Collins Street is a major street in the Melbourne central business district and runs approximately east to west. It is notable as Melbourne's traditional main street and best known street. It is also often regarded as Australia's premier street, with some of the country's finest Victorian era buildings and most prestigious boutiques and high-end retailers. The 'Paris end' (Eastern end) is a part of "Marvellous Melbourne" mythology.
The length of Collins Street between Elizabeth and King Street has long been the financial heart of Melbourne and is home to various banks and insurance companies.
As designed by Robert Hoddle, it is exactly one mile in length and 99 feet (one and half chains) wide. Collins Street is named after Lieutenant-Governor David Collins who led a group of settlers in establishing a short-lived settlement at Sorrento on the Mornington Peninsula south of Melbourne in the early 19th century. He subsequently became the first governor of the colony of Van Diemens Land, later to become Tasmania.
At the western end of the street was Batman's Hill, named for the Tasmanian adventurer and grazier John Batman, who built a house at the base in April 1836, where he lived until his death in 1839.
Throughout the late 19th and early 20th centuries, the top end of Collins Street was dominated by the rooms of medical professionals. The prestigious Melbourne Club was a dominant cultural presence. It was also the location of Grosvenor chambers (9 Collins Street) which was Australia's first custom designed studio complex, and was used by many prominent Australian artists.
Around the turn of the 20th century "doing the Block" became a pastime for shoppers at the Block Arcade area in the retail heart of the street between Elizabeth and Swanston Streets.
The Bank of New South Wales Melbourne office earned architect Joseph Reed a first prize in architecture. When the building was demolished in 1935, the facade was transferred to the University of Melbourne to become the Commerce building, (now administration for the Faculty of Architecture, Building and Planning)
During the 1950s and 1960s, the street became subject to extensive redevelopment and many historic buildings were demolished by Whelan the Wrecker, despite the efforts of the National Trust and the "Save Collins Street" group. While some examples of boom style architecture survive, the grandest examples were lost to the wrecker's ball. Of the major losses, the most significant were the large Victorian buildings including the Federal Coffee Palace, Colonial Mutual Life building, Robb's buildings, Queen Victoria Buildings, City of Melbourne Bank, Scott's Hotel, Melbourne Mansions and APA building.
Between 2003–2005, Collins Street was extended west beyond Spencer Street, and currently ends outside the new ANZ and Myer headquarters further in the Docklands development. It will eventually extend further west in the future, as part of the new redevelopment. This will create an intersection between Bourke Street and Collins Streets, two of Melbourne's most important streets.
Collins Street is also home to the Athenaeum and Regent theatres, both of which host Australian and international theatre productions and live performances throughout the year.
Shopping and boutiques
Collins Street is Melbourne's premier shopping street and retailers with flagship stores there include: Chanel, Prada, Louis Vuitton, Emporio Armani, Tiffany & Co, BVLGARI, Giorgio Armani, Ralph Lauren, TAG Heuer, Oroton, Cartier, Gucci, Salvatore Ferragamo, Ermenegildo Zegna, Bally, Max Mara, Hermès, Hugo Boss, Georg Jensen, Paul Smith, Thomas Pink, Stuart Weitzman, Lloyd, Wolford, Montblanc, Franck Muller, Harrolds
Major shopping centres include Collins Place, Block Arcade, Georges on Collins, Collins 234, Australia on Collins and Centreway.
There are many hotels located on Collins Street. Major hotels include: Sofitel Melbourne on Collins, The Grand Hyatt Melbourne, The Westin Melbourne, Novotel Melbourne on Collins , InterContinental Melbourne at the Rialto.
As Melbourne's commercial and former shopping centre, Collins Street possesses some of Melbourne's best examples of Victorian architecture.
Large churches include the Collins Street Baptist Church (1845), the Scot's Presbyterian Church (1874) and the St Michael's Uniting Church (1866).
Significant commercial buildings include Alston's Corner (1914) by Nahum Barnet is an excellent surviving example of Edwardian architecture, while the Block Arcade by D.C Askew (1893) is an excellent example of high Victorian mannerist architecture.
Towards the financial end are some great examples of high Victorian gothic architecture or "Cathedrals of Commerce". They include William Pitt's Venetian Gothic style Old Stock Exchange (1888), William Wardell's Gothic Bank (1883) which features some of Melbourne's finest interiors and A.C Goode House designed by Wright, Reed & Beaver (1891).
The old Commonwealth Bank of Australia Banking domed Chamber exists within the post modern 333 Collins Street tower. It was designed by Lloyd Tayler and Alfred Dunn and built in 1891.
Some of Australia's tallest buildings are along Collins Street, including the Rialto Towers, Collins Place towers 1 & 2, Nauru House, 120 Collins Street and 101 Collins Street and ANZ World Headquarters (at 380 Collins Street, which is integrated into the old Stock Exchange and Gothic Bank).