Built on a site that was acquired in 1890 for 96,000 pounds by the Equitable Life Assurance Society of the United States as a “site for offices”, 350 George Street has long been an integral part of the central CBD streetscape, symbolising power, wealth and prosperity.
When the building was completed in 1895, Equitable Life was the wealthiest life insurance company in the world. They occupied the entire first floor of the building, with the remainder – including two impressive banking chambers – available for letting. An early notable occupant of the building’s upper floors was the pioneer Australian feminist and advocate for female suffrage, Maybanke Wolstenholme, who ran her journal, Woman’s Voice, and the Women’s Federation League from offices within the building.
In 1923, the National Mutual Life Association acquired Equitable Life, and remained headquartered there until 1977. During World War II, the original glass crown that domed the internal stairwell was dismantled (and lost), while the lower ground floor was converted into an air-raid shelter.
This space later became home to the Savarin Café, which remained there until about 1953, when the northern half of the lower ground floor became home to Australia’s first Arthur Murray dance studio.
In 1984, the building was comprehensively renovated for use as the headquarters of Societe-Generale Australia. During this restoration work, the leadlight ceiling in the atrium was restored; while other work required a Belgian quarry to be reopened in order to obtain marble that would match the original.