By Kate Prinsley executive officer, with assistance from Volkan Ozcoban and Lukas Matovinovic students from Kew High School.
Located on the corner of King and Collins Streets and completed in 1888, the Federal Coffee Palace was at the time the largest hotel in Australia.
Built as a temperance hotel, a hotel which refused to sell alcohol, it was one of a number of temperance hotels in Melbourne, known as coffee palaces. (The Grand in Spring St, now the Windsor Hotel was similarly a temperance hotel). It was built by James Mirams and James Munro – the latter who was a politician, property tycoon and temperance leader. By 1888 there were more than 50 coffee palaces in Melbourne.
The architects were Ellerker and Kilburn. It cost ninety thousand pounds to build and twenty thousand pounds to furnish. It had seven floors, with 370 bedrooms, two dining rooms, a café, shops, two drawing rooms, smoking, reading, writing and reception rooms and two billiard rooms.
It was built with six “accident proof” lifts, gaslights, electric service bells, and an ice making plant in the basement to keep kitchen supplies fresh, and to cool the lemonade and ginger beer. When it was completed in 1888, it was the largest and tallest building in Melbourne.
The interiors were ornate in a high Victorian style. It was entered through a magnificent arcaded lobby running through four floors with a glass roof and an ornately balustrade white and red marble staircase.
Coffee palaces were generally much grander than hotels, as the temperance movement in Victoria coincided with the city’s boom years. The Federal Coffee Palace was built with speculative funds from banks and building societies, and as the financial failures of the 1890s set in – the “bust years” – and with the decline of interest in the temperance movement, Mirams and
Munro sold the hotel in the early 1890s. By 1897 it had been granted a liquor license and traded as the Federal Palace Hotel.
The building continued as a popular hotel, a focal point for Melbourne society gatherings, until it was demolished in 1972.
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