Thursday, February 18, 2010

Shopping for a party frock

Le Louvre is in Collins Street but not for much longer. The frock salon was opened by Lillian Wightman in 1922 after she moved onward and upward from more modest premises. Lillian died at the age of 90 in 1993 and from what I have gleaned from bits of writing over the years she was a strong and clever self made woman from the regional city of Ballarat. While she had not travelled, she seemed to be in tune with what your more comfortably off ladies wanted to wear.

Her daughter, Georgina Weir, took over the business and wanted to place apartments on the top of the shop. After a long battle, and threats by Ms Weir to turn the ground level into a greasy take away shop, she was given permission to build including the installation of a lift that would also benefit her customers. It did not happen and I can't find out why without serious research, and since when do I ever do that.

It would seem Ms Weir snapped up an old 1927 Melbourne and Metropolitan Tramways Board electrical substation in Daly Street, South Yarra. I wonder if the substation had rotary converters or the more colourful and exciting mercury rectifiers. The City Le Louvre has been sold. Just as I was there to take a snap of the old substation, the front window was going in with the Le Louvre sign. One day when I am taking photos of a building with workers, one of them is going to be displeased and chase me. Don't worry, I won't fight, just obediently submit.

Daly Street is undergoing a transformation with a high rise apartment building under construction and another Art Hotel, Olsen, opening soon.

Hmm, just discovered Daly Street has an interesting past. An opportunistic builder by the name of Alcock erected twenty two cheap houses on tiny blocks on either side of Tramway Street, as it was then known, probably called so because it ran behind the old cable tram engine house. The houses were later sold to a real estate agent called Daly, and the street acquired the name of Daly Town. In 1910, just twenty five years after they were built, the houses were condemned and the tenants forced to leave. Most were demolished with those remaining being renovated. No sign of the houses now.

Just to finish up, there now seems to be a walkway between Claremont and Yarra Streets, between two building. I understand a new project at the end of Daly Street will allow for a wide walkway, perhaps plaza, through to Yarra Street. I don't think it will be of much use to most people. A local lane for local people.

Nothing like a bit of well polished copper and lady, you can't go into Le Louvre looking like that. Actually, when I look at my photo full size, I think she can go in. Shoes tick, handbag, tick, slacks tick, watchstrap tick, diamond ring on her finger tick.

Oh yes, it does look like a tramway building. Tramway green on the door in the arch and the building is of the style that many tramway buildings were constructed. A very fine building saved. Doubt Planning Minister Madden had anything to do with it. I can't verify it but since I have written the bulk of this post, I have been told it did have (a) rectifiers and it last operated not so long ago.


  1. oh dear Hawt Andrew thanks for all that. That is the first time I have seen the Collins Street doors open.
    I thrilled myself about a year ago, as I was passing from Parliament Station to meet a friend for lunch, I thought 'must see inside Le Louvre before I die' and swerved left, looking quite seriously ordinary in the ensemble area.
    I was very surprised to be treated in a Very Friendly manner by Ms Amelia Coote - a lovely girl.
    The boutique was plastered with paintings and photographs of Miss Wightman with clients historical, clothes were strewn up the leopard print carpeted stairway, and divine Stephen Jones hats flung about on chairs.
    I floated off to my luncheon date as if I had seen heaven.
    A very Melbourne thing.
    The Wightmans and the Weirs were indeed pioneers in Ballarat, the WEIR property construction group being of the same.

  2. *snort* there's a name associated with the birth of the Melbourne Stockmarket and Henry 'land, lots of land, don't fence me in' Dendy.
    Love the pics ;)

  3. "A local lane for local people."

    "But you mustn't touch the precious things of the shop." (Er... that might be a bit of an obscure reference, now that I come to think about it...unless you get the League of Gentlemen down your way, in which case it's probably still obscure, but not quite as much.

  4. Brownie, I noticed the leopard print stair case. I would have liked to have taken a photo of those. Looks like you might have a new place in South Yarra to visit.

    Ok Jayne. I will check that out. I guess the daughter married a Weir.

    To mix characters Brian, Margaret........Margaret.....
    This is local blog for local people. Strangers are not welcome.

  5. Miss Lillian*Wightman and Mr Weir had Georgina, who plays on the bone doctor's team and has never married.

  6. Ah, GW is a wearer of sensible shoes. Got it.


Before you change something, find out why it is the way it is in the first place - unknown.