Vault #5: Melbourne's Building Boom

Henry Burn Melbourne, 1862, Looking North from Princes Bridge, Lithograph.

For the use of visual material in Vault 5, Old Treasury Building gratefully acknowledges the La Trobe Picture Collection, State Library of Victoria.
Henry Burn Melbourne, 1862, Looking North from Princes Bridge, Lithograph. For the use of visual material in Vault 5, Old Treasury Building gratefully acknowledges the La Trobe Picture Collection, State Library of Victoria.

In less than a decade the gold rushes transformed Melbourne from a rambling colonial service town to a metropolis with the confidence of a modern city. From 1853 to 1854 the number of buildings in Melbourne doubled.

In mid-1853 Antonio Gabrielli, a visiting businessman, raised a loan of £500,000 for the Melbourne Corporation to upgrade the city's rutted and muddy streets. By the middle of the decade gas pipelines had been laid in the city centre, a railway linked Melbourne with the post and an electric telegraph communicated with Williamstown, Geelong and Adelaide.

Talented young British architects like John James Clark, Peter Kerr and William Wilkinson Wardell, were drawn to Melbourne by the building boom, and created grand public buildings with an elegance of design equal to those in major European cities. The parliament buildings, Public Library, Old Customs House and Old Treasury are fine examples of existing buildings from the gold rush decade.

An exciting 360° view of Melbourne in 1962 is displayed in this vault. In 2014, this view is to be juxtaposed with similar images taken in 2012 to mark the 150th anniversary of this wonderful photographic record. The project can be seen here.