Part of Port’s history up in smoke
3 September 2015
Another piece of Port Melbourne’s history may have been claimed by fire. The building that was once the Port Theatre, on the corner of Bay and Liardet Streets, was severely damaged by fire last Sunday.
Around 80 fire fighters took about an hour to bring the blaze, in the two-storey building, under control.
Housing a Telstra shop, a café and a massage parlour, damage is estimated at $2 million. The structural damage may mean that another bit of Port Melbourne’s history is lost.
The theatre was an important part of Port’s entertainment scene for a number of years. The Standard mentions in 1915 that it offered “attractive changes of programme … The films displayed are the latest arrivals and include the newest war scenes, when available”.
It wasn’t the first time the brick building had experienced a fire – there was a blaze in 1924. The Argus reported on 9 May that with “cries of ‘Fire’,” “the audience made a wild rush for the door, and one woman sustained a fractured leg”. The fire started in the “operating box” during the screening of “The Governor’s Lady”.
Closing its doors in 1952, senior residents remember the theatre as the “flea house” and a place for a cuddle in the back stalls. There was nothing romantic about its replacement – a battery factory.
The theatre was built on the site of the Fire Brigade Hotel, once the site of the Foundry Hotel.
written by Grant Aldous
Facebook.com, (2015). MFB (Metropolitan Fire and Emergency… – MFB (Metropolitan Fire and Emergency Services Board) | Facebook, viewed 2 September, 2015 https://www.facebook.com/Melbourne.MFB/posts/10153502853209178
1915 ‘PICTURE THEATRES.’, Port Melbourne Standard (Vic. : 1914 – 1920), 6 February, p. 3, viewed 2 September, 2015, http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article91163828
1924 ‘PICTURE THEATRE PANIC.’, The Argus (Melbourne, Vic. : 1848 – 1957), 9 May, p. 11, viewed 2 September, 2015, http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article4366265
My Great great Grandpa Mr Alexander george Rogers was the original owner of the beautiful cinema.The beautiful old cinema was originally a hotel.Alex handed down the cinema to his son my great grandpa George Alexander Rogers.l believe the remains of the burnt out building will be restored and returned to a Hotel.Mr Rogers senior served in Parliment and was given a state funeral.
Wonderful to hear about your direct connection to the Port Picture Theatre Leeanne!
I’m trying to find out info about the Foundry Hotel. My 4th great-grandfather was Samuel Earnshaw who settled in Sandridge in 1853. He was an iron founder and I have research that suggests he ran the Foundry Hotel at some stage. Would you be able to suggest where I can direct my research? Thanks, Anika
There is a little about the Foundry Hotel in Pat Grainger’s book on Port Melbourne Hotels – Chartered Scoundrels. It was the Foundry Hotel from 1866 – 76 and appears to be a very basic single storey building.
From 1877 – 1888 it was the New Market Hotel to reflect the market reserve and buildings (where Coles is now) across Bay Street.
It then became the Fire Brigade Hotel as mentioned in the article. Again this reflects the changing landscape on the other side of Bay Street with the Fire Station being a little way down Liardet Street. In 1892 there was a fire at the hotel (yes, another fire!) and by 1898 it was built of brick with 18 rooms.
The Fire Brigade Hotel closed in 1909.