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Deakin Room decorations
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Old Treasury Building
Old Treasury Building,
Spring Street
Melbourne, VIC

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Deakin Room decorations

One of the final elements of the Old Treasury building to receive attention was the interior. The man that led the project was Alexander Borthwick (1826/7-1903) of Borthwick and Co.

Borthwick was born and trained in Scotland. He first worked as a ship painter, painting the bottoms of ships. Because of the type of paint used he would have been known as a “red leader”. Before settling in Melbourne he worked in England and the United States. He arrived in Australia in 1853 and set up business in Collins Street East and Clifton Hill as a painter and decorator. Later in 1865 he established the Victorian Varnish Company in South Melbourne for the manufacture of paints, varnishes and decorative materials for shops and houses. He also invented an anti-fouling composition for the bottoms of ships using the experience he had gained in the shipyards of Glasgow. He later opened a factory in Sydney and employed over eighty people.

His mother and younger brother came to Melbourne in 1857 to join Alexander, settling in a house that Alexander had bought for them next door to his own in Dorcas Street, South Melbourne.

When visiting the United States he obtained government orders to decorate some public buildings. He also held classes in Fine Art and Painting and was awarded a medal at the Philadelphia Exhibition in 1876. He was later to win medals at exhibitions in Sydney 1879, in Melbourne 1879 and in London 1886.

He became noted for his skill in creating colours. In 1871 he applied that expertise to the Old Treasury Building, where he and his team of painters and decorators created a dignified and refined aesthetic scheme.

Following this commission Borthwick was later engaged to decorate the Legislative Assembly and the Legislative Council Chambers at Parliament House, Melbourne.

During the 1960s the walls in the Deakin room were papered and the ceiling painted white. When the building was renovated in 1992-1994, the ceiling was painstakingly reconstructed and beneath the wallpaper was found the beautiful wall decoration you can see today. If you look to the right hand side of the fireplace, you will see a section of wall that was left untouched after the wallpaper was removed.

Did you know?
The Deakin Room is formerly the office of the Chief Secretary for the state of Victoria (who is now known as the Premier).
The decorative scheme in the Alfred Deakin room was designed by Alexander Borthwick.
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Deakin Room
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