Art Deco Coburg

According to real estate agents there are plenty of art deco houses in Coburg but real estate agents are not experts on architecture and most of these claims are based on some ceiling moulding and a few other left over features. There are some art deco buildings in Melbourne’s northern suburb of Coburg but art deco in Coburg was not prestige buildings rather it was new facades for old factories, pubs, shops, garages, houses and a community hall. Art deco architecture was a sign that the upwardly mobile working class industrial suburb was keeping up with the times.

Now that the old Union Knitting Mills has been gutted and transformed into multi-story flats I started to consider how the “modern geometric style” (as art deco was then known) was received and used in Coburg. The new building is a dramatic change but sensitive to the old streetscape and preserves the best aspects of the architecture. The renovation retains the original curving banded art deco façade and entrance. Even the original factory sign has been restored.

A block down from Union Knitting Mills the Post Office Hotel also has an art deco façade covering an older building. The façade has recently been restored – I’ve enjoying several meals at the Post Office Hotel and the pub has gained a reputation for its superb food both in its restaurant and counter menu. The iron ribbon lettering of the Post Office Hotel sign is similar to that of several pubs in North Melbourne.

There are other touches of art deco in the suburb. Richard Broome, Coburg – between two creeks, (Lothian, 1987) reports a building boom immediately after the Great Depression, people had been waiting for better economic times before starting their construction. There are modern/art deco elements in facades of a few Coburg factory facades along Sydney Road dating their construction.

Akins Auto Service on Nicholson St. is another example of the modest art deco buildings in Coburg. Akins Auto Service was established in 1932. There are also art deco elements in design of the façade on the Progress Hall and parts of the memorial opposite the Coburg Town Hall on Bell Street. The memorial is dedicated to the first Coburg resident killed in WWII: the griffons on the memorial are impressive.

For more of Melbourne’s art deco buildings see Art Deco Buildings blog by David Thompson. Although he has not written about Coburg, Thompson does look Art Deco in many of Melbourne’s suburbs. And finally there is the façade of the old Progress Cinema.


About Mark Holsworth

Writer and artist Mark Holsworth is the author of two books, The Picasso Ransom and Sculptures of Melbourne. View all posts by Mark Holsworth

5 responses to “Art Deco Coburg

  • Stefan

    Nice post Mark – enjoy the sense of being located in place. I’m typing this in our house in Reservoir (a little up the road from Coburg and similarly with a working class heritage). It’s a physical manifestation of the desire you describe of the working-class-made-good to show their currency. It’s a deco waterfall house – curved windows in cascading patterns. Through some fortuitous web searching I found it was built in the late 40s (unlike many of the places in Coburg, which I remember were built before WWII) by a transport family, the Smythes, who would have run their business from here (it’s on a main road). They used to haul bricks from the Northcote Brickwords, and the place is built of these bricks, so probably some deals were done to build it. The inside would have been quite blingy in its time – built-in electric radiator in every room, wide hallway, custom ornate mirrors and lighting. It tells a story of aspiration not too different from the McMansions of today, but perhaps with a few smoother edges. PS would like to find out about that amazing white place in the alleyway at the end of your street – used to love that house.

  • MTW

    Great post, Mark.
    My (cuurent) favourite deco building is on the corner of Arden & Elizabeth Streets in Kensington. Worth a look if you’re in the area.

  • Art Deco

    Je ne regrette pas d’avoir perdu 10 minutes à lire quelques uns de vos articles. Ce dernier est particulièrement bon. C’est super de partager cela. Merci à vous de partager vos idées et votre vision avec les autres, il semble qu’on ait pas mal d’atomes crochus :-) et j’aime ça. Je reviendrai. Au plaisir de vous lire. art deco

  • Andrew

    I’ve enjoyed reading your comments on Coburg in this, and your other blog posts. One minor correction, Akins Auto Service is on Nicholson Street, not Melville Road.

  • Mark Holsworth

    Thanks Andrew – I’ll make that correction now.

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