Report cover
Inner urban conservation and development - An independent panel report on a proposal for Smith Street, Collingwood, under Melbourne 2030. Edited by Miles Lewis, August 2004. Order your copy

Foy and Gibson, Coles Variety and Secret Tunnels...

7 Jul 2004

132-172 SMITH STREET AND 63-71 LITTLE OXFORD STREET, COLLINGWOOD

The National Trust has lodged an earlier objection to this development. Since then, our expert Buildings Committee has recommended the classification of 132-172 Smith Street.

The buildings on the proposed development site that are of concern to us are numbers 132, 168 and 172 Smith Street.

Foy & Gibson

132 Smith Street is the only remnant on the east side of Smith Street of the vast Foy & Gibson complex, which once extended along several blocks of the street. Foy & Gibson�s played an essential role in the history of Smith Street and of the entire area. Most of the Foy & Gibson buildings on the east side of Smith Street were demolished in the 1960s.

foy-gibson.jpg
Postcard, c 1906, Foy & Gibson, Smith Street, Collingwood. The Shirley Jones Collection of Postcards, State Library of Victoria, no H90.160/1012.

Number 132 was originally of three storeys; it is now only two storeys, and the first floor fa�ade is covered with cladding, which is placed about 200 mms clear of the fa�ade. It is likely that original fabric is preserved behind this cladding, and this matter should be thoroughly investigated. As the only remnant of Foy & Gibson on the east side of Smith Street this building should be retained if at all possible..

The Tunnel...

In 1911 a 3.6m wide tunnel was built below Smith Street to connect the Foy & Gibson Ladies� Store on the west side to their stores on the east side of the street. Miles Lewis, in his chapter �The First Suburb� in Fitzroy, Melbourne�s First Suburb (p30), claims that this tunnel still survives, though it is blocked at one end. There is no reason to believe that it doesn�t survive at the southern end of the site of proposed development, and it would be destroyed by the proposed construction works. The location of this tunnel should be determined, and steps taken to ensure its protection. It is a most important link with Foy & Gibson�s.

Mac's Hotel

Mac�s Hotel, which also played an important role in the history of the area, occupied the site of numbers 168-172 Smith Street from c1860. The only surviving part is number 168, the southern third of the original building. Although the windows have been bricked up, much of the original facade survives, including the parapet with guilloche circular detailing. Although much modified, the remnants have considerable significance and should be preserved.

Remember Coles Variety Stores?

The northern two-thirds of Mac�s Hotel has been replaced, probably c1920. The present building has great historic significance for its connection with Coles Stores. The Coles brothers opened this store in 1914, and from it they launched the chain of Coles stores throughout Australia. The name of the company is still remembered in the present vast Coles-Myer group. This store operated until the 1960s, and it is possible to see the original Coles lettering beneath later paint layers. This forms another significant link with the retailing history of the area.

The history of retailing in this part of Smith Street, particularly of the Foy & Gibson�s and Coles stores, forms a vital part of its significance, and that these remnants of the early Coles store and Foy & Gibson store, including the tunnel under Smith Street, should be retained.

The National Trust therefore objects to the demolition of numbers 132, 168 and 172 Smith Street, and any remnants of the Foy & Gibson tunnel. These buildings are individually significant and also form an important part of the streetscape in this part of Smith Street. They should be incorporated into any new development, and new building should respect their heritage character and history.

Posted by Author Craig Bellamy


Comments

From Paul on 12 Sep 2004:

I have an old Foy and Gibson flower press still with its dried flowers in it. Would anybody be interested in it?

From Edwina Bach on 15 Nov 2004:

I am a visual artist and have been asked by the residents of 170 Oxford Street Collingwood to create an installation for their foyer. I wish to create a piece which reflects the historical nature of the area, in particular 170 Oxford Street. I have conducted some research on Foy & Gibson in the past, but have only found limited information on this building. I understand it held the original turbine for the Foy and Gibson factories, (hence the smoke stacks). But have no evidence to support this.
If anyone could provide me with further information on this building, or where to source it, I would be very appreciative.

Sincerely
Edwina

From andrewG on 16 Nov 2004:

Hi Edwina, sounds like an excellent project. If you haven't seen them already, there's a couple of excellent local history books in the Fitzroy Library that might yeald further information. There's also a fabulous history room with loads if infrastructure maps of the area that might be useful too.

From dfg on 7 Mar 2006:

Oh dear.
Deleting posts now, are we? I thought censorship only applied to abuse. In that case, no wonder Craig Bellamy deleted the evidence.
Sad.

From Neil on 14 Dec 2006:

I recall working at Foys Collingwood in the early 60's as a Window Dresser (training). I would often get lost wandering around neglected areas of the buildings looking for the unusual to put into the windows. I'm proud to have been a part of Smith Street.

From Neil on 14 Dec 2006:

I recall working at Foys Collingwood in the early 60's as a Window Dresser (training). I would often get lost wandering around neglected areas of the buildings looking for the unusual to put into the windows. I'm proud to have been a part of Smith Street.

From Neil on 14 Dec 2006:

I recall working at Foys Collingwood in the early 60's as a Window Dresser (training). I would often get lost wandering around neglected areas of the buildings looking for the unusual to put into the windows. I'm proud to have been a part of Smith Street.

From Neil on 14 Dec 2006:

I recall working at Foys Collingwood in the early 60's as a Window Dresser (training). I would often get lost wandering around neglected areas of the buildings looking for the unusual to put into the windows. I'm proud to have been a part of Smith Street.

From Bettina Clarke on 6 Jan 2007:

Hi,
Does anyone know anything about Foy and Gibson furniture?? and whre I can get some information about it?? Thanks!

From Sue Boddington on 3 May 2007:

Many Foy & Gibson Records have survived at the University of Melbourne Archives. this includes a run of catalogues from 1906-c.1935.

From JJB on 29 May 2007:

Hi Bettinna, JJB ere offering photo copies of original 1920's Foy & Gibson furniture advertisements. I also have some childrens wear and I think mens/women's wear. It's a hoby of mine, I have old newspapers from an old home I had in Daylesford, Im framing them around the house.If you're not in a hurry I can collect some and send copies to you if you wish...Let me know..JJB..Cheers!!

From dom on 13 Jul 2007:

so is there any update or proof of the tunnel? pictures facts? etc?

email me
alfauto@optushome.com.au

From Bettina on 23 Dec 2007:

Hi it's Bettina again,

Thanks for your comments about Foy and Gibson Furniture, I now know how to refine my search. You see I picked up a piece of furniture that was destined for the dump! I'm just really intrigued to know how old it is and what it actually is as it has a towel rail on the side. Bettina

From Bettina on 23 Dec 2007:

Hi there JJB,

R U still open to sending me some copies of the furniture catalogue?? If so, how do we organise this??

Cheers from Bettina

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