1928

“Every great story on the planet happened when someone decided not to give up, but kept going no matter what.” – Spryte Loriano

McCorkell’s story began in 1928 heading into the Great Depression. Samuel McCorkell had just completed his apprenticeship at Swinburne Technical College and was faced with the decision of either working for himself, or not at all.

S.H.McCorkell was born and Sam officially began trading.

Sam’s first project was to complete some minor refurbishment works at the ES&A Bank in Brighton. He carried out his banking with ES&A which is how Sam secured that very first job.

S.H.McCorkell continued to bank with ES&A throughout the next few decades and eventually the bank went on to merge with ANZ in 1970, bringing across most of their existing clients – including us.

That vital relationship is one that still continues to this day, close to a century later!

PROJECT NO. 1 – c.1928

CAMBERWELL JUNCTION – c.1930

1930

Throughout the early years S.H.McCorkell were involved in small scale maintenance and renovation works. Sam built a workshop at the rear of his family saddlery at Camberwell Junction and carried his tools to work on a specially made basket at the back of his bike.

1932 – 1935

Away from the building site, Sam concentrated on starting a family and keeping wickets for the district cricket club, East Melbourne-Hawthorn. He was also quite the accomplished Lacrosse player and has been quoted as perhaps Victoria’s best-ever goalkeeper. He captained interstate teams for a decade and won the state best and fairest award for four consecutive years between 1932-1935.

Legend has it that during lunch breaks at the construction site, Sam would get his goal keepers stick out of the boot and stand alongside his car. He would hand out balls to the site personnel and reward them if they could throw the ball past him and hit his car.

1939

The Black Friday bushfires of January in 1939 were devastating and saw bushfires burning for the whole summer. Amongst many others, a cousin of Sam’s who farmed out in the Yarra Valley lost his home. Famously, the McCorkell crew turned up on a Friday and with the help of local volunteers and tradesman, had a brand new residence built and locked up by Sunday evening.

Our community has always backed us – so right from the early days we’ve made sure that we’re always there for them, using our skills for good. This kind of community involvement is still very much part of our company culture today.

1947

During the post WWII years, S.H.McCorkell continued to grow in the eastern suburbs of Melbourne, enjoying the strong demand of a booming economy.

An acute shortage of building skills, materials and equipment followed the war and led to a chronic housing shortage; and in 1947, the Royal Victorian Institute of Architects introduced the Small Homes Service which provided low-cost, off-the-plan, architecturally designed homes. The restrictions on materials and buildings meant that houses were limited to just 12 squares.

These strict government regulations on house sizes and materials were expertly managed and navigated by Sam throughout the next decade.

Sam’s attention to detail and great relationships with local suppliers and subcontractors enabled S.H.McCorkell to navigate through these challenges and grow as a business.

1950

Throughout the 1950’s and working with the Small Homes Services, S.H.McCorkell began to supplement traditional lump sum build contracts with design and construct development work.

A milestone project for McCorkell was the purchase of an orchard in Box Hill and its subdivision into multiple properties and dwellings. The natural geography of the land allowed for new homes to comply with the strict footprint sizes whilst providing under-croft carparks.

This was a project that Samuel would be involved in over the next couple of decades until his retirement.

SALISBURY AVE, MONT ALBERT – c.1956

SAMUEL H. McCORKELL

At this time, we directly employed all of our own labour. Carpenters, brickies, concretors, painters, electricians and plumbers mustered at the yard each morning and were dispatched to our various sites every day. We also had a joinery shop to build our own kitchen fitouts and windows.

This level of resourcing laid the foundations of systems for detailed cost control and time management.

Sam’s Sunday evenings were usually spent in the study responding to clients on the phone who had taken the opportunity of a weekend drive to inspect progress on their new home.

1958

In the late 1950’s Sam’s son, Rex had joined the business as a carpentry apprentice. At the end of his tenure, Rex was awarded a scholarship and proceeded to spend four years working abroad in the United States.

Rex made quite the name for himself in America and worked on a number of notable projects, such as the ExxonMobil Building in Houston, Texas.

EXXONMOBIL BUILDING, HOUSTON TX

UNIT DEVELOPMENT IN HAWTHORN – c.1968

1968

Returning from America in the mid 1960’s, Rex moved into a management position at S.H.McCorkell as Samuel began to take a step back.

The business was invigorated with new ideas and our company started pursuing more sophisticated projects – architectural homes, multi-unit developments, institutional and government contracts. McCorkell was rapidly expanding and we even established a new head office and construction yard on Riversdale Road Hawthorn.

In 1968, the business restructured with Rex now becoming the Managing Director and the McCorkell Construction Company (Vic) Pty Ltd began trading.

1970

Throughout the 70’s, McCorkell continued to grow and there was a steady progression of varied and interesting projects.

Our principles of open and honest communications, detailed planning and industry wide relationships enabled our business to grow and adapt to the challenges presented by a diverse portfolio of works.

It was around this time that McCorkell began to form relationships with some of Melbourne’s most prominent architects such as Peter Crone and Norman Day.

MATER CHRISTI COLLEGE BY PETER CRONE

MANRESA PRE SCHOOL – 1974

1974

The mid 70’s brought some foreshadowing for McCorkell Constructions.

Although they didn’t know it at the time, Howard (Rex’s nephew) and Damien Newton-Brown began a life-long friendship, meeting each other for the first time at Manresa Pre School.

“Great systems build an adaptable business capable of adjusting to project specific requirements”
– a mantra often referred to by Rex.

REX McCORKELL

1980

McCorkell’s growing stature in the industry afforded Rex the opportunity of being involved in a number of peak industry bodies.

Rex was part of the negotiating committee on the first Victorian Building Industry Agreement. He was a Founding Director, and later Chairman of Incolink. He was also a President and later an Honorary Life Member of the MBAV and a Fellow of the Australian Institute of Building.

Throughout his career Rex also served on the National Builders Executive Committee as a State Representative and the Industrial Relations Committee at both the state and national level.

Despite these growing commitments and with the assistance of some fantastic long term key position staff, McCorkell Constructions continued to diversify and grow.

1991

Presented with the looming threat of a recession, McCorkell began the nineties on a high. Our Casa Elda Vaccari Hostel project received the MBAV Excellence in Refurbishments Award in 1991.

“This is surely the most spectacular hostel for senior citizens in Australia! An extremely high quality was required and achieved, through strenuous supervision by the architects, Peter Sanders & Associates, proprietor and McCorkell’s personnel. This is a magnificent project, beautifully designed and built.” – Master Builders Association of Victoria

YARRA VALLEY RACING CENTRE – c.1995

1995

During the recession in the early 90’s and in the fallout over the next few years, Rex was able to keep a core workforce engaged at McCorkell by directly undertaking all the structural works on our Yarra Valley Racing Centre Grandstand project.

Our adaptability as a company enabled the business to navigate through the mid 90’s which was a difficult time for all in the construction industry.

1997

Enter, Howard McCorkell.

Howard began working full-time with Rex from 1997, starting as a foreman and working his way up to Construction Manager. Neither of them ever dreamt of owning a computer for work. Subcontractor accounts were tallied on an index card, printing of plans was completed in-house, mobile phones were a privilege and the fax machine was king.

Throughout the next decade we continued to work across all parts of the industry and built several extensive industrial buildings such as Australia Post in Mornington, the Nestles Factory in Campbellfield and the Abey Production Warehouse in Melton. We also built numerous multi-unit residential developments and began establishing our reputation in the private education sector, completing works for Carey Grammar School, Trinity Grammar School and Xavier College.

TRINITY GRAMMAR SCHOOL

ANZCA HEADQUARTERS

2000

After nearly 50 years in the industry, Rex signed his final contracts for the Australian & New Zealand College of Anaesthetists Headquarters and Loreto Mandeville Hall’s Aquatic Centre both iconic, award-winning projects and a fitting end to a magnificent career. The torch was then passed on to Rex’s nephew, Howard as the new Managing Director of the business.

Shortly after in 2001, Damien Newton-Brown joined Howard as another Director of the business and a new chapter began. This is when we began trading as McCorkell Constructions Pty Ltd.

Building on the diversity of projects from the past, the new business leadership continues to invest in systems, people and building relationships.

2005

Throughout the 2000’s we continued to cement our reputation as one of Melbourne’s most reliable building contractors, completing multiple projects for the Department of Health and Human Services, Victoria Police, Department of Education and various government and local council agencies. Our work in the education sector also remained strong with multiple projects for major universities, private schools and Catholic Education Melbourne.

Many of our clients from the early 2000’s are still building with us today. These key partnerships that we’ve formed have been the pillar to our success over the years.

UNIVERSITY OF MELBOURNE, BEAUREPAIRE CENTRE

2011

2011 marked McCorkell’s expansion into a new state. Spotting a gap in the market for high quality, reliable commercial builders – we set up shop in Perth, Western Australia. Our delivery experience, professionalism and strong financials provided us with the assurance we needed to step foot into a market where consistency is rewarded.

As a partner and Managing Director, Mark Nyaanga was appointed the leader of our Perth operations.

2017

McCorkell closed out a successful decade with consecutive national awards for both our Victorian and Western Australian businesses in 2017 and 2018.

The Ruyton Girls’ School McRae Building was awarded the 2017 Master Builders National Education Facility Award and Fremantle Town Hall was awarded the 2018 Master Builders National Historical Restoration Award.

2018

2018 marked the year that we out-grew our Highett Street office in Richmond and moved into our new, self-built home on Hoddle Street.

A true culmination of everything we do best– the project was a challenge on all fronts including restrictive access, retaining the existing facade, and even the design and engineering of a bespoke perforated operable façade system.

As experienced many times throughout the history of our business, the key to our longevity has come from not just the diversity of our projects, but the relationships we form along the way and our ability to adapt in challenging markets.

To be continued…