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Construction of the Kodak Factory at Coburg

Photograph - Kodak, 'Testing Building on Right', Coburg, 1958

Image: Photograph - Kodak, 'Testing Building on Right', Coburg, 1958

Source: Museum Victoria

Construction of the Kodak factory site at Coburg began in 1957 on 23 hectares of former farmland purchased by the company in 1943. From a cottage industry started by Thomas Baker in 1886 at Abbotsford, the first factory to produce Kodak products was developed at the Abbotsford site in 1908 and gradually grew to encompass adjacent properties in the area. Having outgrown these premises by the early 1950s the decision was made to move all operations to the greenfield site at Coburg.

After the initial earthworks at the Coburg site in late 1957, a secure building site was established with a controlled main entrance from Elizabeth Street (Building 1). While many construction activities overlapped, the most immediate pressure was to establish new manufacturing facilities for the rapidly growing sensitised film & paper products. To this end Roll & Sheet Film Finishing was the first to move in 1959 to the relatively simple structures of Buildings 4 & 5 with supporting services from Testing and first stage Power House (Buildings 7 & 11). The more complex Emulsion Making & Coating Buildings 2 & 3 became available for equipment installation and testing mid 1960 along with supporting services for the rapidly growing staff numbers at Coburg, including Staff Amenities, Medical & Personnel (Buildings 9 & 10). Other buildings to be completed during 1960 were a Distribution Centre, Paper Finishing, Engineering Workshops and the second stage of the Power House (Buildings 6, 13, 12 & 11). The manufacturing part of the complex was completed with the addition of Cameras, Reels & Sundries, Garage and Engineering Office (Buildings 15, 14 & 12A) in early 1961, along with the commissioning of the Coating Machine in Building 3 in mid 1961.

Following on from the busy construction activities of the first four years, further construction was slowed to one building at a time. Research (Building 17) was completed in 1962, Head Office (Building 8) in 1964 and the Abbotsford factory site was finally vacated in 1966 when Colour Print & Processing (Building 20) was moved to Coburg. The Burnley site was vacated in 1974 with the completion of Photochemicals (Building16). While there were many building additions right up until the 1990s, the major construction item of note was the development of 17 hectares of land on the other side of Edgars Creek with a controlled entrance from Newlands Road and a connecting bridge over the creek, and the construction of a high rise warehouse and Distribution Centre (Building 21) which was opened in 1979.

Architect Harry Norris of H A & F L Norris & Associates, created the master plan for the new factory and designs for the individual buildings, while the building contract was awarded to Lewis Constructions Pty Ltd. With the majority of manufacturing operations shifted to Coburg, the still uncompleted complex was officially opened on 14 April 1961 by the then Prime Minister, Robert Menzies, with Dr A Chapman, President of Eastman Kodak Company, in attendance.

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