What is significant?
The Sum Kum Lee Building is in the heart of Chinatown and was constructed 1887-88 for wealthy merchant and Chinese community leader, Lowe Kong Meng. It was designed by architect George De Lacy Evans and is a three storey brick building with basement. It served as a business warehouse and residence until 1889 when it was occupied by the publishers of the newspaper Table Talk. The newspaper vacated the building in 1903 and it has since had a variety of commercial uses. The heavily embellished boom style classicism facade, with a Mannerist western interpretation of the Chinese style, is modelled in stucco with facing Malmsbury stone at ground level.
How is it significant?
The Sum Kum Lee Building is of historical and architectural significance to the State of Victoria.
Why is it significant?
The Sum Kum Lee building is historically significant for its long association with the Chinese community in the traditional Chinatown quarter of Little Bourke Street. It is significant for its associations with the first owner, Lowe Kong Meng, a wealthy and prominent member of the Chinese community in the 1880s. From 1889 to 1903 the building was the home of Maurice Brodzky and was the offices of his newspaper, Table Talk. This newspaper had considerable success during the depression of the 1890s exposing the corruption and financial scandals of the so-called land boomers.
The Sum Kum Lee building is architecturally significant as one of the most elaborately modelled facades in Little Bourke Street. The design is a very unusual Mannerist composition incorporating Chinese architectural motifs into an elaborate boom style classicism facade.