Art & Design


Behind The Curtin

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In the early decades of the 19th Century the Nicholas Family were not only easing Melbournian’s hangovers with the invention and widespread sale of Asprin, they were making significant cultural contributions in commissioning Harry Norris to design glorious buildings.

Burnham Beeches, Majorca House, the Nicholas Building, Mitchell House, and in 1923 the Tattersall’s Building, or as we know it today Curtin House, that grand pooh-bah of Melbourne’s very own Gilbert and Sullivan operatic phenomenon of cultural hipsterism (aka the best vertical community in the city).

Purpose-built for the Tattersall’s Foundation, this building’s history is an embarrassment of riches (that pun was simply unavoidable). The walk-in safes (now offices, store rooms and the Cookie DJ Booth) on every level would have been stacked with wads of depression era takings, the basement counting rooms (now home to keg barrels) have embrasure gun slots for shooting at robbers.

Tattersall’s called it home for 20 short years (I’m guessing they outgrew the safes), after which the Australian Communist Party moved their headquarters in, quickly removing the Tattersall’s name from the facade. Not long after a baseball bat-swinging bloodbath in the stairwell saw the Communists given the boot, after which the building was blessed with the name of one of Labor’s great leaders, then Prime Minister of Australia John Curtin.

Perhaps best of all, the original Tattersall’s Club bar, where Gregory Peck and Ava Gardener danced to the end of the world in the film ‘On The Beach’, remains as glamorous as it was then, revived today as Cookie.

The 80’s and 90’s saw a fascinating period of occupation by a diverse collection of Melbourne’s burgeoning Gen X cultural players, regularly hosting some of the most notorious warehouse parties in Melbourne’s modern history. And for the current owners that have facilitated a decade of dedicated building restoration and revival…what next? More of the same but better. It’s all about the vibe, baby.