The History of Treasury on Collins

The Bank of Australasia opened in Melbourne in 1838 and after many years of growth, a prominent corner site on Collins Street, in the centre of Melbourne’s banking district, was purchased in 1858 and the building constructed in 1876. The building was designed in two stages by two different architects. The architects for the first stage, Reeds & Barnes, designed a restrained two storey Classical building, constructed of imported Omaru stone, with a rusticated base, a prominent cornice and grouped corner pilasters.

The architects for the second stage of the building, in 1929, were A & K Henderson. Three stories were added which matched the original building in both external style and materials. To externally continue the classical style established with the original building, the third storey was given a very prominent cornice, the fourth level was conceived of as an attic level and the fifth was set well back. The interior was completely reconstructed. A mezzanine level was added within the ground floor banking chamber with ornate metal balustrades and a light well was built through the centre of the building culminating in a glazed sky light over the banking chamber. On the first floor the boardroom was positioned to overlook the light well. The interior plaster decoration was continued in the original Renaissance Revival flavour. From the 1970s the light well was filled in and intermediate levels added between floors three and four, and also between the first and second floor.

The ANZ Bank sold the building in 1974, ending 98 years of occupancy.

The building is of architectural and historical significance to the state of Victoria. It is an example of conservative Renaissance Revival design. The 1876 design is significant for its successful manipulation of classical elements to a corner location. The use of superimposed trabeated architectural systems and the groupings of pilasters at the corners of the building enable the impression of a classical three dimensional presence, while only actually decorating two faces.

The early building is also significant for its use of imported stone from New Zealand, demonstrating the resources available and the ties the bank had in the 1870s. The 1929 additions are significant as an example of building expansion during the depression era, when it was common to add more storeys to a building instead of total reconstruction. These additions are also significant as a skilful solution to the problem of adding levels to an already complete classically-based design.

Bought by Walker Corporation in 1997 with plans for 84 apartments, it hit the late-1990s residential downturn and was sold on to Australand who completed the conversion to 115 apartments and suites. These suites and apartments were operated by Accor as the Melbourne Sebel for the next 12 years. As the lease drew to a close the owners, who had been part of an income-pooling agreement, felt they ”weren’t getting the returns they’d hoped for” and decided to regain control of their individual apartments. Accor vacated, the building was rejuvenated and reopened as Treasury on Collins.

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