Old Customs House revisited

Author
by Kate B
Publish date
21 January 2013
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Comments (4)

I loved the post on the restoration of Old Customs House – do you have any earlier images of the Old Customs House?

Stepping further back in time this post will look at images of Old Customs House from 1957-1969. Customs officers moved out of Old Customs House in 1965. The building was then used as the Melbourne offices for the Commonwealth Parliament and its local members. 

The following images sourced from the National Archives of Australia show the Old Customs House during this period.

Eastern View, Long Room 1957 Eastern View, Long Room 1957
Image: National Archives of Australia
Source: National Archives of Australia
 

The chandeliers, clock and parquetry flooring are no longer a feature of the Long Room today. The restoration of the Long Room included researching the original flooring, and sourcing and laying a near exact copy of the original tiling.

Eastern View, Long Room 1965  Old Customs House, Eastern View, Long Room 1965
Image: National Archives of Australia
Source: National Archives of Australia
 

Desks and partitions were installed to create a workspace for office staff.

Western View, Ground Floor 1969 Old Customs House, Western View, Ground Floor 1969
Image: National Archives of Australia
Source: National ARchives Australia
 

In this image the lifts are directly opposite the grand staircase on the western side of the building.  The lift today is still on the western side but moved about three meters to the left. 

  South East View, Ground Floor Foyer 1969 South East View, Ground Floor Foyer 1969
Image: National Archives of Australia
Source: National Archives Australia
 

One of the main differences here is the glass wall creating a vestibule from the street entrance. Other differences include the central desk and carpeted floor. 

  First or Second Floor Corridor, 1965 Old Customs House, First or Second Floor Corridor, 1965
Image: National Archives of Australia
Source: National Archives of Australia
 

Cupboards, shelving and seating line the walls of the corridor and linoleum covers the original marbled flooring.

  South View, Rear Courtyard Old Customs House 1969 South View, Rear Courtyard Old Customs House 1969
Image: National Archives of Australia
Source: National Archives Australia
 

The rear courtyard area now features the Immigration Museum’s Tribute Garden. There is now also a glass atrium attached to the rear entrance of the building.

The Immigration Museum opened in the Old Customs House in 1998 and houses a number of exciting exhibitions exploring the history of immigration to Victoria, contemporary issues exploring identity, international and local community exhibitions and the history of The Old Customs House.

Immigration Museum is open daily from 10am - 5pm

Got a question? Ask us!

Comments (4)

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Dempsey 11 February, 2013 08:57
Brings back memories of my working at the Customs House from 1940-65, interrupted by war sevice, and then across William St when the Customs department relocated there.
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Carole 23 January, 2013 09:19
It's amazing the changes a beautiful building will endure to take on the look of the day. I'd love to hear more about the research and work the MV staff did to restore it to its original decorative form.
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Discovery Centre 30 January, 2013 12:49

Hello Carole

There is a little more information available on the subject; you may wish to have a look therough the book "A Museum for the People: A History of Museum Victoria
and its predecessor institutions, 1854-2000" by Carolyn Rasmussen et al., which contains an essay on the Immigration Museum that touches on this subject. You may also find this website interesting, as it contains more information on the specific scope of the architectural brief and changes made to the Old Customs House.

Peter 21 January, 2013 14:37
What a great pictorial history. Customs House almost looks as beautiful as is does today
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