Melbourne’s first skyscraper

Melbourne’s first skyscraper is the beautiful Manchester Unity building. You will find it in the corner of Swanston and Collins Street right in the centre of town. The skyscraper was built in 1932 over only 8 months and consisting of 12 floors plus the corner tower that you see below.

This Sunday morning, Good Mrs and I ventured inside the building for a breakfast followed by a tour. We were on a mission…

Manchester Unity building – corner Collins and Swanston Streets

Good Mrs and I had booked a “Breakfast & Tour” starting at the “1932 Cafe and Restaurant” in the lobby. A beautifully refurbished space in art deco style. Note the marble on the walls.

1932 Cafe and Restaurant in the lobby of Manchester Unity building

The elevators in the lobby of the Manchester Unity building are just gorgeous. I believe that all this is pretty much original.

Manchester Unity building – Lifts at street level


Back to the “1932 Cafe and Restaurant” and even the presentation on the menus were art deco.

1932 Cafe and Restaurant – Art deco menus

Regarding our breakfast package, you received a glass of champagne on arrival.

1932 Cafe and Restaurant – Champagne start to breakfast

Following the champagne was a hot drink of choice (HDoC as we call it :-), then one item from the breakfast menu and one item from the dessert menu above.

Yes, I went Spanish yet again… I can’t help myself…

1932 Cafe and Restaurant – My Spanish breakfast

The lovely breakfast finished after around 70 minutes and then we waited by building’s original escalator below for the tour to begin.

This was Melbourne’s first escalator back in 1932. We heard that 60,000 people turned up on opening day to have a look at it and to ride it.

The “moving stairs” must surely have freaked out some people at the time.

Manchester Unity building – Melbourne’s very first escalator


Our tour guide was a lovely and knowledgeable lady who presented herself as Anna. Interesting enough, her one page printed background summary included a bio and a picture. But not her name. I’m dobbing her in here. Anna is the lady front right below.

We have now taken those escalators up to the first level as Anna shares her wisdom.

Manchester Unity building – Tour started from level 1

A short history…

After its initial heyday during the depression, the Manchester Unity building suffered incremental neglect over many years.

The building was strata titled in 1996. Individuals and small businesses could then purchased their own space within. This started a revival.

In 2002, a dental practice called Smile Solutions moved into its own space here on the level 1.

Its owner, Dr. Kia Pajouhesh, fell in love with the building. He became involved in more significant refurbishment and upgrades. He also acquired 5 of the 12 levels over time to support his dentistry as well as the tower.

From what I understood, this breakfast and tour package is a joint venture between the 1932 Cafe and Restaurant and Smile Solutions. Works for everybody…


After level 1, we rode the classic elevator up to the terrace. The first thing you see is the tower, up close and personal.

Manchester Unity building – The tower

The terrace. Benches along the edges and with occasional tables and chairs in the middle. Not today though. Can you spot Good Mrs in the photo below?

Manchester Unity building – The terrace

Looking out from the terrace. That directly opposite building with the clock tower is Melbourne Town Hall.

Manchester Unity building – View from the terrace

On level 12 in the Manchester Unity building is a still functioning boardroom. For Smile Solutions, which we heard has some 85,000-90,000 patients. So not a small enterprise. Sure this must be the envy of other corporates…

Manchester Unity building – The boardroom 1 of 4

Another look at the boardroom table. Note the prominent chair at the end. No confusion about where the boss sits…

Manchester Unity building – The boardroom 2 of 4

A former open fireplace decorated part of the boardroom. Brilliant lightning as they dimmed the room down. Art to match.

Manchester Unity building – The boardroom 3 of 4, old fireplace

Interesting story about these shoes discovered inside the walls during renovations. Apparently for good luck. Now, the shoes were on the floor in a corner of the boardroom. Great talking point.

These days, of course, it seems like throwing shoes to hang off telephone lines is the way to go.

Manchester Unity building – The boardroom 4 of 4, shoes found in wall cavity during renovations

I finish off with a photo of Dr. Kia Pajouhesh’s office in the corner of level 12. You feel like you are in a historical home, where you can look into rooms but you can not enter everywhere.

Still, much generous of Smile Solutions to make part of their working environment available as part of the tour.

Manchester Unity building – Office of Dr. Kia Pajouhesh, Owner of Smile Solutions and Chairman of Owners Corporation

In summary, a different and satisfying way of spending a few hours on a Sunday morning. In our case, the day after the federal election or Mediocracy 2016…

At $59 per person, it doesn’t come cheap, but you get to see inside a true Melbourne landmark. And you got decently fed as well… Well worth it in my view. Something different.

And following a mediocre federal election campaign, that was just what I needed…


Breakfast and Tour – what we did

1932 Cafe and Restaurant Facebook page – they don’t appear to have a website

Smile Solutions – the dentistry which occupies 5 of the 12 levels