In The Beginning - Market Square’s Origins
The site of today’s Market Square Shopping Centre has a rich history, having retained much of its original heritage, including the historic Austin clock, the Solomon’s Building façade, and the heritage listed Block Buildings (Corio Stores and the Colonial Mutual Life).
Market Square’s origins began as eight acres (2.9 hectares) of land, reserved by Governor Sir George Gipps as a town square during the initial surveying of Geelong in 1837 and was soon named Market Square by the local towns people for its suitability as a produce market.
A water tank was installed in 1850 and the plaque marking this location can be found near Centre Court. With the installation of the water tank in 1850, Market Square soon became a community hub for business and socialisation.
The newly formed Geelong Town Council officially established an open air fruit and vegetable market on the 16th June 1855. Market Square has been the heart of Geelong for many generations and reflects its history in various plaques and historical displays throughout the Centre. Have you noticed them?
The Austin Clock Tower - Keeping Time Since 1856
One of the plaques near the Malop Street entrance marks the location of Geelong’s first ever public clock. The 20 metre high clock tower was erected in 1856 thanks to James Austin who financed the construction to mark his term as Geelong’s second mayor. Components of the clock were shipped from England including a gilded kangaroo which acted as a weather vane at the apex of the tower.
The clock tower remained until October 1923 when it was demolished to make way for the CML Building. The clockwork inside the tower was relocated to the new tower of the CML Building located today on the corner of Moorabool and Malop streets. The clock is wound once a fortnight to ensure the correct time is maintained.
Make sure you look back in time next time you are passing by.
Market Square's Theatrical Past
An Exhibition Building opened in Market Square on December 27, 1881. It was located to the west of the Clock Tower, and had a frontage to what became Jacobs Street. The building had over 30,000 exhibits before becoming the Exhibition Theatre with a 1,500 seat capacity.
By the late 1890s The Exhibition Building was known as Her Majesty’s Theatre. Upon the death of Queen Victoria in 1901, it was renamed His Majesty’s and a statue of Queen Victoria was unveiled on May 24, 1904 in her honour.
Julius Solomon renamed His Majesty’s Theatre to The Colosseum around 1907 and sold drapes and clothing from these buildings until the completion of the Solomon’s Building in 1913. During the construction of the Solomon’s Building the two 12 metre towers were removed from the original Exhibition Building and the Queen Victoria Statue was moved to Eastern Gardens where it resides today (Garden Street entrance). The famous fan of the original Exhibition Building was maintained and the Colosseum was returned back to His Majesty’s Theatre following the opening of the Solomon’s Building. Famous Operatic Soprano, Dame Nellie Melba, performed in the theatre in February 1915.
By 1936 the site became Cowley’s Motor Garage until 1961 which saw the building replaced by a multi-story car park to accommodate the growing city traffic.
The Solomon's Building
The Solomon’s Building façade is in existence today and is best viewed from the corner of Moorabool and Malop streets, looking south down Moorabool Street.
Julius Solomon had made his drapery store at The Colosseum (former Exhibition Building) and he soon added a men’s store and eventually a clothing factory. He began negotiations with council to lease the southeast corner of Moorabool and Malop streets and on April 16 1913, The Solomon’s Emporium was officially opened. The building was without internal walls and housed many different stores, making it a shopping mecca of its time. It was the third largest floor space without walls of stores in Victoria at the time. The building occupied the entire block back to Jacobs Street between Little Malop and Moorabool streets.
Julius Solomon closed the building in 1966 and it was replaced with a SSW supermarket before the building was incorporated into the Market Square Shopping Centre development in the 1980s.
The Building Blocks of the 1920s
The success of the Solomon’s Emporium paved the way for further development of the original market buildings. The 67 year old Austin Clock Tower was removed in 1923 to make way for the construction of the ‘Block Buildings’ which were built in two stages between 1923 and 1927 – both of which remain part of Market Square Shopping Centre today and are heritage listed.
The Block Buildings feature the typical Renaissance style of the day. Characterised by diagonal motifs, austere external render details and an appropriate brutality, the Block Buildings were constructed out of local Barrabool sandstone. The south building which faces onto Little Malop Street was originally known as ‘The O’Connell’s Block’. ‘The Corio Stores’ balcony and architecture is clearly visible near the Yarra Plaza entrance to the shopping centre which is where McCann Street used to be prior to development. ‘The Block’ can be seen above the Little Malop Street loading bay where Jacobs Street used to exist. The north section, fronting Malop Street, was originally known as Tait’s Block and was erected in 1925-1927 in association with Colonial and Mutual Life Assurance (CML) and is known to this day as the CML Building.
By 1939 all of the original Market Square reserve was occupied with a variety of retail outlets, a cinema, markets and office space. It remained relatively unchanged for 40 years and was a popular location for locals old and young to meet for hamburgers, shopping, the movies and fun.
Take a Walk With Us
Market Square Shopping Centre, as we know it today, was a 32 million dollar local and state Government funded redevelopment. Two streets were lost in the redevelopment - Jacobs and McCann streets.
Jacobs Street originally ran parallel to Moorabool Street between the CML and Solomon’s buildings. The street ran from the indentation on the Malop Street frontage of Market Square between the pedestrian lights and Moorabool Street through to where the LittleMalop Street loading bay is today. McCann Street ran from the Yarra Plaza entrance on Little Malop Street to Malop Street loading bay.
Follow these images for a walk around the block from the corners of Moorabool and Little Malop streets heading north and turning right until you return to the corners of Little Malop and Jacobs streets to see what it looked like in the early 1980s.
How much do you remember?
Market Square - The Construction of a Shopping Centre
The redevelopment required the existing shops to be temporarily relocated and traded out of portable like buildings in Market Square Mall (now Little Malop Street Central). Once the shops were relocated demolition of the existing buildings began in 1984.
The CML building and façades of the Solomon’s Building and Corio Storesbuildings were retained during the redevelopment process.
Geelong’s First Under Cover Shopping Centre
The Market Square Shopping Centre was officially opened by Victorian Premier John Cain and Geelong Mayor Hayden Spurling on December 3 1985 and consisted of a Safeway Supermarket (famous for introducing barcode scanning), a Venture store and many specialty stores and cafés. Some more familiar retailers still at the Centre 30 years later also opened on this auspicious day including Sportsgirl (the only one in its original location).
The main entrance to Market Square in the early years was from Moorabool Street until 1988 when the opening of Bay City Plaza resulted in the Malop Street entrance being the main entry point.
The Centre was owned and managed by the City of Greater Geelong Council until 1996 when it was sold to a private investor. Knight Frank Australia were appointed as the property managers. Market Square remains a community hub, a significant employment source and economic contributor to the Geelong CBD.