The Old Treasury Building was constructed between 1858–62 , and is considered one of Australia's finest Renaissance Revival buildings, constructed in palazzo form and built from wealth accumulated during the Victorian Gold Rush to house the state gold vaults.
The building was designed by young architect J. J. Clark at just 19 years of age. The oldest surviving designs for the building date back to 1857, and many of JJ Clark's drafts are on display throughout the building. Clark later went on to design the Brisbane Treasury in Queensland, considered to be another fine example in a classical style.
Miles Lewis once described it as the "finest public building exterior in Australia".
It is the cornerstone of the Treasury Reserve government precinct adjacent to the Treasury Gardens and creates an important vista terminating Collins Street, the financial spine of the city.
When the official treasury offices were moved in 1877-78, the building was nicknamed the 'Old Treasury'.
The building is also notable as it was the unofficial first capital building of Australia. In February 1899, a "secret" Premiers' conference was convened, after which it was decided Melbourne's Parliament House would be the temporary capital until the location of the Australian National Capital was officially announced.
Old Treasury Building
The Old Treasury Building, previously housed City Museum and reopened in 2009 as a not-for-profit organisation with the permanent exhibition 'Victorian Archival Treasures' and 'Built on Gold'.
The museum's permanent exhibition, Victorian Archival Treasures, presents a rich narrative of Victoria's history from the 1830s, highlighted by key documents and artifacts from Public Record Office Victoria (PROV). These documents and artifacts once held in the Old Treasury Building gold vaults explore themes of Indigenous Victorians and first white settlement in 1835, Ned Kelly and Criminals, Victorian Democracy, Victorians at Work and the Gold Rush.
Built on Gold is particularly inspired by the epic story of the Victorian gold discoveries from 1852 to 1862. In those ten years Melbourne was transformed from a struggling settlement town into a bustling city of international reputation. Built on Gold traces this story through historical themes and explores the economic, cultural and recreational aspects of the city's life, then and now.
Presented through a dynamic combination of significant artefacts, images and multimedia exhibits Victorian Archival Treasures brings history to life. Included in the displays are highlights from Public Record Office Victoria, such as the restored 1906 film The Story of the Kelly Gang, the field book of Richard Daintree and many more original documents which illustrate Melbourne's cultural heritage.
In the media
The Old Treasury Building features in the climactic sequence of the movie 'Knowing'. Though set in Boston, Massachusetts, the movie was shot in Melbourne. A number of other Melbourne landmarks are also featured.
In addition to the museum, the Old Treasury Building is home to Leadership Victoria, the Office of the Victorian Government Architect, The Victorian Marriage Registry, and most living former Premiers of Victoria.