The Shot Tower
When I hopped off city circle tram at Melbourne Central in Latrobe Street and went up the escalators into Melbourne Central shopping centre, I stood transfixed to see this huge brick tower inside a glass cone. What a wonderful way to preserve this historically important old building in the middle of Melbourne Central shopping complex. It looks incredible and took one completely by surprise.
Known as Coop’s shot tower,operated by four generations of the Coop family, who also managed Clifton Hill Shot Tower. Coop’s Shot Tower sits in the heart of the Melbourne CBD. The Shot Tower has a history dating from its completion in 1888, to its closure in 1961, then saved from demolition in 1973. In 1991 a new plan decided to incorporate the shot tower in the Melbourne Central complex as a special feature underneath an 84 m-high glazed steel and glass cone.
Coop’s shot tower stands 50 metres high(165-ft), it has nine storeys, and 327 steps to the top. Imagine climbing 327 steps at work every day? The building in Romanesque style, has a campanile or bell tower style central tower, above a two storey factory with five arched openings.
The historic site listed on the Victorian Heritage Register.
Six tonnes of lead shot produced weekly
The Tower closed down in 1961, up until that time the shot tower produced six tonnes of lead shot weekly. To produce lead shot, molten lead dropped from a copper sieve at the top of the tower forms tiny spherical balls, solidifying and cooling as they fall. The lead balls caught and cooled in water placed at the bottom of the tower. The height of the tower paramount to allow the shot to form properly before reaching the bottom. The lead shot was mostly used for shotguns and rifles – shooting being a popular pastime for sport, food and self-defense. New firearm regulations around this time caused a big drop in the demand for lead shot and forced the closure of the shot tower.
The Glass Cone
Interestingly the glazed steel and glass cone is 20 storeys high, weighs 490 tonnes and has 924 glass panels. It is the largest glass structure of its type in the world. The glass panels cleaned with a specially designed mechanical system. The idea of a specially designed mechanical system reminds me of the mechanical robot designed to clean the 3000 glass panes in the huge “Motenashi” dome at the Kanazawa railway station in Japan.
Shot Tower Museum
Visit the Shot Tower Museum set up inside the tower at the back of RM Williams, a tenant in the tower. The Museum is the first public space dedicated to the history of Melbourne, featuring next generation gesturing technology. The new-state-of-the art-technology tells the fascinating history of Melbourne, and history relevant to the Shot Tower from its earliest beginnings as a manufacturer of lead shot. Are you into new technology, you’ll love this!
There are also remnants of the original shot making equipment at the Museum. The shot tower stood as the tallest building in Melbourne and a favorite landmark at the time. The history of the shot tower travels through the years to the present day with its culmination as a focal point in Melbourne Central’s classy retail centre.
Don’t forget School Holidays will be here again soon.
Entry to the Shot Tower Museum is free.
Clifton Hill Shot Tower
The Shot Tower at Clifton Hill, built in 1882, purchased by the Coop family in 1896 as a family business, which they operated until 1947. The shot tower stands 80.16 metres (263 ft) tall. The Clifton Hill shot tower resembles a very tall, straight, elegant, red brick chimney. The Tower, constructed in Romanesque style, has semi-circular arched windows, decorative brick bands and polychrome patterns. A beautiful piece of architecture in its own right.
The Clifton Hill shot tower is one of only five shot tower’s built in Australia, possibly the tallest shot tower in the nation.
Clifton Hill Shot Tower is also on the Victorian Heritage register.
Clifton Hill lies 4 km north-east of Melbourne’s Central Business District (CBD).
Address: 94 Alexandra Parade Clifton Hill
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