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East Melbourne

(3002, 2 km E, Melbourne City)

Robert Hoddle surveyed East Melbourne in 1839-40, but the first land sales, which were to be held in 1841, were cancelled because of economic depression. Most of the area remained a government reserve during the mid-1840s; early white residents included the families of William Lonsdale, the police magistrate, and Lieutenant-Governor La Trobe.

A land grant was made to the Anglican Church in January 1846 for the site of St Peter's Eastern Hill, while a wooden Catholic church, built on the site of St Patrick's Cathedral in 1849, was replaced by a stone structure between 1850 and 1858. A site for the Lutheran Church was set aside in 1852, and the first section of the present St Patrick's Cathedral was finished in November 1860.

A new survey of the area, incorporating numerous parks and squares between the residential streets, was made in 1849. This survey also reserved the eastern side of Spring Street as the site of the future Parliament House and government buildings, as well as the sites of Fitzroy and Treasury Gardens. Sales of quarter-acre (0.1 ha) blocks were held in 1852-54 and 1858. The construction of Bishopscourt on the corner of Gipps and Clarendon streets in 1853 marked the beginning of East Melbourne's development as a sought after residential suburb, and heritage-listed buildings such as Clarendon Terrace (1856-57) remain testament to the suburb's exclusiveness.

The first section of Parliament House was completed in 1856, although the building did not take its present shape until 1892. Government departments started moving into East Melbourne in 1858 with the completion of the Government Printing Office. The construction of the Treasury Building in 1862 further strengthened the presence of the government in the suburb.

The presence of Parliament House, government offices and overseas consulates, and the proximity of the Central Business District, made East Melbourne an attractive and popular residential address. This led to the establishment of churches, schools and hospitals in the area. East Melbourne was home to Ormiston Girls School (1848), Scotch College (1853), Christian Brothers' College (1868), the Presbyterian Ladies' College (1872) and several state schools, the Royal Victorian Eye and Ear Hospital (1863), St Andrew's Presbyterian (1934), Mercy Private (1935), and Freemasons Hospitals (1937) and the Peter MacCallum Cancer Institute (which moved to East Melbourne in 1994). The Royal Women's Hospital was founded in East Melbourne in 1856, before moving to its Carlton site in 1858.

East Melbourne is also the site of a number of sports grounds and entertainment facilities, including the Melbourne Cricket Ground (1853), the Richmond Cricket Ground (1855) and Dallas Brooks Hall. A railway through East Melbourne, running from Flinders Street Station to Richmond, was opened in 1859, although it was not until the line from the city to Collingwood was opened in 1901 that East Melbourne gained its own railway station at Jolimont.

During the first half of the 20th century many of East Melbourne's large houses were used as boarding houses, or were subdivided into flats. Unlike other inner-city suburbs, East Melbourne remained a middle-class neighbourhood throughout the 20th century. This was no doubt due in large part to its pleasant open layout with parks and squares, the proximity of Parliament House and government offices, and its continuing role as the address of Melbourne's social and artistic elite.

The absence of manufacturing was also important. The Victoria Brewery, founded in Victoria Parade by Thomas Aitken in 1854, was for many years the largest industrial building in East Melbourne. In 2003-04, the former brewery buildings were converted to apartments. The suburb remains the prime site of the city's health care and public administration, and has a high proportion of one- or two-person households.

Wayne Murdoch

Burchett, Winston, East Melbourne, 1837-1977: People, places, problems, Craftsman Press, Melbourne, 1978. Details
Purnell, Kathryn (ed.), The beautiful hill: An anthology of writing from East Melbourne, City of Melbourne, Melbourne, 1993. Details