A competition was announced to design a suitable building for the proposed Melbourne International Exhibition in December 1877. Eighteen entries were received. The winner of 300 pounds was Joseph Reed of the architectual firm Reed and Barnes. The foundation stone was laid by Governor Sir George Bowen on 19 February 1879. Prominent Melbounre builder David Mitchell, father of Dame Nellie Melba, won the tender to construct the main building. Exhibitors were able to move in by May 1880.
On 01 October 1880 the Melbourne International Exhibition opened, when over 6000 people entered the main hall to see the Governor, the Marquess of Normanby open the show. Thirty three nations participated and ofver 32,000 exhibits were displayed. At the close of the exhibition on 30 April 1881 over 1.3 million people had visited the exhibition. In 1881 Victoria's population was just over 250,000.
The management of the Exhibition Building and eight hectares of the Carlton Gardens was handed to the Exhibition Trustees by the Melbourne International Exhibition Commissioners on 01 OCtober 1881. The Trustees maintained the building for 'future public exhibitions and ... general public instruction and recreation' until 1996 when management of the building was transferred to Museum Victoria.
In 1901 when the Australian colonies federated there was no capital and no federal parliament building. The Federal Parliament moved into the Victorian State Parliament building, and the State Parliament moved into the Western Annexe of the Exhibition Building for 26 years.
After World War One, on 04 February 1919, the exhibition Building was turned into a hospital to treat Melbournians struck down with the Spanis 'Flu'. Initially housing 500 beds, the hospital grew to accomodate 2000 patients. Femals were located between the concert platform in the western nave and the done; male patients occupied the spaces beyond. The basement was used a a morgue.
With the departure of the State Parliament in 1927 the western annexe became home to the Country Roads Board. In 1932 it was joined by the MOtor Registration Branch, and the Transport Regulation Board in 1934. They co-existedin cramped offices until the 1960s.
In 1949 the oval at the rear of the ExhibitionBuilding was leased to the Commonealth Government for the establishment of the Migrant Reception Centre. When it closed in 1961-62, the centre comrised 29 bungalows over 1.4 hectare. The centre provided temporary accomodation for thousands of new arrivals from Britain.
On 01 July 2004 the Royal Exhibition Building and Carlton Gardens were inscribed on the World Heritage List. It is the only 19th century Great Hall to survive largely intact, still in its original landscape setting, and still used as a palace of industry.
The Melbourne International Flower and Garden Show is a flower show held annually since 1995 in early April each year, in Melbourne, Australia. It is located in the World Heritage Site of Carlton Gardens and the Royal Exhibition Building. It is the largest horticultural event in the southern hemisphere, attracting over 100,000 visitors. It is rated among the top five flower and garden shows in the world. (Wikipedia)
Colour photograph of the interior of the Melbourne Exhibition Buildings during the 2019 Melbourne Flower and Garden Show.
Four mottoes are painted under teh windows of the dome: Dei Grecia (By the grace of God), Carpe diem (Make the most of the day), Aude sapere (Dare to be wise) and Benigno numine (With benighn power)