This bank comprises several amalgamated buildings on the north-east corner of Collins and Queen streets, most notably the Gothic Bank built in 1883-87 for the English, Scottish and Australian Chartered Bank (ES&A). Designed by William Wardell and commissioned by ES&A general manager Sir George Verdon, the Gothic Bank was voted Victoria's favourite building by Age readers in 1987. A showpiece of Melbourne architecture and a feature of its banking landscape, it was considered by Robin Boyd to be the most distinguished Gothic Revival building in Australia, superior even to the major cathedrals.
An unusual combination of taste, money and talent produced this masterpiece of Marvellous Melbourne, but Verdon's vision of a building 'worthy of the city' was essentially Wardell's creation. The Pyrmont sandstone façade shows English, French and especially Venetian Gothic influences. Richly decorated cast-iron columns in the banking chamber support a bold, breathtaking ceiling, where the bolt heads and spandrel openings are coated in pure gold leaf and each group of four columns effectively frames a painted panel portraying the arms of the bank or one of its major places of operation. The upper floors, once Verdon's residence, were also lavishly ornamented.
The building's history proves the possibilities of heritage conservation coexisting with progress. In the 1920s ES&A extended the banking chamber eastwards into the adjoining Stock Exchange and Safe Deposit Building. This L-shaped structure (built 1889-91 and designed by William Pitt) had frontages to Collins and Queen streets. Its magnificent public hall, now known as the Cathedral Room, was incorporated into the banking chamber in 1950. ES&A's successor, Australia & New Zealand Banking Group Ltd, undertook restoration and redevelopment of the site in 1990-93, when a modern office tower was built at the rear (near Little Collins Street) and connected to the other buildings by a glass-roofed atrium.