The north-west corner of Brisbane and Charles streets has long been a landmark in Launceston.
In 1927 the old dilapidated Hatton & Laws pharmacy known as ‘The Corner’ was demolished to make way for a modern two-storey building.
John Gell Towers established his chemist and druggist business in November 1844. He moved into his newly-erected premises in September 1849, but left for Geelong in 1853 and his brother-in-law, Joseph Douglas Hatton, took charge of the business. Later, Horace Laws became a partner.
The firm flourished and expanded, eventually coming under the management of Frederic Holmes. After his death in 1916 three of his sons ran the businesses.
When the newspapers revealed plans for a new chemist shop on this corner in August 1927 there was nostalgia for the passing of an old friend.
A red electric flambeau lantern was a familiar sight in front of the old building and the coloured glass in its doors was the first used in Launceston.
An Examiner reporter reflected that even though ‘historic associations often impress more than the very latest designs … those of the old “corner” doubtless will be perpetuated to some extent in the new.’
Mayor HCL Barber opened the ‘splendid new shop’ on December 21, 1927. Designed by architect Thomas Tandy and built by J. & T. Gunn, the brick premises had large show windows in oxidised copper frames with artistic leadlights above, the rounded corner inscribed with Hatton & Laws, Corner Pharmacy.
Particularly noteworthy was the Tasmanian hardwood and blackwood parquet floor. Tas oak showcases, counter, cash desk and dispensing unit were offset by white walls.
A 1932 extension of four single-storey Charles Street shops designed by Harold Masters and built by J. T. Farmilo and Sons used new methods of construction.
The floor made from hollow gypsum blocks was a first for Tasmania, and the walls were reinforced concrete. The Holmes brothers modernised their own premises at the same time.
Alterations in 1938, designed by John McDowell Anderson and Associates and built by Hinman, Wright and Manser, added a second storey to the shops.
An extra two stories built in the laneway flush with the Commercial Travellers’ Association housed Gough’s Salon on the ground floor and a new ‘art deco’-style upper façade inscribed with ‘Holmes Building’ harmonised the new with the old.
Now with change imminent again, hopefully the unique features of a bygone era are retained.