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A BUILDING STEEPED IN HISTORY

The mail exchange building has two significant histories. The early history of the site, prior to the erection of the building, where Robert Hoddle acquired the land from the Crown and constructed a two storey Georgian home and gardens and lived in, until his death in 1881.

 

Robert Hoddle was the first Surveyor General of Victoria and credited with the physical layout of the streets of inner Melbourne, these days referred to as “the Hoddle Grid”. Hoddle acquired the land in 1837 after he conducted the first public action of crown land in Victoria under instruction from Sir Richard Bourke, the Governor of New South Wales, the namesake of Bourke Street and the man who named our city Melbourne, after the British Prime Minister.

 

The second and more recent history is the now restored Mail Exchange building and its use by its then owner, the Post Master General’s Department. The site was acquired from the descendants of Robert Hoddle at the turn of the Century and construction on the Mail Exchange Building began in 1913. It was completed four years later in 1917, designed by Common- wealth Home Affairs architect John Smith Murdoch (1862-1945). Murdoch was Australia’s first Commonwealth Government architect and went on to design the Old Parliament House, completed in 1927.

 

Originally built to relieve the congestion at the nearby Melbourne GPO on the corner of Elisabeth Street and Bourke Street, it was a conscience effort to modernise the postal system in the early 20th Century. Over the years, the building had been known as the Chief Parcels Office, the Parcels Post Building, the Postal Workshops, even for a period (1917-1964), as the general Post Office.

 

Subsequently it became the Melbourne Mail Centre and more recently, the Mail Exchange, the signage of which is still clearly identifiable on both facades.

 

The building was by the Post Master General’s Department until 1975, when the Department was separated into Telecom (now Telstra) and Australia Post. When Australia Post vacated the building, it was subsequently acquired in the mid 1980’s as the headquarters for the Figgins Shoe empire.

 

With the eventual relocation of Figgins group in 2006, restoration became possible and the building underwent a progressive and significant, internal and external upgrade which welcomed Aconex in 2006, the Whitehouse Institute of Design in 2008, and the brand new Mail Exchange Hotel in 2010.

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