At the heart of the Melbourne suburb of Collingwood lies this historic complex of factory buildings built for Foy & Gibson, a local company that became something of an institution in the city. Foy & Gibson, also known as Foy’s, was Melbourne’s first department store and took inspiration from the large units which took over retail spaces in Europe and America in the early 1900s.
In 1883, Mark Foy and William Gibson set up the business as a drapery shop occupying a single unit on Smith Street. Over the next 40 years. the business expanded rapidly, and with increasing sales came the need for ample manufacturing space. The entire block of multiple streets behind the first shop was bought over and many of the houses, small factories, and hotels were demolished and turned into the Foy & Gibson Factory, which remains very much intact to this day.
This site is of great historical importance in the development of Melbourne as a cosmopolitan city. Its significance is reflected in it being held on the Victorian Heritage Register. It was said in the early 1900s that this was the largest manufacturer in the Southern Hemisphere. The factory site included woolen mills, hosiery mills, cabinet, and wood-working factories, and engineering workshops among many clothing factories which brought the products to the market. Due to the sheer scale of the enterprise, a powerhouse was installed in 1908 due to the high consumption of water, coal, and electricity. This was one of the first buildings of its type in Australia. On Gibson Street, two of the chimneys remain in preserved condition and tower above the neighborhood as a reminder of Foy & Gibson’s domination of the area.
Know Before You Go
Many parts of the Foy & Gibson Factory Complex have been converted into flats, cafes and other retail spaces. There is plenty parking in the area.