William Pitt was an acclaimed architect and political figure from Australia. His architectural contribution to the city of Melbourne is unparalleled. He was one of the pivotal creative forces that led to the creation of a unique identity of the city. With his bold, Neo-Gothic and Second Empire styles, Pitt blatantly exhibited opulence and exuberance. He designed some of the most legendary and famous buildings like the Princess Theatre, St Kilda Town Hall, Queens Bridge, Bryant and May Factory, Wellington Opera House, Rialto Buildings, Olderfleet Buildings and the Victoria Brewery. He became one of the most sought after architects during the time of the land boom in Melbourne. His legacy continues to live on and his designs can be seen in some of the grandest buildings lining Collins Street, Melbourne. He was part of the Gothic revival movement and worked during the Second Empire styles of architecture. He also specialised in designing theatres and interiors. Some of his acclaimed works of interior designing include works in Melbourne, Ballarat, Sydney, Adelaide, Wellington and Auckland. He also served as the member of the Victorian Legislative Council North Yarra Province.
Childhood & Early Life
William Pitt was born on June 4, 1855, in Melbourne, Australia, to William Pitt, an artist and his wife, Jane. His parents had emigrated from Sunderland in England.
He grew up in the suburban neighbourhood of St Kilda, Melbourne, Victoria. He attended the Hofwyl School in St Kilda and later went to the George Henry Neighbour's college in Carlton.
He later relocated to the suburb of Abbotsford. In 1875, he commenced his understudy in the field of architecture.
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In 1877, he worked on the renovation and re-opening of the renowned building, The Princess Theatre. This building had one of the first sliding roofs and ceiling in the world.
In 1879, he earned his first big break in the field of architecture, after he bagged a project to design the Melbourne Coffee Palace. This project also won him an award.
In 1883, he was offered the project to design the Gordon House apartments, which were located in Little Bourke Street, Melbourne. This was one of his first designs to fit into the gothic style genre.
In 1887, he was elected as the Vice-president of the Victorian Institute of Architects. This phase, proved to be a very successful for him and he had the freedom to experiment with all kinds of gothic styles.
In 1888, one of his most ambitious and large scale projects, The Federal Coffee Palace was constructed. At that time, this was one of Melbourne’s largest and tallest buildings. It was demolished in later years.
In 1888, he was elected to the City of Collingwood's council and became a mayor in 1890. He retired from the council in 1894. He was also a member of the Victorian Legislative Council, North Yarra Province.
Built in 1890, the Kilda Town Hall, which is the city hall of St Kilda, Australia, was designed by him. This building was designed in the Neoclassical architectural, classical revival style of the mid-18th century.
Around 1890, his financial status was not that healthy and eventually his assets dwindled down and he had to declare bankruptcy. In spite of this, he was appointed as the commissioner Melbourne Board of Works, the next year.
In 1901, he was appointed as the chairman of the Melbourne Harbor Trust. In the next year, he also set foot into the world of residential space designing and went on to design the Avalon Mansion at 70 Queens Road.
In 1903, he remodelled the interiors of the famous Her Majesty's Theatre, Sydney, which was located on the 107 Quay Street, Australia. This building was later demolished.
He was the architect behind the Bryant and May Factory, located in Cremorne in Melbourne, Australia. This was constructed in 1909 but was later purchased by a British company.
Opened in 1914, the Opera House in Wellington was one of his main creations. This is located in New Zealand and the building of this was also supervised by a local architect named, Albert Liddy.
Some of the other buildings designed by him include: the Victorian Racing Club, Sir Charles Hotham Hotel, the Denton Hat Mills, Old Rialto Building, former Melbourne Stock Exchange, the Rialto Buildings, Olderfleet Buildings and the Victoria Brewery.
Awards & Achievements
In 1880, he received the first prize for his design of the Queens Bridge, which was situated over the Yarra River.
Personal Life & Legacy
He married Elizabeth Mary Liddy on October 23, 1889.
He died on 25 May 1918, at the age of 62, in Abbotsford. He was laid to rest at the St Kilda General Cemetery.
The famous buildings of Melbourne such as Princess Theatre, Queens Bridge, Wellington Opera House and Victoria Brewery have been designed by this renowned architect.