720 Nicholson Street, Fitzroy North (State Savings Bank)

“This building, constructed in 1890, was designed by the architects Wight and Lucas at a cost of 2,737 pounds. There is evidence that Wight was interested in producing a new or specifically Australian style and this may account for the advanced characterof this building which resembles the later eclectic State Savings Bank building. While most of the motifs can be found in the classical repertoire, they are put together in a very heavy and rather capricious fashion. The building is two storey with a curved corner entrance. The clumsy corner panel above the entrance represents a section of a classical cornice with pair of triglyphs at either end surmounting a circular motif containing the bank shield. In the recessed panels at the side and at the corner, there are elaborate window motifs. On the upper floor arch headed windows with segmental pediments (with the bottom chords missing) are supported in a mannerist fashion on top of scrolls which rise in turn from a small section of entablature resting on a pair of pilasters. The rusticated piers dividing the windows (the corner piers of the pavilion have ? ionic capitals with garlands. The base of these pieces composed of projecting cables running vertically.

The ?cablature line on the bottom storey consists of a dentilated cornice surmounting a fieze which is in parts plain and in parts (in the pavilion sections) decorated by roundels or patterae between compressed triglyph motifs. Guttae protrude below the lower moulding. On the ground floor there are masonry blocks represented by recessed panels with a roll moulding, arranged in a coarse manner. There are bands of bosses running across the pilasters and crude corbels with quadrant bases which support the main blocks forming the sides of the pavilion section.

In 1922 the bank underwent extensive alterations and additions at a cost of 3,367 pounds. The eastern wing was added as the new banking chamber, and the front section of the bank converted into the Manager’s residence. A photograph, taken shortly after that date (c.1924), indicates that the corner entrance was infilled as part of this scheme. This photograph shows the original windows on the western façade which have been replaced by a large window, original cast iron window guards (spikes), and the balustraded parapet which has subsequently removed. The corner transom light has subsequently been infilled to take the State Savings Bank Shield.

This bank embodies the principles of boom classicism: distortion and elaboration of rules, concentration of ornament around the windows and doors and an elaborate composition. The upper floor windows have small metal balconettes (carried out on consoles of reduced quasi-ionic form) and continuous architraves around the arched window heads, broken only by keystone at the centre. These keystones are of a floral motif, while the ones on the ground floor are decorated by a stork with grasses and plants on either side. The loggia consists of a series of arches between unusual columns with Egyptianizing round acanthus leaf capitals. These columns are doubled at either end of the loggia and tripled at the splayed corners. (North Fitzroy Conservation Study, 1978, along with B Trethowan “A Study of Banks in Victoria 1851-1939 for the Historic Buildings Preservation Council, Dec 1976; Plan held at State Savings Bank premises department. Architects Sydney Smith Off and Serpell, Contractor A. Pithard; and Photograph held by State Savings Bank Archivist.) (Glossary)

Google Image – Nov 2020

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