Foy and Gibson Department Store

Pony rides on Foys rooftop. Photo courtesy of the Bulpit family
Old Melbourne - Foys Rooftop Carnival
Christmas at Foys was a big event. Source
Foy and Gibson, commonly called Foys by its patrons, was an iconic department store in Bourke St Melbourne, up until 1967, when the company sold out to David Jones. Foys had been built on the site of the old Orient Hotel, which was knocked down to build the massive store.

Foys was famous for its toy department and the annual Christmas rooftop carnival - many a Mebournian child was taken into the store to meet Father Christmas and receive a wrapped present. The logistics of hosting a carnival, complete with ponies, merry-go-rounds etc on a rooftop in a busy city location must have been daunting.  On the Museum Victoria website, English immigrant John Woods, whose photograph appears at right, and who remembers the rooftop carnival well, recalls:
I also remember an annual rooftop carnival on the Foys building. There was a ferris wheel which virtually hung over the edge of the building and could be seen from the street below. It was an exciting ride because it felt as if you were falling from the top of the building into Bourke street.~ Museum Victoria
Even a train ride. Photo courtesy of the Bulpit family.
Fun in the sky. Merry go round on Foys rooftop. Photo courtesy of the Bulpit family

Foys in Collingwood
In addition to the Bourke store, Foys occupied a large complex of buildings, designed by architect William Pitt, in Collingwood, incorporating Oxford Street, Cambridge Street, Stanley Street, Peel Street, Little Oxford Street and  Wellington Street.
Foy and Gibson, resplendent at night  on the corner of Swanstonand  Bourke St. Melbourne Source: State Library

At its height, the dominating factory complex contained "two miles of mills", employed around 2000 people and made most of the supplies that filled the Foy stores. The Foy and Gibson factory complex and retail stores in Smith Street, were an integral part of the area until most of the retail buildings were pulled down in the late 60s. Parts of the factory complex architecture survives however and are now  on the Heritage Victoria Register.

Postcard of Smith St Collingwood. Image from the State Library, Shirley Jones Collection
Mark Foy and William Gibson
The creator of this commercial empire was draper, Mark Foy, who, lured by the gold rush, emigrated from Ireland to Victoria in 1858. After knocking around the gold fields for a few years, he must have decided there was more fortune to be had in supply than extraction and he opened a drapers store in Smith Street Collingwood in 1870. It was a canny move, as by the end of the decade the drapers store had grown to occupy six shops.

After successfully building up the business, Mark Foy decided to retire and travel and passed on the business to his son Francis and a new partner, William Gibson, who came from a family of clothier manufacturers in Edinburgh and had arrived in Australia in 1882 - thus Foy and Gibson. Unfortunately, Mark Foy died on his travels, in San Francisco in 1884, however, after his departure from the firm, Foys continued to go from strength to strength under the guidance of William Gibson and Foys stores sprung up inner city Prahan and in three States - Perth, Adelaide and Queensland. The huge Bourke street store was built in the 1930s.

The Skipping Girl

Collingwood Historical Society.
Museum Victoria