Articles

184 Brunswick St: a history

by Madeleine Baud

7 September 2017

Liquorice operates out of a beautiful old building located at 184 Brunswick St, Fitzroy, just above a fabric store. As a company and a collective, we've grown a lot within the walls of this building and it's become part of our personality and culture. 

A lot has changed since we moved in almost a decade ago, but what was it like before it was home to a bunch of macs, bikes and dogs?

*wayne's world dissolve*

Way, way back

Did you know that Fitzroy was Melbourne's very first suburb? In 1858, it severed ties with the greater City of Melbourne and became its own municipality.

Fitzroy was named after the then-Governor of New South Wales, Sir Charles "Mutton Chops" FitzRoy, who looks like he was stoked about it.

Fitzroy not only boasts some of the finest, most emotionally-withholding baristas in town, but it's also home to the most comprehensive repository of colonial architecture and the oldest surviving terrace houses (located in Gertrude Street).

Fun fact: before it was called Fitzroy, it was called Newtown. Something tells me our friends at Newtown Specialty Coffee already knew this.

Iron men

So, what was going on at 184 Brunswick St back in the 19th Century? Believe it or not, it was home to an Ironmonger, which was basically like Bunnings, but smaller and without the life-affirming tradition of sausage sizzles.

I know, the horror. 

As the retail face of blacksmiths, potters and glassblowers, W & A. Bennetts & Son would have sold hardware like door handles, locks, hinges, hooks, jerry cans and wheelbarrows, as well as cutlery and crockery.

The old Bennetts shop floor would have been an impressive sight. It would have been even more impressive with a Bunnings snag in-hand, but we can't have everything we want now, can we?

Back in those days, the dresses were big, the moustaches were devoid of irony and the Fitzroy Lions... you know... existed. There were no trams in this working class suburb yet, but the Fitzroy Town Hall was under construction.

In 1841, there were only about 600 people living in Fitzroy. But after the gold rush, Melbourne experienced a boom and the population grew exponentially. By 1881 the population of Fitzroy was over 23,000. Thanks to the aforementioned gold rush, Melbourne also became the richest city in the world. What.

New blood

Fast forward 120 years or so, and 184 Brunswick St was a shared space for a bunch of young creatives. 

The gold rush had ended, but the iPhone rush was just beginning. Large hadrons were colliding, 808s were heartbreaking and everyone was losing their minds over Harry Potter.

By this point, the Fitzroy Lions were long gone and the once-grimy streets were thoroughly gentrified. However, at 184, the Ironmonger spirit prevailed. Having discovered the building's history, Scott Bonanno, Jim Yencken and Jonathon Bellew decided to pay tribute to its roots with a killer re-imagining of the original Ironmonger signage.

It takes allsorts

In the coming years, the new Ironmongers became Liquorice. These days, the building is whiter, brighter and threatening to be overtaken completely by potted plants.

The macs, bikes and dogs stayed, but the building has undergone another facelift.

Designed by Liquorice Creative Director Shane Loorham, the new Liquorice signage once again has one foot planted firmly in the past.

The future of 184

Today, 184 Brunswick St is home to not one, but two innovative, creative teams: Liquorice on level one and the Dokio offices (currently under construction) on level two.

You can't stop progress, the old saying goes. It's true, but you can glance in the rear-view mirror every once in a while. We aim to respect the heritage of 184 Brunswick Street, even as we continue to reinvent it.