UPDATE: National Trust supports inclusion of GMH Fishermans Bend in the Victorian Heritage Register

In January we prepared a submission of support in response to Heritage Victoria’s recommendation that GMH Fishermans Bend in Port Melbourne should be added to the Victorian Heritage Register. We supported Heritage’s Victoria assessment that the place has historic and architectural significance at state level as ‘one of Victoria’s most important automotive manufacturing facilities’ which demonstrates principal characteristics of its class ‘through its variety of building types which are indicative of their former uses, including the landmark corporate buildings, quality staff facilities for a sizeable workforce and extensive manufacturing areas’. The site also has a clear association with the development, production and launch of the Holden 48-215, the first Australian made, mass-produced car, signalling that Australia had ‘achieved a level of industrial sophistication and independence’.

Prime Minister Ben Chifley launches the Holden 48-215 at a formal event at GMH Fishermans Bend, 1948. Source: National Archives of Australia

The GMH Administration Building and Social Centre was added to the National Trust Heritage Register in November 1989, classified at state level. The Statement of Significance reads as follows:

Situated at the eastern end of a 50 acre site in Port Melbourne, the Administration building for General Motors Holden’s Limited is a substantially unaltered example of a formally planned two-storey office complex of the 1930s. Designed by a team of four (L H Hartnett, Managing Director; E J L Gibson, Construction Engineer; J S Storey, Director of Engineering and N A Pointer, Equipment Engineer) and built in 1936, the reinforced concrete building with its central tower incorporates typical stylistic devices of the Moderne; incised lines and badge motifs to vertical surfaces between windows, layered geometric mouldings and stylised geometric detail to the central flagpole.

The Social Centre built in 1948 and sited behind the main office block, is a late but intact example of the Moderne with a large hall complete with first floor stage, fine chromed canteen hardware details and two murals depicting the progress of transport, one of which is carried out in the manner of American industrial designer, Norman Bel Geddes. This building is significant as evidence of the substantial commitment by General Motors Holden to the provision of well catered and comfortable service facilities for its employees.

The entire General Motors Holden site has historical importance as the location for the production of the Holden motor car. The first car was completed in 1948 and the occasion was attended by the Prime Minister of Australia, Mr Ben Chifley.

The Heritage Council will now consider all submissions received in response to the recommendation and make a final determination. A Registration Hearing may be called if the owner of the site or a submitter object to the recommendation as advertised.

You can download our submission in full here.

You can download Heritage Victoria’s recommendation in full here.

If you’d like to know more about the process of nominating place to the Victorian Heritage Register, you can download the National Trust Advocacy Toolkit in full here.

UPDATE – 27 February 2020

In mid-February the Minister for Planning, Richard Wynne, used his powers to intervene in the recommendation by Heritage Victoria to include The GMH Administration Building and Social Centre in the Victorian Heritage Register. Rather than the Heritage Council of Victoria, the Minister will now make the final decision regarding if, and to what extent, the place will be included in the VHR.

The National Trust has raised concerns regarding this decision and have requested that the Minister justify his intentions for intervening in this process. We maintain that there is no reason why the protection and conservation of this important place can’t go hand in hand with its redevelopment as a hub for innovation and design in a way that respects its rich history.

Read more via The Age here.

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  1. 1
    George J King

    I did hear of a plan to turn some of it – not sure which bit – into a car / transport museum. Holden have some cars in their collection that are on loan to Holden Museums like the one at Trafalgar. Ford I think, has a similar collection. Might be a nice use for it rather than pulling it all down to build another depressing “suburb”.

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