Ferguson & Urie began in 1853 as plumbers, slaters, and glaziers, in Curzon Street North Melbourne. In 1854 they had realised an emerging potential in stained glass in the colony and had successful experimented and exhibited stained glass in the exhibition of 1854. By 1861 they had completely transformed the plumbing business to become extremely successful as (arguably) the colonies first commercial stained glass craftsmen. With the gold rush flooding the colony with wealth, and the extraordinary rate that churches and mansions were being erected, the company was expanding so much that by 1884 they had decided to erect a magnificent headquarters building as a testament to their wealth and success. The Ferguson & Urie building was erected in Collins street in late 1884, but less than six years later the land boom had collapsed, the stock market had crashed, and the wealth of the colony was flattened. The company attempted to sell the building in 1889 without success and it eventually fell into the hands of the mortgagees. It was eventually advertised for auction ten years later, in November 1899, but did not sell and was eventually sold to the adjoining Citizens’ Life Assurance Company (shown as the Planet Building Society on the right of photo) in February 1901 for an “undisclosed sum”.
The Ferguson & Urie building was eventually to succumb to the wreckers ball and was demolished by Melbourne’s infamous “Whelan the Wrecker” circa 1915.
The Argus, Melbourne, Friday 22 August 1884, page 7.
The Mercury, Hobart, Tasmania, Thursday 28th August 1884, page 2.
“MESSRS. FERGUSON AND URIE’S NEW PREMISES”
“Amongst the new buildings approaching completion in Collins-street is one conspicuous for its bright and cheerful façade, situated near the site of the old Clarence Hotel, and soon to be occupied by Messrs. Ferguson and Urie as a glass warehouse and offices. The attractive appearance of the building is mainly due to the novel materiel of which it is composed, viz, the hydraulic freestone manufactured at Port Melbourne, where the Patent Victoria Hydraulic Freestone Company Limited has erected extensive works on a five-acre block of purchased land, and obtained all the necessary machinery for a large output of stone. No chemicals are used in the manufacture of the stone, the component parts being 80 per cent of clean sand, 10 percent of lime, and 10 of amorphous silicates. The only chemical action employed is the application of a moist heat, forming a cementing matrix of silicate of lime. When the manager of the company first proposed contracting for a building in the city, objections were raised on the ground that hydraulic freestone was not included under the heading of building material. But on being subjected to a very severe test at Langland’s’ Foundry by the city architect and building surveyor, with satisfactory results, all objections were removed, and the stone is now officially recognised as a material sanctioned by the building act. Messrs. Ferguson and Urie’s building is seven stories in height, including the basement. It has a front elevation of 80ft to Collins-street, and the bright aspect of the manufactured freestone presents and agreeable contrast to the darker hues of the adjacent buildings. Continental Gothic is the style of architecture adopted. A good deal of elaborate carving has been introduced, the hydraulic freestone having been found to lend itself readily to this description of ornamental work. The process of moulding was partially adopted, but the tracery and stencilling were performed with the mason’s chisel. The last stone of the frontage was placed in position yesterday afternoon, and the building will be ready for occupation in about a month. Messrs. Ferguson and Urie will utilise the ground floor for their glass warehouse and the upper stories will be let as offices. Mr. T. J. Crouch was the architect of the building and Mr. W. Ireland the contractor.”
The Argus, Melbourne, Monday 24th November 1884, page 3
“T. J. CROUCH, architect and licensed surveyor, invites TENDERS for EXCAVATION and other works in extending cellar accommodation, for Messrs. Ferguson and Urie. Drawings and specifications may be seen at his offices, 46 Elizabeth-street.”
30-09-1873: For sale, 10 Collins Street.
20-03-1884: Ferguson & Urie building facade approved to be made of Hydraulic Freestone.
14-11-1899: The Auction of 283 Collins Street.
21-02-1901: The Citizens Life Life Assurance Company purchases the building.