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Tuesday, 1 August 2017

A visit to the Manchester Unity Building

My quest to find things to do/see/taste/explore and add to the list, saw B (the Year of Yes going strong) and I being local tourists enjoying brunch and a tour of the Manchester Unity Building (unity, not united and nothing to do with football) on Sunday 23rd July. Yes, that beautiful gothic looking building on the corner of Collins and Swanston Street.

Yep, dessert for brunch and it was delish
Having arrived early, I wandered down Collins Street, which at 9.30am is very quiet on a winters Sunday morning and looked around.  I mean really looked.  So many amazing buildings - maybe not on the grand scale of some European capitals, but really stunning.  And the best thing? Unlike in Europe, you can actually look up and around without too much danger of stepping in dog poo.  All right here on our door step. How lucky are we?

The tour starts in a very civilised manner - with bubbles and brunch at the 1932 Café & Restaurant. The brunch even included dessert - because is it never not OK to finish a meal with dessert? Food was pretty good and the bubbles, well they went down so well, we had to order another round. 

On to the tour. The MUB was built in 1932 and it was the new headquarters of the Manchester Unity Independent Order of Odd Fellows (IOOF), a non-profit friendly society whose noble motto was ‘Friendship, Love and Truth’. Melbourne architect Marcus Barlow was entrusted with the design  and had drawn his inspiration from the 1927 Chicago Tribune Building in the United States.
Those Oddfellows were just that - odd
The most amazing thing is that this building only took 8 months to complete.  After the sub-basement, basement and ground floor were ready, the remaining eleven floors and the rooftop were constructed at the rate of one floor per week.  That's a record that to this date still stands - try getting that past the unions today!

This Gothic style building, was Melbourne’s tallest when completed ( 64 metres, including the tower). The Melbourne Age described it as a ‘Wonder Building’, with ‘every modern convenience for tenants and their clients’. It was built at a total cost of almost £600,000 for land and buildings.
1st floor teeth pulling

The first escalators in Melbourne were installed in the MUB, with 60,000 people riding the magical stairway on opening day.  The beautiful lifts were also a thing of wonder with people asking the lift attendants to slow them down as they were getting dizzy being whizzed up into the sky.
Sadly, although it was a popular and important building it was neglected and in 1996 the building was strata-titled allowing individuals and small businesses to buy spaces.  So it's re-birth commenced.

In 2002 a small dental practice moved in .  Smile Solutions (SS) MD Dr Kia Pajouhesh fell in love with the building and became chairman of the Owners Corporation committee and has had a lot to do with the restoration, refurbishments and upgrades of the buildings common areas and exterior. SS now own 5 levels, the tower, plus 2 of the arcade shops.  No wonder visiting the dentist is so expensive - but at least they have poured money into this beauty.
The Tower and the open rooftop area

Our tour guide was the lovely Chloe who gave us plenty of info as we walked around ooing and aahing at the details.  The rooftop terrace used to be a café and would have been amazing.  Still has great views and has the door to the magical tower.  Thinking of getting some dental work done just so I can actually go in.

They even tracked down and restored the original chairs

Level 11 contains SS office areas, all restored.  But nice to see a few pics of peoples kids and dogs around the desks. The boardroom table measuring almost 6m x by 1.8m at its widest and weighs some 330kg.  The glass top was produced overseas and delivered  through the ceiling as it was too big to fit through any doorways or windows. It has survived all of the building’s refurbishments - too big to move.  Loved the boots that were found in the wall that now occupy a corner of the boardroom.  Apparently it was a common custom on completion to bury workers boots and this pair were found during renovation in the wall.

All up, a fabulous and fascinating tour and we can thoroughly recommend it.  Tours run every 2nd Sunday and you can book in for breakfast, lunch or afternoon tea tours.  TICK.
These boots were made for working

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