Collins St Melbourne had some amazing commercial buildings in the late C19th; architects seemed to take pride in presenting an extraordinary mix of glamorous styles. I want to examine the Winfield Building briefly, then move to William Pitt and the Rialto Building.
Heritage Victoria said the architects of the Winfield Building were Charles D’Ebro and Richard Speight, commissioned by J R Murphy of Murphy’s brewery. From 1892-4 this Queen Anne style building was Melbourne's first amalgamated wool exchange and incorporated an auction hall which brought together all the Melbourne wool sales. The front section to Collins Street is all that remains of the original, much larger complex.
William Pitt (1855-1918) was a Melbourne born and educated architect who was fortunate to be building in the money-flushed era of Marvellous Melbourne. It is an absolute tragedy that some of his most spectacular buildings, especially the Melbourne Coffee Palace (1879) and the Federal Coffee Palace (1888), were pulled down by later developers. However the Rialto Building survives, his second master work after the nearby Olderfleet Building.
Next to the Winfield Building and completed in 1891, the Rialto Building housed Melbourne’s wool stores, an important part of the city’s financial base in the C19th. The two buildings were part of a streetscape that was unified by its height limits, if not its building styles.
Jedi Master in Former Rialto Building and Winfield Buildings noted that the Rialto Building took its style from its famed Venetian namesake. Built in the neo-Gothic taste, Jedi Master focused on the coloured tiles, poly-chromatic banding, pointed arches and columnettes. The bluestone cobbled laneway between the two buildings were busy with workers and beasts, carrying the precious wool to Melbourne’s very busy docks.
Today this warehouse/offices complex is the Rialto Hotel, retaining the original balconies, a cobbled laneway and according to brandoneu in The Melbourne Golden Mile, even its cast-iron privies. You can see how the dining area of the hotel was created from the laneway between the original Rialto and Winfield Buildings. The hotel’s towering glass atrium sits between these two buildings, retaining its original form as much as possible.
Winfield Building rear, with men's toilets