Control Data Australia Memories compiled by Brian Membrey

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Charlton

598 St. Kilda Road

"Expansion for Control Data Corporation"

"A new £500,000 home for Control Data Corporation in Melbourne by 1966".

"A six-storey building with more than 40,000 sq. feet of floor space is being built in St. Kilda Road, Melbourne, for Control Data Australia Pty Ltd. at a cost of £500,000.

"The corner site, which has been a vacant block, has a frontage of 80 feet to St. Kilda Road and 250 feet to Lorne Street.

"The fully air-conditioned building is being built for Control Data by Regent's Park Land (Australia) and is due for completion by mid-1966.  "Additional open-air car parking facilities will be available of the north side of the building.


"It will comprise a basement car park for 42 vehicles and six floors above ground to conform with height limitations.


"Initially, Control Data will occupy the first three floors for administrative offices, a computer services bureau, and lecture theatres for training computer engineers, programmers and operators.  "The top three floors surplus to Control Data's immediate needs will be available for leasing through the managing agents, Jones, Lang and Wootton.

"Control Data Australia Pty. Ltd. is the Australian subsidiary of Control Data Corporation of Minneapolis, U.S.A.

"In the past year, Control Data has delivered 11 high-speed computers in Australia and another nine are on order.  The value of the computers and their peripheral equipment exceeds £6 million. "Installations include national networks for the Commonwealth Bureau of Census and Statistics – each headed by a 3600, the most powerful computer brought here yet.

"The company will also deliver a specialized computer system to Victoria's TAB near the end of the year to speed up off-course betting operations".        

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History

Some brief research reveals that the site was first developed around 1920 and was originally known as "Charlton".

Despite the relatively narrow frontage, (actually 79 feet), the "Charlton" must have been a substantial building - the few references to it always have it as 598 St. Kilda Road, but it almost certainly must have utilised the Lorne Street side (a depth of 250 feet).  Most blocks in St. Kilda Road were 100-foot frontages, suggesting Lorne Street may have been built or widened after the area was originally surveyed.

There a few references to the building.  It was offered for sale in 1926 as four bedrooms, three reception rooms and a billiard room, but in 1930 when sold off as part of a liquidation sale (H. Walters Pty. Ltd.), the advertisement added a swimming pool, ballroom, conservatory and separate garage and cottage, almost certainly fronting Queen's Lane.  There was no reference to a billiard room at that point, perhaps this had been converted to the ballroom.

There are no references in Trove beyond the 1930 sale, but Sands and MacDougall directories do confirm that the 598 site had been vacant for a couple of years before construction started, the last occupier listed Mr. Clarence Clairin in 1961.

The Argus, 8 April, 1926

Control Data first appeared at 598 in the 1967 directory (compiled Autumn 1966), the only other tenant then listed as Austin Public Relations, although I think Census and Stats leased half a floor.

In 1971, tenants were listed as Commercial Public Relations; Reliance Securities Pty. Ltd, financiers, Austin

Public Relations, R. E. Ross, civil engineers, and Hill View Quarries Pty Ltd.  (R. E. Ross and Hill View are believed to be part of the same corporate structure).

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Rather surprisingly, (other than Bill Austin and a door marked Hill View Quarries, I don't recall the others), the latter three were still listed in 1974, although Ross Engineers had become Ross Nominees Pty.Ltd.

Just what happened to the building after Control Data moved to 598 is a mystery to me - presumably it was let out, but I can't recall any major tenants and unfortunately Sands and MacDougall directories had ceased publication many years beforehand..

598 was extensively renovated in 1990 and converted into an apartment block.  Two additional floors were added, one residential and the upper floor comprising a gymnasium, sauna and swimming pool as well as an open barbeque area.

While it was still under construction, the old P.S.D. Operations area which Tom Kopp, myself and a clerical assistant (Jan Lippold) occupied around 1974 on the fifth floor on the south-western corner was converted to a two bedroom display unit, price from memory around $395,000, but something of a downer was around $400 per month in Body Corporate fees to support the seventh floor recreational area.

Anyone viewing the building today will have few problems recognising the old girl - while the two new floors offer a new hairdo and hat and semi-circular balconies add a few frills, the basic design remains clearly obvious.

There are a couple of offices on the ground floor on the St. Kilda Road side, and a quick count of letter boxes in the foyer suggests 49 apartments. The basement is virtually unchanged other than a more sophisticated security system (but you can still see in via the little half-moon windows along Lorne Street).

The open car park on the north side remains but is now only accessible by a security gate which a sign suggests is Alarmed.   I did a brief check around the immediate vicinity, but certainly did not uncover anything of ominous intent, so I think the gate can sleep easy and put its Alarm to rest!

One thing I couldn't check is what happened to the toilets, rather oddly located during Control Data's time alternatively between floors - meaning a lapse in concentration or perhaps minor disorientation while on another floor could lead to some embarrassing moments (always accidental, of  course)!

I think Control Data established a presence at 493 St. Kilda Road in 1982, but it was way past my time - I believe initially this was initially an adjunct to 598 (with a Word Processing Centre?), but I'm uncertain as to what happened to 598 past this point. Perhaps someone can provide feedback as to what areas remained, if any, at 598.

My recollection of the floor plan during the early 1970s is below, but there are a few areas I'm hazy on and again any feedback would help.

Certainly one forgettory that is throwing me (and a few others) is an area on the second or third floor where we regularly had Friday evening wine and cheese nights - suggestions at the August, 2013 lunch was that this was the second floor towards the Queen's Lane end, but we're open to other thoughts.  And the location of the tenants!

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The Sale

The building, then owned by a superannuation fund controlled by I.C.I. was sold early in 1983 to property developer, Harry Lew for a price only suggested as "over $2 million".  Reports later in the year after something of a boom in property values suggested that  598 had been fully refurbished and placed the potential lease or sale value as potentially $4.75 million or slightly over $100 per square metre plus outgoings.  The Age, 20 September, 1983.  

A sale price of around $2.2 million equates to approximately 9 percent per annum return on the quoted cost of building of $500,000 in 1966, but it was not clear from the report in The Australian as to whether the half-million included cost of the land.

I couldn't trace anything further as to whether the building was sold, but it did continue to leased out to a number of business clients until around 1989 when it was earmarked for reedvelopment as apartments..

History (Lorne Street)

Lorne Street until the mid-1930s was regarded as the boundary between the municipalities of South Melbourne and St. Kilda between St. Kilda and Queen's Road.  From then onwards, the two thoroughfares were regarded as part of Melbourne for postal purposes, although with different postcodes split at Park Street (598 was originally part of designation SC4, later 3004).  

Up until around 1904, Lorne Street was known as Fraser Street - the change was probably made as there was a Fraser Street included in the rapidly developing Middle Park, also part of the City of South Melbourne. (For the record, what we remember as the cream-brick flats on the other side of Lorne Street and where Control Data Business Advisors were originally located was originally "Mitiamo".  

There were still extensive blocks of vacant land being advertised - one double-block tract of 200 feet on St. Kilda Road just south of Lorne/Fraser Street and extending 250 feet to Queen's Lane still available in 1910.    Why Lorne Street?

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Western end (to Queen's Lane)

Eastern end (to St. Kilda Road)

Basement

Car Park

Car Park

Ground

Data Services customer area, reception

Computer room

First

Data Services sales and administration, later recreation area,

Analyst rabbit warren (where we were thrown a stale loaf of bread every Friday morning)

Second

Accounts

Customer Engineering? or was this third floor

Third

Mail room, I.D.P., ?????

Library, Facilities, ????

Fourth

Systems sales and pre-sales

H.R., Traffic, sundry offices on northern side

Fifth

Regional offices, including P.S.D.

Executive offices

Below : The image below shows the railway bridge over St. Kilda Road which was part of the late 1850’s loop from St. Kilda to Brighton.  This crossed St. Kilda Road around Union Street, about a block south of Lorne Street.  The line opened in late 1859, but the loop lasted less than a year before a more direct connection via South Yarra and Prahran was opened.

The embankments through the Albert Park Reserve remained until around 1880 when most of the material, including a substantial amount of clay was removed to provide the filling for foundations of what was then known as the Sandridge Military Road between Sandridge (Port Melbourne) and the Esplanade in St. Kilda, the road on completion named Beaconsfield Parade at the behest of the Emerald Hill (South Melbourne) Council in whose municipality most of the new thoroughfare laid.

598 is probably around the cluster of buildings just to the right of the left-hand stanchion. Sadly, none of the directories around this time show St. Kilda Road, the buildings remain unknown.

The original is held by the State Library of Victoria and is hand-marked 1868, but it is probably from 1862 or 1863.  The second almost identical etching to the right is credited to Arthur Wilsmore and with the additional of some livestock and a couple of pedestrians appeared in "Victoria Illustrated"( Second Series), a collection of etchings published by Sands and McDougall in 1863.

Plenty of on-street parking, but don't expect a train real soon! Right is early 1860s showing the St. Kilda - Brighton loop from Punt Road to Windsor Station after the direct link from South Yarra had been established.