General Post Office, Melbourne

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General Post Office
Melbourne GPO (11546609565).jpg
General Post Office building at dusk
General information
Status Complete
Type Post office
Architectural style Renaissance revival
Location Victoria
Address 2/350 Bourke Street, Melbourne
Country Australia
Current tenants H&M, Federal Coffee Palace, Mama’s Bưởi, Absolutely Altered & Tailored, Alto Event's Space, Designinc, Donald Cant Watts Corke, Ca de Vin, Gekkazan, Larsen Jewellery
Construction started 1859
Completed 1907
Client Government of Victoria
Design and construction
Architect A. E. Johnson & William Wardell
Designations Commonwealth Heritage Register & Victorian Heritage Register
The arcade along Elizabeth Street

General Post Office, Melbourne is a former Post office situated on the corner of Elizabeth and Bourke Streets in Melbourne's Central Business District.[1] Originally serving as the General Post Office for Victoria, the building was redeveloped into a Shopping centre in 2004 and is considered a grand example of adaptive reuse.[1][2]

Melbourne's GPO, as it was renamed, is listed on both the Commonwealth Heritage Register and the Victorian Heritage Register, where it is noted for its historical functional significance and multilayered architecture.[1][3] The location of the post office is still used as a point of reference for the measure of distances from the centre of Melbourne.[4]


The General Post Office is historically significant as one of the foremost public buildings in Victoria. It facilitated postal communications and letter sorting in the early development of the Colony of Victoria, helping to continue links with Britain and Europe. The stairs and clock tower are city landmarks and have prominently featured in meetings, protests and Armistice Day celebrations.[3]

The building occupies the north-eastern corner of the Elizabeth and Bourke Street intersection. The design overall expresses classical architecture due to its use of Doric columns in the first level,[1][4] Ionic columns in the second and Corinthian columns in the third.[1]

The initial building was designed by architect A.E. Johnson[4] in the Victorian period, however several other architects also played a role in the extension and growth of the building, including Arthur Ebden Johnson, Walter Burley Griffin and John Smith Murdoch.[5]

The building features elements from varying architectural styles, including:


Interior—the former postal hall

The first General Post Office was declared on 13 April 1837, shortly after the naming of Melbourne,[6] and was completed in 1852.[3]

Design competition (1859)[edit]

In 1859 a design competition was held for a new General Post Office building. The competition was won by Crouch and Wilson, however the government of the time courted controversy by selecting the runner-up design to be constructed instead. Architect A.E Johnson designed the building that became the General Post Office.[3]

Initial construction (1860-1867)[edit]

The initial plan for the building consisted of two storeys and a modest tower. Construction for this design was completed in 1867. The original plan also called for the building to extend north to Little Bourke Street but this was never realised.[3]

Additions (1887-1900)[edit]

Due to overcrowding of the initial building, Johnson designed a third storey and more ornate clock tower. This work was supervised by Peter Kerr of the Public Works Department and completed in 1887. A Mansard roof was also constructed, giving the building much of its Second French Empire grandeur.

The building was the venue for postal and telegraphic conferences in 1892 and 1897 ahead of Federation. In the years that followed the neo-renaissance style building became a great success and a city landmark. There were several proposals for various changes and additions to the building; however these proposals were mostly discarded.

Use and renovation (1900-Present)[edit]

In 1906-7 additions were made to the Elizabeth Street facade consisting of two storeys and a basement constructed by Swanson Bros.

Architect Walter Burley Griffin was hired to design a remodelling of the sorting hall into a public hall in 1919, but his design was later altered by architect John Smith Murdoch of the Commonwealth Department of Works and Railways.[4]

In September 2001 a fire severely damaged the interior of the building.[4] Subsequently, the building was restored and remodelled in 2004, in part to the original look and feel. The ceiling was repaired and a lighter shade of paint was chosen, imparting a feeling of light not present in the former design.

The objective of the remodelling was to revitalise the precinct by linking its shops to public spaces and pathways, and by providing access to parts of the building previously not open to the public.[7] Cafes currently populate the outer colonnade, while other boutique shops also feature alongside the main tenant H&M.[8] The building now forms a major arcade running from Bourke Street through to Little Bourke Street.


See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c d e "Melbourne Australia GPO - General Post Office". Retrieved 15 April 2012. 
  2. ^ Walkingmelbourne. "General Post Office: 350 Bourke Street, MELBOURNE". Retrieved 15 April 2012. 
  3. ^ a b c d e Heritage Victoria, retrieved 29 April 2012
  4. ^ a b c d e "Former General Post Office". National Trust. Retrieved 17 August 2016. 
  5. ^ a b "Australian Heritage Database". Retrieved 2016-08-17. 
  6. ^ Premier Postal History, Post Office List, retrieved 2008-04-11 
  7. ^ Williams Boag Architects. "Melbourne GPO". Australian Institute of Architects. Retrieved 16 April 2012. 
  8. ^ "History". Melbourne GPO. Retrieved 16 April 2012. 

External links[edit]

Media related to General Post Office, Melbourne at Wikimedia Commons

Coordinates: 37°48′50″S 144°57′47″E / 37.81384°S 144.963028°E / -37.81384; 144.963028