Smuggling? Love. Racism ? In Melbourne 1878? Sketching in 2017 resurfaces it

Sketching an old building that I admired in 1983 when I worked around the corner, made me look further into its history. 112 Little Burke st in Chinatown looks a little unloved now, but holds a lot of history around it. Now the dumpling village the building was completed February 8 1887. Designed by the architect DeLacy Evans who designed Melbournes Parliament House!  It’s called the Sum Kum Lee building and was built for Lowe Kong Meng who at the time was a wealthy businessman, ship owner and philanthropist. 

The Argus newspaper of 1882 wrote a story of smuggled goods (including 250,000 cigars, spirits &Amore) being found on the property of the first Sum Kum Lee building, goods stamped with SKL on them. But no one owned up to them so no charges were brought about……..it was the times of the gold rush, and the north eastern end of Melbourne was ” well known for its criminal elements “! Squizzy Taylor was based in this area at later dates

I don’t know why Lowe Kong Meng named his buildings Sum Kum Lee… but he had the £ to have the best known architect design his second building for his wife that he married in Tasmania, (he got around), Mary Anne Prussia. The SKL building was “first class” with thought regarding shade and lighting. ” a beautiful building in an unfortunate location” one newspaper said. 


It is supposed be a western interpretation of Chinese style. It took me a lot to see the Chinese influence…..

Before SKL building was completed Lowe Kong Meng was already influential, and was co author of a pamphlet regardng “The Chinese Question in Australia “. Upon reading today I can see ripples of the present! 

He later became board member of the Commercial bank of Australia. Research on Lowe Kong Meng
But now I am puzzled Lowe Kong Meng died 1888 yet this building finished 1887, yet he brought his wife here in 1860 and was said to have brought her to SKL building…. and he died at his Malvern home in 1888  which was two homes after SKL….?…I think the heritage base may be wrong….Ballarat times mention the house/building in 1863

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