Watercolour of Melbourne Royal Exhibition Building with fountain, flags and crowds arriving, 1880. Viewed from the South East, showing the Main Hall, Eastern Annexe and Temporary Central Pavilions from Nicholson Street.
Question: Can you tell me if the annexes of the REB were built at the same time as the main building, or were they added at a later date?
Answer: The foundation stone of the then Exhibition Building (became Royal Exhibition Building upon its centenary in 1980) was laid on the 19 February 1879, with the Building itself opening to the public on 1 October 1880.
Very early on, the need for additional exhibition space was realised, resulting in the construction of the machinery annexes being built alongside the current main building. They were already being referred to in the national media coverage in the lead-up towards the 1880 International Exhibition opening. In August 1880, it was being reported that that the annexe that ran parallel with Nicholson Street would be occupied by exhibits from Victorian and Great Britain.
The layout changed slightly for the 1888 Exhibition. Although the 1880 western and eastern permanent machinery annexes were retained, new temporary annexes were constructed as the ones built for the 1880 Exhibition had already been dismantled. When completed, the whole site spanned almost 14 hectares of continuous roofed exhibition space.
The two annexes were removed during the twentieth century; the western annexe being taken down in two stages during the 1960s, the final northern end being demolished in 1967. The eastern annexe was demolished in 1979 to make for the new Centennial Hall, opened to coincide – as the name suggests – with the centenary celebrations in 1980 of the Exhibition Buildings and the 1880 International Exhibition.