The facade of the Ferguson & Urie building in Collins street was approved to be made of the ‘Patent Hydraulic Freestone’. In March 1884, Thomas Crouch (of Crouch & Wilson fame), architect for Ferguson & Urie’s new building, successfully appealed against the bylaws, and the city Surveyor, whom objected against the use of the new building product named “Hydraulic Freestone” for use in external walls.
A decision of some interest has just been arrived at respecting the freestone made by the Patent Victoria Hydraulic Freestone Company Limited. On the city surveyor objecting to its use for external walls to buildings in the city, as not being either of the materials allowed in schedule C, part 2, of Bye-law 69, Mr. Crouch, the architect for Messrs. Ferguson and Urie’s new premises in Collins-street, appealed to the official referees, who gave the following award:- “Having carefully considered the matter, and having had the result of experiments specially instituted by us for the purpose of testing the tension of the stone reported to us, we do hereby, acting under the powers vested in us by Section 74 of the Building Act, certify and award that the material in question is a stone within the meaning of the above mentioned schedule C. part 2. Signed, JAMES BLACKBURN, CHARLES BARRET, Official Referees; E. G. FITZGIBBON, TOWN CLERK.”
The Mercury, Hobart, Tasmania, Thursday 28th August 1884, page 2.
“THE PATENT VICTORIA HYDRAULIC FREE-STONE. – The recognition this manufacture is obtaining among the building trade in Melbourne as a valuable and reliable material for house structure is shown in the following extract from the Argus of 23rd inst.: “amongst the new buildings approaching completion in Collins street is one conspicuous for its bright and cheerful facade, 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 this building is mainly due to the novel material of which it is composed, viz., the hydraulic freestone manufactured at Port Melbourne, where the Patent Victoria Hydraulic Freestone Co., 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 percent of clean sand, 10 percent of lime, and 10 percent 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 a building material. But on being subjected to a very severe test at Langlands’ 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 an 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.” Mr. Holroyd, who holds the patent, has attempted, but as yet unsuccessfully, to introduce the base of this material by the building trade in Hobart. If positive proof of its utility is needed, the present instance should satisfy even the most sceptical.”
This photo below was found in a box of family history memorabilia in 2010. The State Library of Victoria also has another similar image (obviously taken at the same session by unknown photographer) in their records except the ‘ghosting’ of the people walking past the building shows them in different positions as they walk past it.
30-09-1873: For sale, 10 Collins Street.
22-08-1884: The Ferguson & Urie Building, 281-283 Collins Street, Melbourne, Victoria
14-11-1899: The Auction of 283 Collins Street.
21-02-1901: The Citizens Life Life Assurance Company purchases the building.