Monday, August 18, 2014

Then and now: time-warping in Port Phillip Arcade

I’d never been in Port Phillip Arcade until a couple of weekends ago — it just hadn’t registered in my consciousness, despite its Flinders Street frontage and intriguing metal King Neptune sculpture above the entrance. Compared to some of this city’s better known, grander arcades (Block Arcade, for example) Port Phillip Arcade isn’t what you’d call a head-turner.

In fact, with the exception of Neptune, it’s rather drab.


Still, there’s something defiantly no-frills and untrendy about it, which in this faddish age is kinda sweet, I guess. Home to cheap’n’cheerful Asian eateries, a cake-decorating emporium, an enormous stamp shop that’s apparently been there since the year dot, an engraver and a café, Port Phillip Arcade is nothing if not utilitarian.

But let’s face it: it’s seen better days…
Photo: Wolfgang Sievers, 1969 (National Library of Australia)
Photo: Wolfgang Sievers, 1969 (State Library of Victoria)
Photo: Wolfgang Sievers, 1969 (National Library of Victoria)
These gorgeous photos by Wolfgang Sievers show the arcade looking shiny and modern, with its American coffee shop and its ‘cake bar’ (anyone know what a hamburger puff is?).

Photo: Wolfgang Sievers, 1969 (State Library of Victoria)
I’m guessing Lillian Lingerie (below) catered more to the budget-minded shopper than the babelicious if the window display is anything to go by. 

Check out the painting above the doorway of the store next to Lillian's! Photo: Wolfgang Sievers, 1969 (State Library of Victoria).
For those whose historical interests extend to ye olde colonial times, here’s an interesting fact: Port Phillip Arcade stands on the site of the former Port Phillip Club Hotel, a venerable old building dating from 1838. But who should come along to demolish it in 1960? None other than the notorious Whelan the Wrecker — a name synonymous with the loss of much of Melbourne’s pre-modern architectural heritage… 

Photo: Wolfgang Sievers, 1969 (State Library of Victoria)

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