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(3194, 21 km SE, Kingston City)

First known by Europeans as Dover Slopes, Mentone was a swampy coastal district south of Cheltenham when Alexander Balcombe leased land in the mid-19th century as a resting place for his cattle en route to Melbourne markets from his property near Mount Martha. In 1881 when the railway line to Mordialloc opened, the local station was named Balcombe Road, but soon after Balcombe's land was sold to the National Land Co., headed by Matthew Davies who, with his brother Joseph called their new estate Mentone after a resort on the Italian Riviera. Notorious land speculators, the Davies brothers built imposing houses at Mentone and advertised the estate as an up-market beach resort. They gave Italian names to the streets, planted trees, established a gas company and constructed a highly elaborate coffee palace and hotel, along with a pier and hot sea baths.

Although the Davies' companies collapsed in the 1890s, Mentone had become a fashionable holiday venue, captured on canvas by the Heidelberg School artists Frederick McCubbin, Tom Roberts, Arthur Streeton and Louis Abrahams, who rented a cottage here in the summer of 1886-87. From the 1880s the Mentone racecourse was another local attraction, and a tradition was established of horseracing trainers and jockeys living in the area. In 1934 a local equestrian couple, Bill and Violet Murrell, died from burns they received while trying to rescue their horses, Piquet and Garryowen, from a stable fire. They are commemorated in an annual equestrian event at the Royal Melbourne Show. Although the Mentone Turf Club closed in 1948 the course was used as a training track until 1972, when it was subdivided as the Race Course estate.

In the 19th century Mentone was contained in the Shire of Moorabbin. In 1920, along with Mordialloc, it separated to become the Borough of Mentone and Mordialloc, which later became the City of Mordialloc. By then a state school and independent schools for girls and boys were located in Mentone. In the 1930s a promenade was built along the sand, but in the 1950s many of the symbols of Mentone as a resort began to disappear. The pier was destroyed by a storm and the hot sea baths by a fire. The Mentone Hotel survives, as does the coffee palace which is now part of Kilbreda Convent.

Jill Barnard