The Australian Building (APA Building)
49 Elizabeth Street, northwest corner of Elizabeth Street and Flinders Lane
Architect: Henry Kemp
Completed in 1889 and demolished in 1980
Queen Anne style
12 levels (was meant to be 15)
Height to roof was 47 metres
Height to pinnacle was 53 metres
Tallest building in Melbourne from 1889 - 1929
Extract from Melbourne – The city’s history and development by Miles Lewis
The Australian Building had been planned to be fifteen storeys, and though it was ultimately reduced to twelve, it was still 53 metres high – taller than any European office building, and comparable with the new American skyscrapers. It remained for very long time Australia’s tallest building. Here one twelth of the total cost was spent to obtain what were said to be the safest lifts known to modern engineering. They were therefore of the type which made no use of cables, but rested directly on top of a steel ram rising out of the hydraulic cylinder. This meant that the cylinder had to be sunk into the ground by the same distance the lift had to rise, a depth of 39 metres. In reality it was by no means safe as it seemed, for many years later one of the cylinders burst and a lift fell all the way from the top floor. Lucky it was empty at the time.
This historic massive structure was rumoured to have have been the third tallest building in the world in 1889 when it was completed!
The Australian Building had presence!
Great Queen Anne styled roofline with gables, walkway and impressive pediments.
I remember this building when it was still standing and used to think, surely someone will restore this once great landmark, and then one day in 1980, I saw scaffolding going up all around it, got excited, thought they were finally going to restore it, but I was wrong, they demolished it instead!
Its legendary status in Melbourne’s built history has only ever been matched by few others and its replacement is at the opposite end of the spectrum, short and unremarkable!
The way it looked just before it was demolished.
Pediments and all ornamentation on its roof were removed in the 1950s.