ASPRO in Southbank

President, Australian Art Deco & Modernism Society The headache remedy called ASPRO has probably been used by all Australians at some stage and it has a strong link to Southbank. When the importation of German aspirin was stopped at the beginning of the Great War (1914-18), the Commonwealth Government offered an immediate manufacturing licence to any Australian who could manufacture a headache remedy. George Nicholas, who was practising as a chemist at St Kilda, developed a new product and the history of “ASPRO” began. George and his brother Alfred went into partnership and began business in 1915 with a few tablet machines. The need for aspirin was urgent, and the Nicholas family learnt quickly about how to market and mass-produce their product. As the company expanded rapidly, they moved to Flinders Lane, Melbourne, but soon realised they needed a bigger site. They had a building in City Rd (No. 10, next to the Glaciarium ice-skating rink) and they turned to young architect Harry Norris, who was just starting out in practice, to provide plans for re-modelling the building in the latest “modern” style. The “Aspro Buildings”, featuring offices and manufacturing plant, was completed in 1920. It was a handsome building in the Commercial Palazzo style, beneath a triangular neon sign that flashed out “ASPRO”. The three-storey building, about 30 metres deep, employed nearly 200 staff, both office and factory employees, including many from the local area. They used the latest machinery to accurately weigh and stamp out millions of tablets per week and ASPRO soon became the centre of an international enterprise. Employing Norris was a gamble by Nicholas that paid off handsomely for both – Norris carried out all the work for the Nicholas family, including renovations to family residences at Hawthorn and Point Lonsdale, a new five-storey factory for ASPRO on an adjoining block in South Melbourne, and the Nicholas Building, the company’s speculative office block in Swanston St, in 1926. The City Rd building remained as the headquarters for ASPRO until the 1950s. The Nicholas family were major philanthropists and made major contributions to various charity and education causes in Victoria. But they were mainly remembered for putting their product on the shelves of every pharmacist and for their contribution to the health of the nation. ASPRO remains firmly in the lexicon of Australians with a headache! •

When the circus came to Southbank

When the circus came to Southbank

July 6th, 2022 - Robin Grow
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