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Gordon House, 24 Little Bourke Street

Gordon House was built in 1883 for George Coppin, theatrical entrepreneur, politician and philanthropist George Selth Coppin. Coppin was one of the fathers of Australian theatre. The building was conceived as subsidised accommodation for actors and was modelled on the Chelsea Model Lodging House in London. The courtyards were supposed to allow for maximisation of natural light and air. Renowned Melbourne architect William Pitt designed Gordon House as a three storey brick building with basement and internal courtyards. The symmetrical facade is eclectically derived from Gothic, Romanesque and Renaissance sources. Gordon House remained a lodging house until 1976.

Gordon House is of architectural and historical significance to the State of Victoria. Gordon House is architecturally significant as Victoria’s only nineteenth century philanthropic model lodging house complex. It is one of the more austere and unusual works of the architect William Pitt, designed using an eclectic mixture of Gothic, Romanesque and Renaissance styles. Gordon House is historically significant for its association with the philanthropy of the leading actor and theatrical entrepreneur, George Selth Coppin. Coppin was one of the leading entrepreneurs of Australian theatre before the arrival of JC Williamson. The property is included on the Victorian Heritage Register VHR443 and in the Heritage Overlay HO685.

In 1992 Gordon House was subdivided into individual apartments, with many being managed as serviced apartment by the Quest Group. The original signage of Gordon House was covered by Quest Signage. Quest Gordon House ceased operation in early 2020. Their signage was removed and uncovered the original two signs from when Gordon House was public housing. The grant application was to restore these signs to their original appearance. Following advice from the VHRF team, the applicants sought advice and a quote from Grimwade Conservation Services for conservation of the signage who provided a sound methodology for conservation of the signs as follows:

1. Research the history of the signs and search for old photographs depicting the original colour.
2. Take samples and undertake analysis of existing finishes and mortar.
3. Take detailed measurements of existing remnant lettering using
4. Make up moulds to suit based on measurements and cast new letters, including s/steel armature & cast-in pins, in mortar.
5. Install new, precast letters using pins to affix them to the building.
6. Repair losses to the materials substrate in situ using the mortar composition determined by analysis.
7. Repaint the sign using colour and binder informed by sample analysis.

In April 2021, the VHRF Committee of Management agreed to offer a grant of the full amount of $19,250 towards the sign restoration.

The conservation works have returned the signage to their original appearance using the original materials. The restored signs greatly improves the appearance of the entry of the building in the Little Bourke Street streetscape.