Griffiths Teas (Sydney, Australia)

On a mid-afternoon Sunday walk one weekend, an intriguing building on the corner of a busy Surry Hills intersection caught my eye. Its exterior built in the style of the 19th and early 20th century warehouse, the name 'Griffith's Teas' emblazoned both its sides in bold white letters. Just above the top of the brick-faced building, modern architectural peaks jut out, with the wedge-shape of the building and its corner positioning drawing the viewer's eyes to the pointed steeple right at the top.

Closer to street-level, the building announces Teas, Coffee and Cocoa, and upon closer inspection a small plaque provides a window into the past of this eye-catching building. 

As proclaimed by the commemorating plaque, the seven-storey Grffiths Teas building was the Sydney warehouse and factory for the Griffiths Bro's business that was founded in Melbourne in 1879. The Sydney warehouse was built in 1912 and housed James and John Griffiths' trade for the next half century.

Despite standing next to the Mark Foy's warehouse, the positioning of the Griffiths Teas building is all the more noticeable due to the design of the original architects, Kent Budden & Greenwell, who took full advantage of the corner-based positioning of the building in its overall shape.

After the decline of Griffiths Teas, the warehouse was leased out to various tenants, but then stood largely in disuse for the better part of 50 years. Recently life has been breathed into the Griffiths Teas building once again. After being acquired by Cornerstone Property Group, the building's new owners tasked architect Aleander Popov with giving Griffiths Teas a new lease on life. Looking at Google streetview, you can still see evidence of the largescale refurbishment that took place.

So what was the result? The Griffiths Teas building has been transformed into a luxury apartment complex, with sleek, modern interiors combined with exposed brickwork surfaces. This includes seven two-storey penthouses on the top floor, now home to people who I imagine are much removed from the working class origins of the Federation building. The distinguished Thai restaurant Chin Chin, also originating from Melbourne, is housed in the lower floors of the building which is the only part still accessible to the public.

And what about Griffiths Teas? The Griffiths Bro's business lives on as Griffiths Bros Coffee Roasters, coffee wholesalers who today supply cafes and restaurants from their locations in Melbourne, Adelaide and Perth.

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