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(3130, 16 km E, Whitehorse City)

It is likely but not certain that the suburb was named after ex-convict architect and civil engineer James Blackburn (1803-1854), Melbourne City Council Surveyor, architect of Bishopscourt and designer of Melbourne's Yan Yean water supply system. The Traveller's Rest Hotel on Whitehorse Road, built in 1861 on the site of today's Blackburn Hotel, was the first substantial structure in the area. Most of its business came from sojourners passing between Melbourne and Healesville.

When settlers arrived in the 1840s they found it to be thickly wooded and inhospitable, but many made a modest living by establishing orchards and small farms. Local orchardists built a cool-store in 1918 but it was not until 1930, with the formation of the Blue Moon Fruit Co-operative, that fresh fruit began to be exported to England. The 1880s land boom saw the founding of the local brickworks and the opening of Blackburn railway station in 1882. The Freehold Investment and Banking Co. was a major player in early subdivision but went bankrupt during the 1890s depression. Blackburn Creek post office was established in 1876; in 1883 'Creek' was dropped from its name but it did not get official status until 1947.

Dances and other leisure activities were held at Blackburn Hall from the 1880s and for over 100 years Morton Park has been a haven for those who love sport. Tennis, football and cricket clubs were founded in the decade after Federation and members made extensive use of the park. It was a centre of social activities of all kinds, including a huge ANA carnival weekend in February 1928. Blackburn Lake, created by damming a stream late in 1888, has been enjoyed by nature lovers for over a century. Nunawading Council purchased a portion of the Blackburn Lake reserve from the Adult Deaf and Dumb Society (Victorian Deaf Society), which had owned the site since 1909, establishing a home and, before 1919, a flower farm.

Art, education and religion have long and diverse histories in Blackburn. Frederick McCubbin, Tom Roberts and Arthur Streeton were major visual artists who produced important work in the suburb before forming their famous Heidelberg School. Local artists and art societies continue to thrive. The first primary school opened in 1889 with an enrolment of 130. In 1915 the innovative Open Air School was established to cater for inner-city children who were afflicted by poor health and nutrition. Blackburn High School opened in 1956 and the postwar boom required many more government and private schools to be built. By the late 19th century most Christian denominations held services and many had built their own churches, including the United Free Methodist Church (1888), the Anglican Church (1890) and the Wesleyan Methodist Church (1891). As with schools, there was a boom in church construction in the 1950s and 1960s.

The mainly residential and commercial suburb of Blackburn is now bounded by Canterbury Road in the south and Whitehorse Road in the north, and is traversed by the Belgrave railway line and Blackburn Creek. Substantial postwar residential growth occurred at Blackburn North (known for a time as Beverley Hills), bounded by Middle-borough Road, Springvale Road and Koonung Creek, and Blackburn South, between Burwood Highway and Canterbury Road. The Blackburn and District Tree Preservation Society was founded in 1959 to champion the preservation of remnant natural flora in the face of suburban expansion. Blackburn Lake Sanctuary, Bellbird Corner and the linear Blackburn Creeklands remain as testament to Blackburn's reputation as a leafy suburban retreat.

Chris Coney

Sydenham, Diane, Windows on Nunawading, Hargreen Publishing in conjunction with the City of Nunawading, Melbourne, 1990. Details