333 Collins Street
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 faï¿½ade 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 Melbourneï¿½s 19th century glory days.
The tellersï¿½ 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
ï¿½too big to failï¿½. But fail they did ï¿½ all along Collins Street.