George Raymond Johnson

George Raymond Johnson (7 February 1840 – 25 November 1898) was an architect who practiced in late 19th century Melbourne, Australia, known for designing numerous important buildings, especially town halls and theatres.


Johnson was born in Southgate, England (then a part of Middlesex) and at age 13 began working with George Hall, Midland Railway architect. At 19 he moved to London, presumably to continue his architectural career.[1] On 24 July 1862 he married Emma Louise Wood and, nine days later, the couple embarked on a journey of emigration to Queensland.[1] In 1867, Johnson moved to Melbourne, where he produced most of his major works. In 1898, while at sea on return to Melbourne from Perth, Western Australia, Johnson contracted sepsis, and died.[2]

Architectural works

Johnson is known today for the design of a number of town halls across Victoria, notably the impressive Collingwood Town Hall, probably the most elaborate of the grand towered Second Empire style town halls that characterised the boom years of Melbourne in the 1880s, but he achieved contemporary renown for his theatres in Melbourne, Sydney and Adelaide (perhaps perhaps as many as fifteen[3]), now all demolished.[1] Johnson's greatest contemporary acclaim came from his design for the extensive northern additions to Reed & Barnes's grand 1880 Exhibition Building for the Centennial Exhibition of 1888, removed soon after the Exhibition.[2]

Johnson's major works, notably all the town halls and the theatres, were Renaissance Revival in style, and its variations including Free Classical, Italianate, Second Empire or Mannerist.[1][2] Many were designed "with bold and rich character from Johnson's mannerist palette, an idiom in which he was a master."[2] Amongst his many smaller projects such as shops, houses and hotels, some are no doubt Gothic in character, but his largest project in this idiom was the first buildings for the Hospital for Incurables, now the Austin Hospital, (1881, demolished) which were Venetian Gothic in polychrome brick.[1]

A selection of Johnson's notable buildings are listed below. For a complete list of known works, see the database compiled by Johnson's descendant, architect Peter Johnson, included in Hannan (2006).[1]

Building Location Year Type Note
Prince of Wales Opera HouseBourke Street, Melbourne, Victoria,1872theatredemolished 1900
Eastern ArcadeBourke Street, Melbourne, Victoria1872retailmodified 1894, demolished 2008[4]
North Melbourne Town HallNorth Melbourne, Victoria1876town hallNow Trading As Arts House
Theatre Royal, AdelaideHindley Street, Adelaide1878theatredemolished 1962
Metropolitan Meat MarketNorth Melbourne, Victoria1880commercialNow a performance and events venue

Trading as Meat Market

Austin Hospital for IncurablesHeidelberg, Victoria1882otherdemolished c1970
Cathedral Hotel (1882-3), Swanston Street, north east corner of Flinders Lane, Melbourne 1883 hotel demolished c1970
Daylesford Town HallDaylesford, Victoria1882town hall
Collingwood Town HallCollingwood, Victoria1885town hall
Criterion TheatreCnr Pitt and Park Street, Sydney1886theatredemolished 1935
Centennial Exhibition Annexes to Exhibition BuildingCarlton, Victoria1887otherdemolished 1889
Northcote Town HallNorthcote, Victoria1887town hall
Fitzroy Town Hall additionsFitzroy, Victoria1887town hall
Maryborough Town HallMaryborough, Victoria1887town hall
Bijou TheatreBourke Street, Melbourne, Victoria1889theatredemolished 1934
"Battle of Waterloo" Cyclorama 55 Victoria Parade, Fitzroy 1889 entertainment demolished 1927
Kilmore Town HallKilmore, Victoria1894town hall
Theatre Royal (interior only)[5] Hay Street, Perth 1897 theatre interior now shops, exterior survives


  1. Hannan, Bill (2006). Pride of Hotham. North Melbourne: Hotham History Project. ISBN 0-9586111-7-3.
  2. Johnson, Peter. Johnson, George Raymond (1840–1898), Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University, accessed 16 August 2011.
  3. Peterson, Richard (2005). "Edgewater Towers". A Place of Sensuous Resort: Buildings of St Kilda and Their People. St Kilda Historical Society.
  4. Hamish Heard (10 September 2008). "Demolition anger". Melbourne Leader. Archived from the original on 5 October 2011. Retrieved 18 August 2011.
  5. "OPENING OF THE THEATRE ROYAL. ' THE SILVER KING.' The West Australian (Perth, WA : 1879 - 1954) - 21 Apr 1897 - p3". Trove. Retrieved 29 October 2019.

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