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Fitzroy Street

Running from St Kilda Junction to the beachfront, Fitzroy Street, named after Sir Charles FitzRoy, governor of New South Wales prior to Separation, is the main thoroughfare of St Kilda. Formerly Melbourne Terrace, it became a sought-after address after the arrival of the railway in 1857. In the late 19th century, ornate mansions and Art Nouveau tramway poles helped to make it one of the most desirable addresses in the 'Riviera of the South'. For almost a century, Fitzroy Street acted as the processional gateway to Melbourne for visiting dignitaries, who disembarked at St Kilda Pier before triumphantly entering the city along St Kilda Road.

In the early 20th century, multi-storey flats and hotels, including the George, Majestic, Ritz, Regal and Dorchester, were built along Fitzroy Street as it became the centre of Melbourne's nightlife and entertainment industries. After World War II the street's reputation declined, and by the 1970s it was commonly held to be the major site of prostitution and drug use. In the late 1980s a series of fires, combined with owner neglect of several major buildings, saw the street threatened with wholesale demolition and redevelopment. In the 1990s this trend was reversed, and Fitzroy Street again became a sought-after residential and business address, with no real place for the poor and dispossessed.

Seamus O'Hanlon