40 Errol Street

40 Errol Street
North Melbourne VIC 3051
Also known as The Empire Hotel [17] 1853- 1896
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Social History

40 Errol Street

The Empire Hotel [17] 1853- 1896, including for some time the offices of a bank, demolished in 1896, rebuilt as Fitzgerald’s Department Store 1898 – 1938, later the Methodist Central Mission and a series of shops and small businesses, now The Rubicon Restaurant.

The site

The site was notable in the early days. Until 1860, it was the only building on the east side of Errol Street between Queensberry and Raglan Streets and housed both the Empire Hotel and North Melbourne’ s first bank. It was a single-storey brick building with good stables. Contemporary sources claim that it was a favorite among the early pubs.

The Empire closed voluntarily in 1896. It was rebuilt and opened in 1898 as Fitzgerald’s Department Store. Fitz’s, as it was known throughout the colony and later the state of Victoria was famuous for its mail order service. People came from all over Melbourne in cabs that they took from the North Melbourne station to the Town Hall. During the 1920’s and 1930’s – and vividly remembered by some of our older informants there was a free charabanc (early form of bus) from the city GPO every hour to bring shoppers into the area.

Fitz’s closed in 1938, after 40 years as a significant North Melbourne and Errol Street institution. The business passed to Miss M. Nicol, daughter of W. Nicol, a prosperous flour miller in North Melbourne. Miss Nicol ran a ladies and men’s wear shop and Bradley’s a general drapery business in the double shopfront, which is the present Rubicon restaurant. The North Melbourne Methodist Mission occupied the rest of the building, which extends behind and above the present Lithuanian Club. The Mission rebuilt the back of the old store. The building included a small theatre and a restaurant or cafe. There was a gymnasium and clubs for the girls and basketball courts at the back. The Methodist Mission had a kindergarten off Raglan Street with a separate fenced in playground across the road.”

The 1860s and 1870s

Next door, in the 1860-1870s, the town lock-up was also the goat pound. Goats were reported as a big local nuisance and the story goes that Mr. Burgess, the inspector, would tie several goats to lamppost outside while he went to look for others. On his return he would find that the local lads had released the first lot.

Historic Pubs of North Melbourne by Hotham History Project.



Context and Streetscape

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