Sunday, February 5, 2012

The Universal Providers

Does the ghost of Samuel Hordern visit the World Square Building in Sydney?  I wonder what he thinks, if he does.  He would probably be extremely sad to see that his great store, Anthony Hordern & Sons, has been demolished and a rather soulless apartment building on the site.  He might be pleased to see that there are still shops there, but I'd have to send him to David Jones to see a grand old department store.

The story of Anthony Hordern & Sons began when Anne and Anthony Hordern arrived in Sydney, Australia with their three children in 1825.  They were free passengers and ambitious business people.  Anthony started a coach workshop and Anne opened a drapery store. 

Eventually two of their sons opened a larger drapery store on George Street.  The emblem of the new store was an oak tree and the motto was 'While I live, I grow'.  Eventually, this partnership ended and Samuel launched a huge new department store in the Haymarket with his son, Samuel.  This grand store was advertised as 'The Universal Provider'. The Horderns could supply almost anything that people wanted. According to Anthony Horderns, Historic Houses Trust:  'The 1914 general catalogue, which extended to over 1500 pages, illustrated the opening of a fine art gallery in Hordern's Brickfield Hill store and featured marble statuary, French bronzes, the finest hand cut crystal glass and ceramics by Royal Doulton, Wedgwood and Royal Copenhagen'. The Horderns soon had six outlets in the city and  employed 3,500 people.

A terrible fire burned the store down in 1901 but another huge store was built, called the Palace Emporium.  This opened in 1905.  The main entrance was filled with Italian marble and no expense was spared on the fittings.  These included iron castings and embossed steel ceilings.  The marble was imported but many of the other features were made in the Hordern factories.

Oak tree seedlings were given when the store celebrated its centenary in 1938.  Many of the oak trees still dot the city.

The store was sold by the Horderns in 1926. Unfortunately, the store came to be regarded as old-fashioned and began to decline in the 1950's.  The building was demolished in 1987.

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