In the Sunshine Advocate of 21/03/1925 it is reported that Wunderlich Ltd decided to establish works in Sunshine for the manufacture of terra cotta and faience for the facing of city buildings. The product was intended to imitate granite, which would give a brighter appearance to concrete walls. A stone surface finish to the terra cotta could be achieved by applying a variety of colour combinations of glazes with a special 'spackle' gun. A building that is still standing and has the imitation granite finish terra cotta is the Nicholas Building at 21 - 47 Swanston Street, Melbourne. The Nicholas Building was designed by Harry Norris for Alfred Nicholas (Aspro fame), and was built during 1925 - 1926. The building is classified by the National Trust (B4079) and has the Victorian Heritage Register (H2119).
During my employment in the factory from 1964 to 1969 the tiles were generally faced with single colour glazes. For some small jobs a light coloured mottled finish was achieved by spattering a white glaze over a cream coloured background or vice versa. There were no imitation granite jobs done, probably because of changing attitudes to the intended appearance of buildings.
The green coloured tile in our collection is an unfinished (untrimmed) retain tile typical of the green coloured tiles that were made for the two stages of the Commonwealth Centre Building (colloquially known as the Green Latrine), that was once located on the corner of Spring and Victoria Streets in Melbourne. Similar coloured tiles were also used on some shop fronts. The Commonwealth Centre Building no longer exists, however the Century Building at 125 - 133 Swanston Street, Melbourne is covered with single coloured tiles (white). The Century Building was built in 1939, with the architect being Marcus Barlow. The Building is classified by the National Trust (B4045).
Our tile along with several others were headed for dumping among the asbestos waste at the rear of the two Wunderlich factories (Circa 1968). With permission from the Factory Superintendent of the Terra Cotta factory they were saved and taken home. Several are still in use as pavers around a barbecue in Melton from where our tile was obtained.
It should be noted that the Wunderlich Architectural Terra Cotta factory in Sunshine did not manufacture terra cotta roofing tiles, as reported in the Brimbank City Council Post-contact Heritage Study HO 073 former Wunderlich now West End Market. Wunderlich terra cotta roofing tiles were manufactured at their factory in Mitcham Road, Vermont. Document HO 073 contains at least 3 errors.
Other References: (1). http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article74726224. (2). Armstrong, J. 'Investigating the historic and current use, manufacture and conservation of architectural terra cotta and faience USA & UK'.
This tile is an example of the type of facing that was applied to city buildings for over 40 years from the mid 1920's. As building techniques changed the need for this type of facing diminished, and so the factory was eventually sold and demolished. A free standing tall chimney stack which serviced two of the kilns was a significant feature of the North Sunshine skyline. A part of the history of Sunshine disappeared with the demolition of the factory and the chimney stack. Only the façade of the finishing section of the factory where tiles were trimmed and stored remains.
Off-white/beige architectural terra cotta tile with green coloured vitreous glaze on the face of tile. The rear of tile is ribbed.
- Former Commonwealth Centre Building in Spring St, Melbourne Wunderlich Ltd green glazed tiles were used on this now demolished building. Picture at National Library of Australia.
- Nicholas Building Imitation granite terra cotta from Wunderlich Ltd was used on this building.
- Century Building White glazed terra cotta tiles by Wunderlich Ltd were used on this building.