A new page of Geelong’s history opened in 1909 when plans were announced to redevelop the untidy market square area, bordered by Malop, Yarra, Little Malop and Moorabool streets.
Back in the 1840s, when Geelong was just a growing settlement, the market square area was swamp land.
Townspeople collected their fresh water from a large tank near the corner of Little Malop and Moorabool streets.
An attempt was made to gazette the block as a public square but muddling of earlier town councils left the square with restrictions that allowed only open-market activities.
In summer it was a dust bowl and a muddy bog in winter.
The square was used as an open-air market where sellers parked produce barrows, paid a shilling (10 cents) a day for nominated spots and sold fruit, vegetables and diary produce from sunrise to 4pm every Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday.
A large area of the square was later turned into parkland and protected by a white picket fence, to keep stray animals out.
By 1909 the old Market Square with the dominating clock tower, a dusty market area and small public gardens was considered an untidy part of town.
Geelong officially gazetted a city on December 10, 1910 but celebrations, presided over by the then Mayor Alderman E. Philpott, were confined to councillors and friends, joined by the mayors of Newtown and Geelong West municipalities.
Now with city status, the 3005-acre municipality needed to expand its commercial business district
Geelong councillors argued there was sufficient public open space in the Greater Geelong area.
An Act of Parliament was passed to allow the council to lease Market Square land for building purposes
One of the first tenderers was Julius Solomon, who agreed to the terms of a lease that stated the council would become the owner of the building 50 years from the date of their completion.
Solomon opened his emporium building on the corner of Moorabool and Malop streets in 1913. This building remains today.
Soon after the Block Building along Malop Street was opened and two new streets created, Jacob and McCann streets that ran north-south between Little Malop and Malop streets.
The clock, which had been presented to the municipality by James Austin, Geelong’s second Mayor, in 1851, was removed from its tower and placed in the dome tower of the Colonial and Mutual Life Assurance building where it still continues to advise the time today.
In the 1950s, the Volkswagen dealership Folley and Mitchell was located on the corner of Yarra and Malop streets.
Among the famous buildings and businesses located along the Little Malop Street section were the Corio Stores, the art deco-style Corio Theatre, the Kit Kat tea rooms, Camera House, Suttons Music store and Bull and Owens’ Chemist.
Around the corner in Moorabool Street Solomon’s emporium occupied the entire block back to Jacobs Street.
In 1985, the Geelong City Council spent $30 million redeveloping the new Market Square complex. The project absorbed McCann and Jacobs streets and introduced Geelong shoppers to undercover shopping centres.