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The Royal Exhibition Building

The Royal Exhibition Building Melbourne

Address: 9 Nicholson Street, Carlton VIC 3053

Phone: 9270 5006

Web: www.museum.vic.gov.au/reb

Face Book: https://www.facebook.com/RoyalExhibitionBuilding

The History of the Royal Exhibition Building

The Royal Exhibition building which sits adjacent to the Melbourne Museum is the first building in Australia to be awarded the UNESCO World heritage status. The Royal Exhibition building was built on 1880 to host the Melbourne International Exhibition of 1880. The building also hosted the Melbourne Centennial Exhibition of 1888 to celebrate a century of European settlement in Australia. The other significant event was the inauguration of the first Parliament of Australia in 1901.After the official opening, the federal parliament moved to the Victorian State Parliament house and the Victorian Parliament moved to the Exhibition building. For the next 26 years, the Victorian Parliament functioned from there. It was a venue for the 1956 Summer Olympics, hosting the basketball, weightlifting, wrestling, and the fencing part of the modern pentathlon competitions. Even today the building hosts various exhibitions and events.

The Royal Exhibition Building Melbourne

The Royal Exhibition Building was designed by the architect Joseph Reed. Joseph Reed was also the designer of Melbourne Town Hall and State Library of Victoria. It was built by David Mitchell the father of Dame Nellie Melba.

Over the years, smaller sections of the main buildings were demolished for various reasons, but the Great Hall survived.

Regular tours of the building for the visitors are offered by the Museum Victoria. Please Visit Museum Victoria website for detailed information.

The Royal Exhibiton Building Melbourne

How to reach Royal Exhibition Building

By Tram

Tram 86 or 96 to corner of Nicholson and Gertrude Streets, Free City Circle Tram to Victoria Parade

By Train

City loop train to Parliament Station. From there catch tram or bus to reach Royal Exhibition Building.

By Bus

Bus routes 250, 251 and 402 to Rathdowne Street. Stop #5 of the Melbourne Visitor Shuttle

Car Park

The Melbourne Museum undercover car park is open from 6.00am to midnight daily. Enter via Rathdowne Street or Nicholson Street. The car park charges hefty hourly rates.

Newspaper clippings of The Royal Exhibition Building

For those who are interested, below are a few Newspaper clippings from 1879 and 1880 about The Royal Exhibition Building, foundation stone laying ceremony and inauguration ceremony.

Below is a newspaper report appeared on the Cornwall Chronicle on 25th February 1879 about laying the foundation stone of the Exhibition building in Melbourne? This is only a part of that report.

The Cornwall Chronicle (Launceston, Tas. : 1835 – 1880) Tuesday 25 February 1879


The foundation stone of the International Exhibition Building, which is about to tic erected in Carlton Gardens was laid by His Excellency Sir George Bowen on Wednesday evening (says the Ballarat Courier). It was intended that the affair should be as imposing as the importance of the ceremony be served, and the commissioners’ arrangements were elaborate. In the first place a large stand, capable of holding several hundred ladies, and reserved exclusively for the fairer portion of humanity had been built on the western side of the stone. Between this and the spot where the stone was to be deposited, was a platform for the vice-regal party; whilst on the south side were other platforms for the accommodation of the members of the executive committee and the guests generally.

At a minute or two past four a park of artillery in the rear commenced to operate, and, as it did so, His Excellency tho Governor, accompanied by Lady and the Misses Bowen, Bishop and Mrs Thornton, and Major Pitt, arrived, and entered tho box reserved for them.

Saturday 9 October 1880



The opening of the Melbourne International Exhibition was a brilliant success. Tho weather   was beautiful, and the demonstration a grand one. The city wore a holiday appearance, and from early morning the streets were thronged with people. The great feature of the day was the procession, in which the representatives of various trades and public corporations, together with the Volunteer, naval, and military forces, the friendly societies, and fire brigades took part.

The pageant was a splendid one, and it may be regarded as the greatest spectacle that Melbourne ever witnessed. The Vice-Regal party consisted of the Marquis and Marchioness of Normanby, Lord and Lady Loftus, Sir William and Lady Robinson, Sir William and Lady Jervois and suites. The streets through which the procession passed were densely packed with people, and there was an immense crowd near the Exhibition building. The Exhibition is far from complete; indeed many of the courts are lamentably behind time ; nevertheless every exertion had been made to put the best side foremost and to conceal the defects, so that the general appearance of the building was highly creditable, The building itself was not decorated at all with the exception of the Now South Wales Art Court, which with its blue and white hangings, and its magnificent coat of arms, looked pleasantly conspicuous amid the general plainness.

When the Vice-Regal party entered the building, there were about 7000 persons present, including representatives of the different colonies, the Consuls, the principal residents of Victoria, and the exhibitors of all nations. The president, (Mr, W. J. Clarke); Mr. J. J. Casey, Mr. G. C. Levey, and other members of the Commission accompanied the Governors to the dais, and cheers were then given for the Queen, for the Prince of Wales and Royal family, and for the Marquis of Normanby. The inaugural cantata was then per- formed. M. Leon Caron, composer of the prize cantata, was conductor of the music. He had a well drilled chorus of nine hundred voices, and an orchestra of one hundred performers, and Mr. L. L. Lewis was organist. The soloists were Madame Simonsen, Mrs. Cutter,   Mr. Armes Beaumont, and Mr. Verdi. The cantata was well given and the various numbers loudly applauded. At the close of the cantata, the president, vice-president, and secretary as- cended the dais, and the Secretary read an ad- dress to his Excellency the Governor of Victoria. His Excellency replied briefly, and then in the name of the Queen declared the Exhibition open.

The attendance at the Exhibition during the day numbered 15,108, of whom 8511 paid for admission. The number of persons in the streets during the procession is estimated at 150,000, the greatest crowd being in the vicinity of the Exhibition building. In the evening all the British ships in the harbour manned yards, and burned blue lights. The Finisterre burnt lanterns, and the German and Italian ships coloured lights. All sent up rockets; and the Cerberus and Nelson also took part in the illumination. The effect was very picturesque, and the spectacle was witnessed by about 40,000 persons from the shores of the Bay and the piers.


1880 ‘THE MELBOURNE EXHIBITION.’, Freeman’s Journal (Sydney, NSW : 1850 – 1932), 9 October, p. 9, viewed 20 May, 2015, http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article133488689

1879 ‘LAYING THE FOUNDATION STONE OF THE EXHIBITION BUILDING, MELBOURNE.’, The Cornwall Chronicle (Launceston, Tas. : 1835 – 1880), 25 February, p. 3, viewed 20 May, 2015, http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article66502105

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