Victorian Melbourne

Whisky on the rocks

Leaving Gasworks Arts Park, we headed south down Pickles Street into Port Melbourne. Like South Melbourne – the suburb formerly known as Emerald Hill – Port Melbourne once had a different name, and in the 19th century was known as Sandridge.  There used to be a lagoon here too, though it has long been filled in. But there’s plenty of evidence of other transformations in this once working class, now gentrified neighbourhood. Continue reading

The lost names of Emerald Hill

The walls of South Melbourne (or Emerald Hill, as it was known in the later 19th century – one of Melbourne’s lost place names) are rich in memories: of people, occupations, products, social movements.  These painted signs, featuring other lost names, are an archive of the suburb’s history, visible in plain sight, though often overlooked. Continue reading

Bank Street stroll

Leaving St Vincent Place we headed north along Montague Street, then turned right into Bank Street towards South Melbourne, a suburb in which much of the history has been carefully and consciously preserved.  If you’re looking for ghostsigns, this part of town is rich in them. You also pass a kaleidoscope of architectural styles in the space of a few blocks. Continue reading

London calling, Albert Park

When people settle in a new country, they employ various strategies to make themselves feel at home. The Anglo settlers of Melbourne in the 19th century tried giving the suburbs names from the old country like Richmond and Box Hill; they surrounded themselves with the names of  famous English poets in Elwood, where almost every street is named after the likes of Tennyson, Milton and Shelley, and writers of other nationalities (including Australian) hardly get a look in. Another way of creating the illusion of home is through architecture. Continue reading

Turkish baths and oyster saloons: the story of Prahran Arcade

Every now and then as I walk the suburban streets of Melbourne I see something that stops me in my tracks. It happened again at 282 Chapel Street, Prahran, between Princes and Walker Streets, when I glanced up and noticed a three-storey building, a bit faded  and the worse for wear, but unmistakeably special. It looked as though it should have been standing on a boulevard in Paris, rather than in a Melbourne suburb, among standard Victorian two-storey shops, plastered with signage for JB Hifi, which occupies the entire ground floor.

This building’s facade was extravagant, with 17 archways looking onto the street from the second and third storeys, columns and balconies, carved eagles, and a dizzying assortment of shells and other ornamentation.  Clearly, it had once been a special place – but today it’s a shadow of its former self. Continue reading