Built in many stages between the 1880s to the 1960s, Mercator was part of the Laundry precinct. Its rough-cast render provides a link between it and the other buildings constructed at the same time. Its constant updating reflects the Sisters’ aim to maintain best practice in the business of laundries, which was their main income source. Most Good Shepherd convents around the world utilised a commercial laundry as a dominant stream of income and as a place of work for their residents. The Abbotsford Convent looked after the laundry needs of the Archbishop, some of Melbourne’s genteel community, as well as several hospitals and hotels such as The Windsor. This building was the principal sorting and washing area within the laundry complex and was always called the ‘back laundry’.
Once the Sisters left the site the building was used by the Mercator Lighting Company for many years as a storage facility – it is the only building not currently called by the name the Sisters used. The bulk of Mercator was restored thanks to a generous contribution of $1 million from the Sidney Myer Fund, as part of the 2009 Commemorative Grants Program. A fascinating transformation has revealed a surprisingly eclectic range of charming light-filled studio spaces. The Mercator studios are now the much treasured home of a creatively industrious community, which includes practitioners in jewellery, ceramics, shoe making, woodwork, painting and other creative disciplines.