A home for the Chamber

June 8, 2023 BY

Chamber of Commerce Building in 1858. Photo: Geelong Heritage Centre

The Chamber’s initial success led to the decision to build an impressive home of its own.

The process began by persuading the colonial government to grant a parcel of land with a 20-metre frontage on Moorabool Street, north of Malop Street. Local architects were invited to submit plans for a building and an imposing design by Christopher Porter was selected.

The Chamber building was nothing less than grand.

It occupied the full frontage of the site and included a large room for general meetings, 17 metres long by 10 metres wide and 8 metres high.

There were also several rooms designed for office use plus an extensive cellar area.

The facade, with its six Corinthian columns, two of which supported its recessed entrance, reflected the optimism of these early years – a growing confidence that Geelong could more than hold its own as a significant commercial centre.

The building would later be converted for use as a free public library until its demolition in 1954.

Meanwhile, a ‘new Geelong’ was forming in the second half of the 19th century, Geelong gradually developed a stronger and more varied industrial base.

The foundation of the region’s future growth was laid with the development of a range of manufacturing enterprises to supplement the established
wool and agricultural products trades.

Woollen mills were established, complementing the tanneries of the Breakwater and Barwon River areas.

The Barwon Paper Mill opened for business in 1878, Cheetham’s Salt Works was founded in 1888, and the Fyansford Cement Works began operations in 1889.

The land boom of the 1880s also contributed to the buoyancy of the Geelong economy and, between 1887 and 1889, Geelong invested in building worth an estimated £200,000.

With the rise in employment came pressure to improve working conditions for labour.

Hence, the first ‘Eight Hour Day March’ was held in Geelong in 1888.

At the end of the decade, the trade unions’ growing confidence saw them begin construction of the Trades Hall building on McKillop Street.