Did you Know?

Some incredibly entrepreneurs are responsible for having built up Melbourne!

Edward Cole

(1832-1918), was an incredible entrepreneur of the highest caliber. He built up the Coles Book Arcade, an incredibly entertaining 'shop' for which Melbourne became renowned. It was a wonder of the world, with Egyptian Obelisks and level after level of books!

The Melbourne of the 19th century sure was a different place. Phantasmagoric architecture in the Queen Anne and Italian Gothic styles of centuries past rose up out of the streets to combat the Victorian Austerity imposed by the need of everybody to copy Queen Victoria's choice of black clothing following the death of Prince Albert.

Out of the dark austerity of the day, smokestacks and red bricks, arose the Coles Book Arcade...

Cole slowly accumulated property after property in the city center, expanding his arcade to a claimed two million books. It claimed to be the largest bookstore in the world. But it was so much more...

You see, Cole was a marketing genius, and his 'megastore' may never have possessed so many volumes. His arcade was also an amusement arcade. It had its own zoo. As you approached the windows, you would see an assortment of the latest 'steampunk' mechanical displays. It was also an art gallery in the upper levels. People were encouraged to sit and read with no rush to buy.

The arcade had its own publishing business and Cole himself wrote book after book, expounding his own philosophies. He was a masterful advertiser, even advertising for a wife, and interviewing hundreds of candidates before making his selection.

After his death, his family lacked the enthusiasm to continue in the same manner, and eventually the operation was wound up.

... We walk the remnant of the arcade!

The Nicholas Brothers

Were two entrepreneurial pharmacists who decided they wanted to strike it rich! Back in the day, the Great War to be precise, German-owned business across Victoria was up for confiscation and resale by the government.

The drug company Bayer had been well established in Germany and for decades, Bayer's big product had been Aspirin. The government announced that thenceforth the monopoly to make 'aspirin' would now be held by an Australian business... if it could be made! Australian chemists did not know how it could be done, but where there is a will there is a way!

The Nicolas Brothers got out their wife's pots and pans and began making the stuff. After much trouble, a government analyst declared their product pure, and the brothers began the process of converting their product into a marketable tablet form, winning the licence to sell aspirin in Australia.

They built the grand Nicolas Building. A Chicago-style building in the American tradition of the 20s and 30s, using new modern materials as opposed to the red bricks and plaster of the rest of Melbourne.

After the war their product was rebranded to Aspro, just in case Bayer wanted to claim back their brand name!

On our tour we walk the Cathedral Arcade, inside the Nicolas building, and discuss this amazing pair.

The Block Arcade

America had its gilded age during the 1880s, a time of hard work and glorious architecture and advancement. Over here the The Melbourne of the 19th century sure was a different place. Phantasmagoric Paris-style turrets started to appear on theaters around the city and much of the Gold-Rush simplistic 'wild west' architecture of the past was replaced with grander buildings, designed to part customers from their money, in whatever fashion.

The Block Arcade of 1893 was born out of a tragedy. The Block itself is and was a part of Melbourne where the elite used to shop, or even window shop. The arcade itself is actually `Carpenter's Lane' and was the place of furniture shops. A huge fire erupted, wiping out half the block.

A consortium of clever entrepreneurs bought out many of the ruined buildings and decided to rebuild a grand arcade. 'Build it in the style of the Milanese Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II', it was ordered!

It all looks more like a European palace or Cathedral than a regular shopping centre. The financial aim and philosophy in that day was to build lavish so that customers would spend lavishly. The Block remains Melbourne's finest arcade, boasting Australia's largest floor mosaic, in a Tuscan style!

... On our Productivity Tour, we walk this arcade!

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Mission Statement

“To provide and continue to develop a fantastic and fun tour experience, relating historical information and stories not found found on other tours, told in an entertaining manner. The tours aim to entertain, inspire, educate, and transform people's understanding of our city, as well as make people shudder a little, as they recall the weird and strange details.”

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