The Coop’s Shot Tower, now sitting under the glass cone of Melbourne Central, used to be one of the tallest buildings in Melbourne.
Melbourne’s streets were only vaguely marked out in a muddle by convict gangs until Robert Hoddle set up a grid system in the 1830s across the city. These early colonists were determined to tame the native landscapes but, while most of Melbourne’s swampland had disappeared by the 1840s, emus could still be seen making their way along Elizabeth Street in defiance of Hoddle’s plan.
The discovery of gold in the 1850s meant Victoria’s population increased by almost five times in a decade. Businesses sprung up all over Melbourne to take advantage of the boom. The Menzies Hotel popped up on La Trobe Street and is still there today… minus the lion cage in its dining room. Around ten large buildings were constructed each week in the growing city. Coop’s Shot Tower was one of the largest, reaching around fifty metres high once completed in 1889 (six metres above the city’s building limit at the time).
The Tower produced around six tons of lead shots a week. To make the shot, molten lead was poured along perforated streams at the top of the tower to break the liquid up into droplets. The droplets formed spheres and cooled as they fell down the Tower’s fifty metre drop and finally hit a trough of water at the bottom. Imperfect shots were discarded and the rest were bagged. Just two decades after opening, production at the Tower came to an end as factories opened up further out of the city.
Jumping on in time to the 1960s, Melbourne City Council started planning an underground railway. By 1991 a developer from Japan, Kumagai Gumi, was awarded a contract to transform the site with the 20 story glass waffle cone that still encases the Tower in Melbourne Central . You’re unlikely to hear the ping of shots falling down as you walk past it today, but head into the museum and have a look inside the old chimney just in case.
Check out the Coop’s Shot Tower Museum here.