is then rented as it remains the issue of the executor of the estate James McAlpin. In 1884, he is ordered by the Council to improve the drains around the property (Fitzroy City Press, 23 Aug 1884). It is not clear what it is used for, but at times they sell a goat and waggons.

Charles Northwood

By 1885, Charles Northwood is living in the property with his family (Sands & MacDougall, 1885 / The Age, 22 Aug 1885).

MacPherson Robertson

MacPherson Robertson bought this property in late 1887 or early 1888. He built the factory, for his American Candy Company. It appears that the cottage may have been further along Napier Street and the factory built on the corner (though I haven’t yet been able to fully confirm this). MacPherson bought this after a period where he fell out with his family who appear to have not liked the fact that he had recently married (in 1886). In 1889 the site is described as a Box Factory and Cottage (Rate Books).

So MacPherson, left the MacRobertson’s Chocolate Factory that he started with his family. He was now living at 382 Napier Street, just up the road from the factory so had only a short walk to work and under his guidance, the factory did extremely well. His family continued to operate the other parts of the business from Argyle Street, but under his father’s control, the business was declining and it wasn’t long before the American Candy Company was doing better than MacRobertsons.

Eventually, after six long years, his father brokered peace and requested that MacPherson return to the business while he went over to England. MacPherson agreed, but surprisingly, when David returns, he stays on as the Head of the company. MacPherson seems to accept the situation and brokers a deal to receive 40% of the profits of the business in exchange for merging the now more successful American Candy Company back into MacRobertsons.

Walter H Hooper

By 1898, Walter H Hooper takes over the factory (Rate Books), MacPherson was able to go back to manufacturing his candy and the factory becomes a box factory to create the packaging for MacRobertsons.

Walter appears to not necessarily be one to abide by the rules, and had several run ins with the Health Inspectors, including working his female employees for more the the statutory number of hours in 1898 (The Age, 24 May 1898), refusing to produce wage books when required in 1899 (Fitzroy City Press, 7 Sep 1899), failing to pay tax on income in 1900 (The Herald, 20 Feb 1900), issues with staff hours in 1902 (The Argus, 10 May 1902), poor safety and refusing to provide wage books in 1904 (The Herald, 19 Apr 1904) and a run in later that year between his son and the Inspectors (The Argus, 24 Nov 1904).

Image held by Fitzroy Library. Taken from the Collingwood and Fitzroy illustrated Directory and Handbook, 1905.

McCutcheon & Co

By 1910, the site has turned over and is now being run by McCutcheon & Co, paper box manufacturers. It continues to be run as a box factory until at least 1912.

I haven’t followed it down from that period, so this photo may have been taken from this factory or one near by in 1934.

A floor in the Fitzroy Box Factory. Here all of the boxes required for the various MacRoberso’s confections are manufactured. – Making it Happen, The Rise of Sir MacPherson Robertson, George Taylor, 1934, p120.

The following image must have been taken in the 1990s to early 2000s. I am not sure when the site was updated to build the apartments that now sit above it, but they were there in 2006. More work to be done on this site!

The American Candy Co., 157 Kerr Street (cnr. Napier St.) – Fitzroy Industrial Walk – Oct 1992

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