History articles

Palace of Winged Words

Palace of Winged Words

By David Thompson, Royal Historical Society A 19th century three-storey redbrick building in Wills St in the CBD hardly rates a glance from most passers-by who are unaware that this building was once Melbourne’s first purpose-built telephone exchange.  Although now surmounted by a multi-storey apartment block, externally the lower three storeys still retain many of

“The Smith House” – 300 Queen St

By David Thompson, Royal Historical Society of Victoria The Lord Mayor lampooned and criticised for questionable electioneering tactics! No, not 2018, we have stepped back in time 167 years.  The Lord Mayor was John Thomas Smith, known as the “Dick Whittington of the South” as he was seven times lord mayor between 1851 and 1864.

Melbourne’s 1854 Exhibition 

By Rosemary Cameron, Royal Historical Society of Victoria In 1851 London staged The Great Exhibition in the Crystal Palace, Hyde Park.  Six million people passed through those crystal doors and the event became a defining point of the nineteenth century. Spurred by London’s success, industrial nations competed to showcase their innovative engineering and scientific advances.

Perhaps a book for Christmas?

By Richard Broome, Royal Historical Society of Victoria In November-December the RHSV is gearing up for Christmas.  Our bookshop offers many fascinating books on Victorian history which are available online through www.historyvictoria.org.au or by direct purchase from our premises at 239 A’Beckett St. On offer will be many books from the recent Victorian Community History

Fink’s Buildings

By Kate Prinsley When built in 1888, at a cost of 110,000(pounds), Fink’s Building was one of Melbourne’s tallest office blocks.  Designed by noted Melbourne architects Twentyman and Askew (also responsible for the Block Arcade), the building epitomises the speculative early 1890s period. It was built by and named after the notorious land financier Benjamin

Finding ghosts and inspiration in Chinatown

By Tristan Davies, Melbourne Heritage Action It’s mid-afternoon in Melbourne and I’m surrounded by the familiar heritage buildings in Chinatown, though without much time to appreciate them. In a rush on the way to a workout before an appointment, I decide to take a shortcut via Brein Lane, which leads from Little Bourke St into

St Patrick’s Hall 

St Patrick’s Hall, on Bourke St between William and Queen streets, was designed by Samuel Jackson and built in 1849 on land purchased by the St Patrick’s Society.  It became a place for meetings and a school for Irish children. To its left is the first synagogue in Melbourne erected in 1848 to provide services

Yarra Turning Basin, 1906

This elevated view, looking west along the Yarra River and Flinders St, taken from the Commercial Travellers’ Club (now the Rendezvous Hotel), shows (left to right): Banana Alley (beneath the railway yards), the railway viaduct (connecting Flinders St and Spencer St stations), Queens Bridge with the Yarra Turning Basin beyond.  The Turning Basin (also known

Equitable Building 

The Equitable Building (also known as the Colonial Mutual Life Building), was for many years after its completion in 1896 the benchmark of commercial architecture in Melbourne.  It was built for the Equitable Life Assurance Society of America and sold to CML in 1923. Designed by American architect, Edward Raht, it was built on a

Fish Market c. 1890

Between 1865 and 1892, the Melbourne Fish Market occupied the Flinders and Swanston streets south- west corner. It was of white brick and stucco with a large central chamber 16m high surrounded by 14 slate slabbed stalls, fountains for washing fish, an arcade and room for carts to enter at auction time. The building housed

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