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South Melbourne

(3205, 2 km S, Port Phillip City)

Named Emerald Hill until city status was attained in 1883, South Melbourne became a municipality separate from the City of Melbourne in 1855. The Yarra riverbank area (now Southbank) was added in February 1857 and excised again in 1993 before the 1994 amalgamation into the City of Port Phillip. As part of the territory of the Yalukit-willam clan of the Boon wurrung people, it comprised coastal sand hills and swamp land well treed with eucalypts, banksia and melaleuca, out of which rose a knoll of ancient rock linked to the Yarra Falls outcrop. Located within the land parish of South Melbourne, which was jointly proclaimed with North Melbourne parish on 23 March 1840, the municipality of 944 ha was defined by the Yarra and Port Phillip Bay boundaries, with St Kilda Road the eastern demarcation and Port Melbourne to the west.

Transport links began with City Road (1842) leading to Yarra ferries, then to Balbirnies' Bridge (1845), superseded by Princes Bridge (1850). Downriver, Falls Bridge (1860) was replaced by Queens Bridge (1889). Spencer Street Bridge opened in 1930 and Charles Grimes (Johnson Street) Bridge in 1978. During the following decade the elevated West Gate Freeway was extended over the riverside industrial area. A railway to Port Melbourne, the first in Australia, opened in September 1854, an extension branching off at Ferrars Street to St Kilda in May 1857. These were modified into light-rail routes in 1987. Cable trams running the length of Clarendon Street and through Albert Park to the beach began in 1890, with electric conversion in 1937. An electric line servicing Middle Park opened in 1925.

Before land sales began in August 1852, with a canvas town established in November to accommodate the overflow of gold immigrants, the Yarra's south bank was home to a few hundred stock-keepers, brickmakers, timber-cutters, fishermen, boat-builders and temporary camps. From 1861 to 1891 the permanent population grew from nearly 9000 to more than 41 000 and, despite 1890s and 1930s depression fluctuations, remained above 40 000 until about 1950, peaking at 47 000 in the mid-1920s. Since 1950 the number of dwellings has reduced by one-third and residents to about 18 000, reflecting a rise in residential quality and the remoulding of the suburb's economic base from manufacturing and transport to professional and service industries. Housing Commission projects include its first 'elevator flats', Emerald Hill Court (1962) and the 30-storey Park Towers (1969).

Workers' homes were originally clustered within reach of jobs in riverside industry and at the South Wharves, which were initiated in 1871 and intensively developed along the lower river by the Melbourne Harbor Trust from the 1880s. The South Melbourne gasworks, which opened near the Port Melbourne boundary in 1873, were integrated with the metropolitan system from 1878 to 1956. Gasworks Park, South Port Nursing Home and Albert Park Secondary College now occupy the site. Middle-class housing turned towards the bay and Albert Park reserve, giving rise to the districts of Albert Park from the 1860s and Middle Park from the 1880s, which are separated by Kerferd Road. Boom mansions were built in St Vincent Place, in the narrow Queens-St Kilda Road strip, in Canterbury and Albert roads and along the sea front, where a new esplanade was complemented by the 1889 Kerferd Road Pier. Sea-bathing for both health and recreation was fostered by enclosed baths at three locations, built between 1873 and 1890. (Sir) Frank Beaurepaire was first among several champion Albert Park and Middle Park swimmers. With work, homes and recreation in close proximity, the suburb nurtured a self-contained independence, which came to be epitomised by loyalty to the South Melbourne Football Club. Prominent Australian cricketers from the South Melbourne Cricket Club include John Blackham, Lindsay Hassett, Keith Miller and Ian Johnson.

South Melbourne Town Hall, built in 1879-80 on the Emerald Hill crest, the original grant site of the Melbourne Orphanage, is one of the suburb's 139 heritage-listed buildings, identified during a 1987 urban conservation study. South Melbourne Market has operated since 1866, as has the restored Chinese See Yup Temple. Along St Kilda Road, Prince Henry's (formerly Homoeopathic) Hospital closed in 1991 after 106 years and was demolished in 1994. Victoria Barracks nearby has occupied the site since 1859. The Channel 7 television studios were established in Dorcas Street in 1956.

Susan Priestley

Priestley, Susan, South Melbourne: a history, Melbourne University Press, Melbourne, 1995. Details