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City Streets Delivery Centre, 640-652 Bourke St, Melbourne, VIC, Australia

Photographs None
List Commonwealth Heritage List
Class Historic
Legal Status Listed place (22/08/2012)
Place ID 106177
Place File No 2/11/033/0719
Summary Statement of Significance
The former Eliza Tinsley Building of 1901-25 is of historical significance for its association with the western end of the Melbourne CBD, which was a centre for hardware and agricultural trading during the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. The building is one of a collection of warehouses associated with agricultural hardware merchants, including skin and hide merchants, located in the area. The association with the firm of Eliza Tinsley is also of note, being a well known hardware merchant based in the United Kingdom. The building frontage to Bourke Street reflects its original warehousing, office and retail function. The occupation by Australia Post from the 1970s, which initially adapted and used the building a dead letter office, and later a central city delivery centre, is also of interest (criterion a).
Architecturally, the building is a well preserved and substantial warehouse design, in a significant area of Bourke Street which is valued for its late nineteenth and early twentieth century character. The substantially intact three-storey façade to Bourke Street is notable for its tuckpointed red face brickwork; the panelled parapet divided by two pediments; and the moulded cornice with regularly spaced brackets below the parapet, and a similar cornice treatment dividing the first and second floors. The plate glass display windows (shopfronts) with coloured leaded glazing at ground floor level, including the original leaded glazing bearing the lettering ‘Eliza Tinsley’, are also of note. The 1901 building component to the rear, although of simple utilitarian form, is important for providing evidence of the earlier building on the site (criterion d).
The former Eliza Tinsley building fits seamlessly into the late nineteenth and early twentieth century streetscape at the western end of Bourke Street, between King and Spencer streets. It maintains the overall scale and proportion of former warehouses, with the larger Mail Exchange building at the corner of Spencer Street. The building is also part of the valued collection of architecturally diverse nineteenth and early twentieth century buildings in the Bourke Street West heritage precinct, where the varied building facades, with their architectural detailing, contribute to the heritage character of this historic part of Melbourne (criterion e).
The curtilage includes the title block/allotment of the property.
Significant elements of the building include:
• All of the exteriors of the three storey building component, and the earlier 1901 building.
• Most of the interiors are not of interest, due to the adaptation works of the 1970s and after, although the stair hall and some original fabric of the first and second floors remain.
• The later one and two-storey elements to Little Bourke Street are not of interest.
Official Values
Criterion A Processes
The former Eliza Tinsley Building of 1901-25 is of historical significance for its association with the western end of the Melbourne CBD, which was a centre for hardware and agricultural trading during the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. The building is one of a collection of warehouses associated with agricultural hardware merchants, including skin and hide merchants, located in the area. The association with the firm of Eliza Tinsley is also of note, being a well known hardware merchant based in the United Kingdom. The building frontage to Bourke Street reflects its original warehousing, office and retail function. The occupation by Australia Post from the 1970s, which initially adapted and used the building a dead letter office, and later as a central city delivery centre, is also of interest.
Criterion D Characteristic values
The City Streets Delivery Centre does not fit into the typical building typologies for postal properties.
Architecturally, the building is a well preserved and substantial warehouse design, in a significant area of Bourke Street which is valued for its late nineteenth and early twentieth century character. The substantially intact three-storey façade to Bourke Street is notable for its tuckpointed red face brickwork; the panelled parapet divided by two pediments; and the moulded cornice with regularly spaced brackets below the parapet, and a similar cornice treatment dividing the first and second floors. The plate glass display windows (shopfronts) with coloured leaded glazing at ground floor level, including the original leaded glazing bearing the lettering ‘Eliza Tinsley’, are also of note. The 1901 building component to the rear, although of simple utilitarian form, is important for providing evidence of the earlier building on the site.
Criterion E Aesthetic characteristics
The former Eliza Tinsley building fits seamlessly into the late nineteenth and early twentieth century streetscape at the western end of Bourke Street, between King and Spencer streets. It maintains the overall scale and proportion of former warehouses, with the larger Mail Exchange building at the corner of Spencer Street. The building is also part of the valued collection of architecturally diverse nineteenth and early twentieth century buildings in the Bourke Street West heritage precinct, where the varied building facades, with their architectural detailing, contribute to the heritage character of this historic part of Melbourne.
Description
The property known as the Eliza Tinsley building dates form 1901/1925, and is bounded by Langs Lane to its east, the three-storey former Dalgety and Co. warehouse to its west, and Little Bourke Street to the north. The Mail Exchange complex at the intersection of Bourke and Spencer streets is located further west and dominates this section of the streetscape. The generally rectangular subject site extends the full depth of the block from Bourke to Little Bourke streets, although prior to 1925, the south-east corner was either unbuilt or not part of the present site. The brick building complex comprises distinct sections which relate to the staged development of the site.
The earliest section (1901) occupies part of the north-eastern area of the site, is single-storey in height and comprises a timber-framed and trussed warehouse with brick perimeter walls. This has a frontage to Langs Lane, and a segmentally arched doorway of long standing, but a chamfered parapet to link it with the rearranged Little Bourke Street frontage. Also to the rear, on Little Bourke Street, is a later two-storey clerestory lantern-lit warehouse with a step-fronted gable end and a central loading door flanked by four arched windows and another placed directly above the loading door. Part of this elevation includes a later brick wall with a flat parapet running across its front and a sawtooth roof behind. The bulk of the building to Little Bourke Street is not of heritage interest, and is also not included in the individual Heritage Overlay (HO552).
The three-storey front section to Bourke Street and part of Langs Lane dates from 1925 and is constructed of tuckpointed red face brick on an essentially L-shaped plan. The flat roof is concealed behind a brick panelled parapet which is divided by two pediments, unevenly proportioned, each containing blank name panels and flanked by brick pilasters topped with pressed cement urns. These extend beneath into two breakfronts that run down to street level to flank ground floor entrances. The parapet is separated from the two levels below by a moulded cornice on regularly spaced brackets, and a similar cornice divides the first and second floors from the ground floor. Below each cornice are two flat-fronted lintels continuing across the entire Bourke Street frontage. Broad openings at ground floor level along Bourke Street variously contain the original main and secondary entrances and plate glass display windows which are framed with metal-clad moulded timber, each with a continuous strip of coloured leaded glazing. The westernmost window opening is a reconstruction to match the adjoining windows in lieu of the original carriageway. The original splayed entrance doors have been replaced by modern sliding glass doors although the original leaded glazing bearing gold lettering ‘ELIZA TINSLEY’ remains, as does the flanking sawn bluestone piers. Each ground floor opening is surmounted by a bay of highlight windows, and two more stories of windows above. The first and second floor fenestration is repeated between levels, however the opening widths are varied to relate to the two distinct sections of the building.
Externally, as it presents to Bourke Street, the Eliza Tinsley building is substantially intact to its 1925 date of construction. The exception is the alterations to the main and secondary entrance and the replacement of the carriageway doorway with a window, relatively minor and reversible changes. As such, the building reads as originally designed as an early twentieth century warehouse and store. The earlier building component (1901) has undergone more change, but the small scale and functional nature of the rear building demonstrates an early phase of development on this site. With regard to external condition, there is some evidence of structural movement and cracking.
Internally, the refurbishment of the building and major alterations to the rear warehouse to convert it to a delivery centre have largely destroyed or concealed the original planning and fabric at ground  floor level. However, the stair hall and first and second floors retain a greater level of intactness despite refurbishment.
Key areas/elements:
• Principal Bourke Street façade including unpainted brickwork, original joinery, glazing and decorative elements.
• Original 1901 and 1925 external form and fabric of Langs Lane elevation.
History
Sands & McDougall Directories indicate that the firms of Eliza Tinsley, hardware importers, and Lloyd Bros, and James Maginnis, leather merchants, were based in the Eliza Tinsley Building from the time of its construction in 1901. Eliza Tinsley Ltd was, and remains, a leading supplier of chain, rope, hardware and accessories based in the United Kingdom and still servicing a world wide market.
The Directories also indicate that Eliza Tinsley and James Maginnis were at 43 King Street in 1900, moving to 644-664 Bourke Street in 1901. This was previously the Centennial Coffee palace site. Tinsleys’ shared the building with Maginnis, formerly a partner, who had gone into a tanning business.
The original (1901) building on the site took the form of a single-storey brick warehouse which was constructed between Bourke and Little Bourke streets. A 1905-6 Mahlstedt plan of the site indicates that the building only extended across the western two thirds of the present site at the Bourke Street frontage, while it extended the full width of the Little Bourke Street boundary. The front portion appears to have been designed as offices, with the present trussed arrangement extending back to Little Bourke Street.
It is possible, but has not been confirmed, that tanning operations associated with Maginnis occurred in the earlier component of the building. It is certainly likely that the building was used as a leather warehouse.
The three-storey Bourke Street frontage was designed by Robert Sloan and completed in 1925 in the tradition of large warehouses which were being established throughout the western end of the city from the 1870s onwards, for agricultural and associated businesses. The building had glazed ground floor shopfronts, as part of the retail operations. A three-storey brick warehouse was also constructed on the adjoining site to the west in 1913 for Dalgety and Co. From 1925-1958 that building was occupied by the noted local agricultural engineers, HV McKay Pty Ltd Sunshine Harvesters. Further west a three-storey brick and bluestone warehouse had been designed by architect John Flanagan and built in 1879 for the woolbrokers, PB Curtain and Co. The Eliza Tinsley operation remained in the subject building until the 1970s, which continued to be used for hardware storage (warehousing) and sales purposes.
The property was acquired by Australia Post in 1973 for use as a dead letter office. The Bourke Street façade was conserved in 1995 at which time the building was refurbished and part of the Little Bourke Street façade was replaced in 1998. The upper floors have been leased since the 1990s, while the ground floor was refurbished for use by Australia Post as the City Streets Delivery Centre. The latter was established in the late 1990s.
Condition and Integrity
Original fabric
Structural frame: 1901: load-bearing brick perimeter walls with timber columns, beams and roof trusses; 1925: load-bearing brick perimeter walls with steel columns and beams, timber-framed roof.
External walls: Red face brick to both sections with black tuckpointing to 1925 section.
Internal walls: Face brick, partly hard plastered.
Floor: Timber-framed and boarded floors throughout, with the exception of some concrete sections in single-storey 1925 areas. Ceiling: 1901: exposed timber trusses; 1925: variously pressed metal to original public areas, unlined timber floor framing and boarding to first and second floors and concrete to two rooms along Langs Lane frontage.
Roof: 1901: timber-framed trussed gable form with central lantern light and sawtooth section both with corrugated galvanised iron cladding and parapeted end; 1925: flat timber-framed roof with parapet and malthoid finish.
Other: The 1925 Bourke Street frontage incorporated an arched carriageway within the western side of the building to the rear stores and metal-clad moulded timber shopfronts and splayed entrance with multi-coloured leaded glazing. Access to upper floors was provided by a lift and via two substantial hardwood timber stairs. Joinery throughout the front office sections comprised polished timber and façade windows were timber-framed double-hung sashes with multi-paned top sashes. Windows in the side and rear elevations of the 1925 building were large multi-paned steel-framed arrangements with fixed and hopper sashes.
Summary of development and/or alteration
1901: Original single-storey warehouse constructed.
1907: Unknown works.
1925: Original warehouse incorporated into new 3 storey frontage along Bourke Street. This may have involved complete demolition of the original front section, however it would appear that sections of the original perimeter brick walls and possibly the original columns were retained as well as the entire rear trussed warehouse section.
Pre-1966: At least one window opening in the original Little Bourke Street façade had been bricked in.
c.1973-1995: Arched carriageway entrance infilled at Bourke Street entrance; 1925 ground floor area flanking Langs Lane is partitioned internally as is original formerly open warehouse area into what appears to be various office spaces and multiple bays for sorting dead letters according to suburb or area.
Date unknown: Brickwork of side wall along Langs Lane overpainted.
1995: Bourke Street façade conserved and interior refurbished throughout. This may have enabled additional tenants to occupy first and second floors. This work did not reinstate the original carriageway.
1998: Major alterations carried out to convert the building to a delivery centre. This was achieved by retaining only the 1925 three-storey building and the original perimeter brick walls and the six northernmost bays of timber-framed and trussed structure of the 1901 Little Bourke Street building. A contemporary structure (to Little Bourke Street) was constructed in its place which comprised steel columns and roof framing, concrete floor slab and stud-framed and plasterboard lined partitions. The work also included demolition of the original brick walls which defined the 1901 east elevation where it met the 1925 single-storey section. The north elevation was partly rebuilt with an internal skin of concrete block and external skin of brickwork and reconstructed openings. The 1925 splayed entrance to Bourke Street was replaced with an automatic sliding door and an entrance foyer was constructed with ceramic tiled floor, stud-framed walls and lower plasterboard-lined ceiling. The western section of the 1925 building was altered to provide a lunch room, offices and meeting rooms and the original lift was demolished and replaced with a larger lift, located off the stair hall. The eastern section was refurbished to provide a business mail centre and staff amenities.
Location
640-652 Bourke Street, Melbourne, comprising the whole of Lot 5 PS320228.
Bibliography
GS Warmington and AC Ward, Australia Post Survey of Historic Properties; Register of the National Trust, B6563; City of Melbourne Heritage Building Identification Sheet (accessible online at the City of Melbourne's i-heritage database); Sands & McDougall Municipal Directories; Graeme Butler, Central Activities District Conservation Study, 1984; Savills, APPD Property Valuation Report, June 2005; Allom Lovell & Associates Pty Ltd, Former Eliza Tinsley Warehouse and Store 640-652 Bourke Street Melbourne and 609-623 Little Bourke Street Melbourne, Review of Historic Buildings Council Statement of Significance, June 1991.
Architectural drawings
No original architectural drawings have been located, however Mahlstedt fire insurance plans dating from 1905-6 and 1945 indicate the general building footprint, form and construction materials.
Existing conditions: Post 1973 conditions partly recorded in PMG Department block and floor plan; pre-1995 leasing plans prepared by Raine and Horne International, both included in Savills Valuation Report, 2005.
National Archive records
N/A

Report Produced  Sat Jul 12 03:22:31 2014