Perth is missing something. And it’s quite an odd thing to be lacking. Gargoyles. Think of the gothic building in Ghostbusters. Yes, it was fictional, but compare the very real Chrysler Building.
Perth has a number of buildings of a similar age—if not quite the scale—but we never got gargoyles. Instead there were relief figures of historical significance, from zoology and mythology, symbolic and emblematic figures, but no gargoyles.
One of the most notable figures surmounted the façade of the Atlas Building: a life-size figure of Atlas himself supporting a globe. This was also modelled in terracotta and finished in an ivory colour, with the globe made of sheet copper. Although the building still exists, Atlas was removed in the late 1960s when the roof was renovated.
On William Street you could have seen the fierce features of a Viking chief and just below a parapet which crowned with the prows of three Viking galleys. Unimaginatively, this was called Viking House.
In Hay Street there was a butchers which had a row of heads representing the bullock, sheep and pig. Another building had St. George in the midst of his heroic battle with the dragon. Three more dragons looked on from the façade of an adjacent building.
A large number of the buildings of Perth used to be crowned with black swans, for obvious reasons. One of the best adorned the Mechanic’s Institute, floating serenely amongst carved reeds and rushes.
His Majesty’s Theatre is still capped by five huge lions contentedly resting upon the parapet. There are also several dragons woven into the design.
In Barrack Street one panel contained the visor and lances of a knight. While on the opposite side of the road, ten identical moustached faces gazed serenely over the traffic.
Although the majority of significant buildings on St. George’s Terrace were constructed when decoration was out of fashion, a couple of banks had faces above their entrances, one being that of a Maori.
But still, no gargoyles. Why did we miss out?