Article and image source:
1887 ‘PROGRESSIVE MELBOURNE.’, Euroa Advertiser (Vic. : 1884 - 1920), 19 August, p. 6, viewed 14 September, 2013, http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article65511087
THE FEDERAL COFFEE PALACE.
There could not be a better proof of the unprecedented advancement Melbourne has made than in its immense hotels - great palatial structures which rival even the famous “Grands,” “Langhams,” and “Burlingtons” of the old world and the vast edifices of the United States. Where there is a large manufacturing and mining population and an uninterrupted flow of travellers from all countries there is necessarily much prosperity, and Mel bourne peculiarly is an instance of this Enterprises secured from sojourners, for the metropolis of Australia the name of the most comfortable city in the southern continent, and, indeed, in none of the other capitals can the casual visitor find his wants nearly so well supplied. A suggestion of philanthropists resulted in the es- tablishment of coffee palaces, intended originally as a corrective to the baneful effect of the numbers of drinking shops with which the City unfortunately abounds. Coffee palaces, originally, were for the work ing and labouring classes; they were to pro- vide these important members of the community with means for recrea- tion to become popular resorts, but nearly everybody knowns how it was that object failed almost from its inception. From small establishment, the palaces grew almost instantaneously to something more worthy of their name; shrewd business men began to see that the new idea would, properly carried out, be productive of large dividends, and the “boons to working men” became colossal hotels conducted on the some of [?] upon rents which had reached a fabulous value, the Victoria Club was transformed into the Victoria Coffee Palace. Then there rose in Bourke street the Melbourne Coffee Palace, another gigantic edifice of many floors Then the Grand hotel, a building worthy of its title, was erected in Spring street, and though it did not answer all expectations at first, men of businers saw in it future fortunes, and it passed into their hands. Then it became the Grand Coffee Palace, and instantaneously prosperity commenced. The accommodation to be afforded by the three places named will, of course, be great, but experience shows that it will not be nearly sufficient. To meet the difficulty, the Federal Coffee Palace was projected by Mr. James Mirams, and the accompanying wood-cut will show what it will be like. As a coffee palace It is the largest affair of the kind in the world; as a hotel, it is second to very few. The company which has brought it into existence was formed during May and June, 1885, and it was registered on the 29th of July, the following month.
The foundation to bear so immense a structure, […] were necessarily of great size, and as the greater portion was of stone, considerable time was taken up in constructing tbis part of the building which can be understood when it is known that the foundations are in some places 97ft. in thickness. The erection of the superstrnctore was placed ia the hands of Mesars. Thomas Cockram and Co., who were chosen from ten other firms who tendered for this work, and the manner in which it is now being conducted, for the palace is nearing completion, is more than sufficient evidence of the wisdom shown by the directors.
As to the prospects of the company, the Federal Coffee Palace has, without doubt, the beat position for an institution of its kind in Melbourne. A hundred yards away from it is the Spencer street railway station, the centre towards which the thousands of visitors to the metropolis find their way every year. About the same distance is another direction the intercolonial steamers discharge their living freight, and it cannot but be believed that a hotel so convenient. and possessing so many facilities will always be more or less filled. As visitors themselves know, there are seasons of the year - such as Cup time, Christmas, the occasion of the military manoeuvres - when a bedroom is a luxury not obtainable, and the billiard tables, drawingroom sofas, and other ingenuities of the caterer’s mind are pressed into service to secure the comfort of their patrons. The Federal Coffee Palace should do away with much of this, for its resources will be almost un- limited. It will have a ” send off,” too, which should be the means of establishing it on a basis so firm as never to be shaken, for immediately after its opening the Melbourne Centennial International Exhibition will take place. This event will bring such numbers to the capital that its population for the time being will, in all probability, be very nearly doubled. Three months of this will mean wonders for the Federal Coffee Palace; for not only will its receipts be stupendous, but the place will become known to travellers, and so achieve a fame which will be world-wide. But besides this, there is another class of custom which will be a feature in the business conducted by the palace. All around it are the great stores, mercantile offices, shipping agencies, banks, insurances, and other companies which give employment to thou - sands. of men who, owing to the fact that their residences are in the suburbs, are compelled to take their noonday meal at a restaurant. For these the management of the Federal Coffee Palace will specially cater and the immense dining-hall of the ground flour will be devoted entirely to their use. It is claimed that this hall is the largest of the kind south of the line; but wide as its dimensions are, there is every reason to believe that its resources will be taxed to the uttermost between the hours of noon and 2 p m. during the six working days of the week. The want of such a place has been felt in the locality for many years; or it is so far removed from the cafes that men o business cannot spare the time which will afford will undoubtably be largely availed of. The ground floor frontages have a value of their own, which ensure a handsome return to the company. The advancement the western end of Collins street has made in the past four or five years has shown the necessity for more shops, and both in King and Collins streets there will be a number of these, which will fetch a high rental. The basement has been devised for storage purposes, and here, again, is a source of revenue, making the venture of shareholders the more certain.
When the New Zealand Loan and Mort-gage Agency Company’s establishment at the western end of Collins street was erected there was no end to the admiration addressed concerning it, or the wonderment at its size; but it is utterly dwarfed by the immeose pile which now stands beside it, and which will before very many mouth havre passed, be opened to the public as the Federal Coffee Palace. For years there stood at the corner of King and Collins street a set of tumbledown places, which were as much of an eyesore as they were objectionable. Now there is the other extreme, for in storey over storey there is approaching com- pletion what will be the most massive and most beautiful private structure in the metropolis. The woodcut falls to give an idea of what the Federal Coffee Palace is like. Looking as yet another floor, the roof, and the towers, it mounts up to a tremendous height, and its elevated position makes it a landmark for miles in all directions. It might almost be called a triumph of the art of the architeot and the skill of the builder, and it can readily be understood that, a large a amount as L18,000 was required for the foundations which carry the thousands upon thousands of bricks and the massive pillars which go to complele the building. The style of architecture is not easily described. It comprises a little of everything, Corinthian, louis, Dorle, early English, late English, Queen Anne, Elizabethian, and Australian, in fact it may be called the last. Though so great it is not heavy. and if the walls be massive they will answer the dual purpose of pre- serving warmth is the cold months and keeping out the heat of summer. These features should be in every hotel and the directors and architects of the Federal Coffee Palace have done wisely in ensuring them. There are three entrances, one on the corner and one each in King and Collins street. The last [?] side of it to be a height of between 20ft. and 30ft., and hold a massive cornice, on which is a motte “Restez Ici,” with a similar invitation In German. From this entrance the grand staircase is reached. This is of veined marble, and the effect of such very fine stone, with the most brill- liantly white plastered walls, will make the effect palatial indeed. The grand staircase leads to corridors from which access may be had to any portion of the building, but it is not the only means of ascent and descent. Half a dozen other staircases, all of stone and fireproof, provide greater facilities, and the completion of the building is only awaited to place in going order the fast travelling American lifts which latterly have come so much late favour. At the corner entrance will be found the offices of the managers, and apart from the shops in King and Collins street, nearly the whole remainder of ground floor will be occupied by public dining salons. Like the palace itself this is on a great scale as can be imagined when it is stated that from 600 to 700 persons can be seated at one time. Much care is to be devoted to the decoration of this hall, the pillars have exercised all the ingenuity of modellers, and it will be dadoed and frescoed in accordance with all the requirements of high art. It will be part of the duty of the management to ensure a rapid servise to customers; Indeed, such will be a necessity, and to thoroughly carry this out there will be half a score of rapid lifts communicating directly with the domain of the cooke. As there is no proper resort of the kind within fully half a mile, it will undoubtedly have its resources taxed to the fullest limit. The floor space is of dimensions sufficient to provide for a public billiard room, and a feature will be a comfortable smoking room and lounge, fitted up in accordance with the rest of the insti- tution. This much is for casual visitors, the lodgers and all such patrons of the hotel will live in a world of their own in the upper stories. On the second floor they will have their drawing rooms, reception rooms, breakfast and dining rooms, rooms where ladies and their friends may gossip over the 5 o’clock tea, sitting-rooms, lounges, and a billiard room, every one of. which will be directly lighted. Light and ventilation are features of the Federal Coffee Palace. Oriel and bay windows are numerous to increase the beauty of these apartments, and in each one there are ventilating shafts to carry away impure air. In this way a blast will come from below and sweep the vitiated atmosphere above it through other shafts until it is blown away from the roof. The choicest of the drawing-rooms, as well as the private dining-rooms and the great restaurant below, will be panelled in figured mirrored, bevelled glass, the effect of which nearly everyone knows of. The next floor, and the two others above it, will be occupied by the bedrooms, of which there are no fewer than 450. Though this number seems great, the rooms themselves are much larger and higher than are generally found in hotels, and each suite has in conjunction with it marble baths and all other conveniences, fitted with continual supplies of hot [?] places the residents in quick communication with the servants of the establishment. There certainly is no hotel in Australia so well designed, so large, or so convenient, and it is not altogether a boast on the part of the directors when they assert that there are not a dozen in the world superior to it. From its domes to its foundation it is a magnifieent structure, and it will stand as a wonderful instance of Melbourne’s advance- ment and a monument the energy and skill of its founder, Mr. James Mirams and those who have been associated with him in the undertaking whether as directors of the company, architects, or contractors.