Alexander J Macdonald and the old South Yarra post office

Every day as I walk past the old South Yarra post office in Toorak Road the work of A J Macdonald makes me smile

Took some photos and then came across Anne Neale’s essay about Macdonald called, Enigma and Romance in the Public Service.

The post office was designed in 1890 by the Victorian Public Works Department and Macdonald was one of their architects.

It’s a three-storey red brick building with many features.

Most notable for me though are the Arts and Craft Australiana decorative motifs.  Anne Neale says that Macdonald would have worked closely with the craftsmen of the hand carved stone work. Not sure who did the designs though. Hand carved and stunning.

How about this snake?

And then this one…

Pity he stopped working as an architect in 1897 and transferred to the office of the Commissioner of Patents and Trade Marks, where he was appointed Examiner of Patents. Why? We don’t know.

Although while he was at the Patents office he was short listed for the 1911 competition to design Canberra and then put on secondment in 1913 to work with the winner of the competition, Walter Burley Griffin, as his chief assistant.

But what about those carvings?

Julia Ritson

7 responses to “Alexander J Macdonald and the old South Yarra post office”

  1. I love this! I love everything about this blog. Your knowledge is astounding Julia. Make sure I sit next to you at the next dinner party. xoxoxoxo

  2. Stunning. It is one of those examples of late victorian artistic exuberance that manged to find its way into ordinary life. It may be because of this building that Macdonald found himself in the patents office – I guess that even in the late 1800’s conspicuous public spending was not fully supported by the bean counters!

    Lovely blog.

  3. fiona somerville Avatar
    fiona somerville

    really loving your blogs . you know i have walked past this building many times in the last 30 years and dont think i have ever looked closely enough to see those carvings in such detail. it will be my first destination when next in melb

  4. Fabulous Julia – keep it going!

  5. Dear Julia
    Loved your images of South Yarra post office carvings.
    Cannot see any licence or details . Would you please allow me – with acknowledgment – to publish the one over the window, and the two capitals 9Over red granite columns) you issustrate.
    My thanks in advance.

    1. Hi Prue, all good. If you could credit Stefano Boscutti that would be great. Curious where you are using? Julia

  6. Linda Barraclough Avatar
    Linda Barraclough

    A.J. Macdonald also designed the Bairnsdale Courthouse, which also has carved sandstone motifs – although not as extensive as these.
    The carver is said to be Albert Smith of Metung – but I am not so sure.

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