Walking along Collins Street, number 333 seems just like a number of commercial buildings in the vicinity. However we recommend that you venture inside. The somewhat nondescript façade leads you to expect a large foyer in the post-war style with not much to distinguish it from many such corporate piles around Australia and the rest of the world. However within several metres you are confronted with a wonderfully preserved domed banking chamber straight out of the era of Melbourne’s 19th century glory days.
The tellers’ booths have gone except for a reminder on the left a you enter. However, a glance at the photographs on the wall quickly help you recreate the dignity and splendour of this chamber and convince you there could be no safer place to invest your money.
The faithfully recreated Victorian era colour scheme may look a little gaudy to modern eyes, but it was designed for gaslight. Colours became a little more subdued once electric lights came along.
Many Victorian era buildings became impractical for their original use so either became museums or were gutted and refurbished. The current 33 Collins Street is in its third major incarnation, but the architects had the good sense and the good grace to preserve the original banking chamber. As you walk down the modern walkway to Flinders Lane, take some time to look closely at the massive solid brass lamps. They are reproductions of the original banking chamber. Then, as you turn and make your way back onto Collins Street, note the massive metal gates. It was soon after this building went up that these gates were locked shut against the crowds facing a financial crisis more damaging to Melbourne than the recent GFC. The crowds wanted to withdraw their money from this and other banks that were ‘too big to fail’. But fail they did – all along Collins Street.
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