ONE OF AUSTRALIA’S FINEST HISTORIC HOTELS
Rendezvous Hotel Melbourne has a unique place in Victoria’s travel history.
The Melbourne of 1913 was a completely different city to the one we live in today. While motor vehicles were starting to make an appearance, they were still a novelty and most people relied on horse and buggy, cable tram or steam train to travel any distance. The iconic Flinders Street Railway Station had been built only eight years earlier, generating a new wave of interest in a part of town that had long been the hub of Melbourne’s commercial activities.
In 1913 the foundation stone of what was then the headquarters of the Commercial Travellers Association of Victoria was officially laid by then Victorian Governor Sir John Fuller.
Since that time, the building – at the time the tallest in Melbourne – has enjoyed great prominence as a city landmark and been privileged to count royalty, Australian prime ministers and leading military figures among its guests.
It also was an important centre of refuge and fellowship for weary commercial travellers who spent much of their time traversing the dusty roads of country Victoria.
Today, fully restored to its former glory, the building stands as an architectural testament to a grand Edwardian time when opulence and influence were treasured goals of high society.
Migrants flocked from all parts of the world chasing fame and fortune during the 1850s Victorian gold rush. In the years following, as disillusioned miners settled on other pursuits, fledgling towns sprung up throughout the colonial state – giving rise to an increase in the number of commercial travellers.
On 31st December 1880, The Commercial Travellers Club of Victoria was established, the second such organisation in Australia. Close to the Yarra River and ports, rail network and customs house, the area’s stock of solid warehouses and stores bustled to the hum of frenetic enterprise as people often worked long hours to eke out a basic living.
Into such a mix was introduced an eight-storey building – address 328 Flinders Street – at the time the tallest in Melbourne until replaced in 1930 by the Manchester Unity tower opposite the Melbourne Town Hall.
This Edwardian Baroque structure, designed by Harry Tompkins one of Melbourne’s leading commercial architects at the time, had been commissioned by the Commercial Travellers Association of Victoria to be its new headquarters.
With its bold façade, exuberant detailing of giant consoles, oversized classical heads, spread-winged angels and cornucopias of spilling fruit, the architecture was bound to impress passers-by. Inside, visitors gazed in awe at the giant grand vestibule foyer and stained-glass windows towering overhead.
Over the years, the building was destined to play an important role and occupy a unique place in Victoria’s travel history. It also witnessed many noteworthy occasions with royalty, governors, prime ministers, premiers, lord mayors and distinguished naval and army officers passing through its doors.
Perhaps the most notable occurrence was the visit in May 1920 of honorary member Edward Prince of Wales when the façade was festooned with banners and lights in his honour.
Another was the Duke of Gloucester playing the tournament billiard table in October 1934. A further highlight was the premises featuring in Stanley Kramer’s 1959 film On The Beach starring Gregory Peck, Ava Gardner, Fred Astaire and Anthony Perkins.
While the building fell into disrepair and disuse from the late 1970s to the mid-1990s, in recent times it has been restored to its former glory and is now the popular Rendezvous Hotel – one of the few remaining historic and grand hotels in Australia.