The Foster building is a two-storey commercial building made of hollow concrete blocks, constructed in 1908 for the prominent local landowner Askin Foster.
The Foster Building was designed by the Maffra architect Stephen Ashton. It is an early example of concrete block construction, which began to be adopted in Victoria in about 1905, when American block-making machinery became readily available. The main advantage of concrete blocks was that they could be made by owner-builders or unskilled labour on-site, using hand-operated machines, a range of moulds, and sand and gravel obtainable nearby; only the cement had to be transported. So both transport and labour costs were minimised, which explains the widespread use of concrete blocks in country areas. Concrete blocks were also fire and termite resistant. The blocks for the Foster Building were probably made onsite using one of the then most popular brands of machines, the Midget Giant Block Making Machine, which was imported from the United States. The Foster Building originally had shops at each end with residences above, and in the centre was a solicitor's office on the ground floor and Askin Foster's office upstairs. The building was described at the time as 'the most up-to-date building in Gippsland'.
The Foster Building is made of hollow concrete blocks measuring 12 x 6 x 6 inches (300 x 150 x 150 mm) laid as cavity wall construction. A variety of blocks has been used on the front facade to replicate features more usually associated with stone construction, such as a dentillated cornice, vermiculated rustication and blocks suggesting shingles beneath the upper windows. A timber framed verandah with decorative fretwork shades the footpath and a long transom window along its inner edge lights the shop windows below. The original shop fronts have all been replaced. The rear wings of the two shops and residences once enclosed a U-shape courtyard, but single storey additions at the rear of numbers 69 and 71 and the enclosing of the upper and lower verandahs have obscured the original form. Internally the ground floor shops have been altered, but many original features in the former residences have been retained, such as the room arrangements, some staircases, fireplaces, ceilings and joinery.
This site is part of the traditional land of the Gunaikurnai people.
How is it significant?
The Foster Building is of architectural significance to the state of Victoria.
Why is it significant?
The Foster Building is of architectural significance as a very early, intact and unusually ornate example of precast hollow concrete block construction. It is unusual for its use of a variety of block patterns on the front facade to replicate the appearance of a stone building, an interesting application of the new concrete block technology.