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Gold Rush Architecture

Residents and visitors were amazed at the speed of Melbourne's growth from a muddy frontier town into a solid city of spires and domes. Archibald Michie remembered the Melbourne of 1852 as little more than 'a very inferior English town'. By 1860, he was astounded by Melbourne's transformation into 'a great city, as comfortable, as elegant, as luxurious as any place'.

Melbourne's new civic beauty was due to the erection of many lavish buildings in the 1850s. Built from the colony's gold wealth, solid buildings up to four storeys now lined the main thoroughfares of Collins and Bourke streets.

Local architects, such as J J Clark, Joseph Reed, Leonard Terry and Lloyd Tayler, showed the same devotion to Italian classicism as their contemporaries in Britain. Banks, offices and clubs were reinterpretations of villas, temples and palaces. This is well illustrated in the imposing facade of the Oriental Bank, photographed in 1858.

Oriental Bank, Melbourne
magnifyOriental Bank, Melbourne
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