Oh, that’s nice.
But what’s this? Couldn’t make it through century two, then?
Actually, the Bank of NSW (later Westpac) held on here for a good 30 or so years past 1960. Let’s take a look:
As we’ve previously been over, the Bank of NSW has a long and illustrious hiszzz…huh, wha? Oh, do excuse me. The revered financial institution was established in 1817 without a safe. Yes, you read that right:
In the spirit of that ridiculousness, tomorrow I’ll be establishing an amusement park: Fast Rides of the Near Future. Anyone got any rides I can borrow? Free entry for a year if you do!
In 1860, the BoNSW started to branch out – literally. The bank’s first branch was established here on Broadway that year. But what flies in the ’60s sinks in the ’90s, and by 1894 changes had to be made. The powers that be summoned Varney Parkes (son of Sir Henry and former Bank of NSW employee) to design the current building (complete with it’s own gold smelting facility), unceremoniously treating their number one son like number two in the process. In fact (as we’ll see), that plaque at the top of the page is about as sentimental as Westpac cares to get (but remember, you’re not just a number 🙂 ).
Actually, maybe in 1955 you were. Oh, check it out: the postbox by the corner is still there!
1982 saw the Bank of NSW merge with the Commercial Bank of Australia to form Westpac, presumably to confuse customers. You can guarantee they would have netted some poor old biddy’s cash in the changeover. To aid the public through this confusing time, all branches were poorly rebranded with the Westpac name, and the Railway Square spot was no different.
Here it is in 1992, in glorious colour for the first time. In that same year, Westpac suffered a $1.6b loss, a record for any Australian corporation at the time. Staff were let go en masse, and that would had to have affected this branch. Luckily, anyone forced out the door would have seen the old Sydney City Mission logo behind them there. I wonder whatever happened to that? Someone should get on that.
Despite Westpac’s extensive refurbishment of the building in 1989-90, the bank was hit too hard by ’92’s recession. By 2000, the building that had once been the bank’s pride and joy was just another ‘For Lease’ along George Street, just in time for the Olympics.
Today, the bank’s purpose is to serve as a function centre. Why one would be needed right beside the Mercure, which presumably has its own, boggles the mind…unless. UNLESS…when the Mercure set themselves up, they put an ad in the paper advertising for the lend of a conference room…
This building features an interesting double-shot of 19th century enterprise.
First we have the Bank of New South Wales, established in 1817, making it Australia’s oldest operating company. “But wait,” I hear you saying. “It’s not around today. How could it possibly be Australia’s oldest company?” I’m glad you asked. Between 1850 and 1910, the bank established branches around the country, and also in Fiji and Papua New Guinea (despite Bank of NSW meaning jack to people over there). From 1927 the bank went on a mad spree of acquisitions, buying out the Western Australian Bank and the Australian Bank of Commerce and culminating in a merger with the Commercial Bank of Australia in 1982 giving rise to Westpac. And thus…evil is born.
On the other side, we have Allans Music, which I was surprised to learn was established in Melbourne in 1850. Allans by the turn of the 20th century was the biggest music retailer in the southern hemisphere (but where was the competition?). In the 70s, Brashs decided it wanted a piece of the Allans action and acquired the company. When Brashs went under in the late 90s, Allans emerged unscathed and under new ownership. It merged with Billy Hyde Music in 2010 to become a kind of super music conglomerate, the sort that’ll be feeding us through tubes and stealing our vitality 200 years from now. Incidentally, the building to the right of Allans was the Greater Union Pitt Centre, and beside that lived a Brashs for many years. Even the Greater Union became a cut-price CD shop for a time after its closure, and the Galeries Victoria’s JB Hifi sits across the street. This section of Pitt Street has never managed to shake its musical heritage.