emu brewery (1938-1992)
James Stokes arrived in Western Australia in 1834 and established Albion Brewery, the colony’s first, at the foot of Spring Street near the banks of the Swan River in 1837. There he used the abundant cool water from the fresh spring on the property for his Colonial-brewed Malt Ale.
A succession of different owners operated the brewery until 1927 when it was purchased by Swan Brewery. In 1936 the old buildings were demolished for a new brewery and offices in the art deco style, designed by architects Oldham, Boas & Ednie-Brown. Construction was estimated to cost around £200,000 and take 12 to 15 months.
“...the buildings will comprise a two-storey office block set back from Mount Street, in an open garden space, backed by a brewhouse and fermenting and storage houses of five storeys approximately 90ft high, with an imposing facade to Mounts Bay Road. At the rear of the five-storey section, space has been left for the erection of an additional three storeys for future fermenting and storage vessels. The central block in Spring Street will be occupied by barrel and bottle departments ranging from two to four storeys, and at the northern end of Spring Street will be an engine room of three storeys and a boiler house of one storey. The whole of the work will be carried out in concrete and steel construction with brick panel walls and flat roofs. Electric lifts will be installed, and the whole building, with a floor area of 120,000 square feet, will be fireproof.”
The West Australian, 22 February 1936
To architect John Oldham’s design, Perth sculptor Edward Kohler then crafted a decorative bas-relief border for the top (front and sides) of the main building, each panel depicting a different brewing stage. Kohler’s work can still be seen in Piccadilly Arcade (constructed in the same year) and the physics and chemistry panels at UWA.
When complete, drawings of the new brewery featured on every bottle and can of Emu Export beer.
Emu Brewery was the last industrial structure in the CBD and produced all its beer brands here until the late 1970s, when its operations were moved to new facilities at Canning Vale.
The brewery remained empty and became derelict after the continued refusal of Jim McGinty, the Heritage Minister of the time, to place the building on the heritage register. Its controversial demolition began in 1991.
"The old Emu Brewery site has been one of Perth’s most contentious vacant plots, with several development proposals falling over at the penultimate stage."
Dan Wilkie, Business News, 25 July 2014
The site changed hands several times until purchased in 2010 by AAIG Pty Ltd for $49.5m. It remained cleared, an open sore on Perth’s landscape, until 2013 when construction commenced on the $350m Capital Square development; new headquarters for Woodside Energy, a 40-storey residential apartment tower, and a 34-floor hotel.
Up until a few years ago, it was said Stokes’ cool, clear spring was still running.