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(3142, 6 km SE, Stonnington City)

On relatively high ground south of the Yarra River, Toorak lies between Williams, Malvern and Glenferrie roads. The well-drained site, with views to Port Phillip Bay and proximity to Central Melbourne, made it a fashionable place to live after the first land sales in the 1840s. The suburb is named after Toorak House, built for Melbourne merchant James Jackson on 108 acres (43 ha) he bought in 1849. After Jackson died at sea in 1850, the house was rented for Sir Charles Hotham, the first governor of Victoria, until Government House was completed, confirming the social status of the area.

During the 1880s land boom, substantial mansions surrounded by spacious gardens were built in Toorak, but the 1890s depression saw some subdivided and the emergence of higher-density building. This process continued throughout the next century. Flats became popular between the wars, and their construction continued in the 1950s and 1960s. However, the area remained both fashionable and expensive. All the major subdivisions in Toorak were laid out with wide streets planted with trees, particularly oaks and oriental planes. The spreading canopies of these mature street trees give the area an aura of gracious calm.

Toorak has a railway station at Heyington and a shopping strip, sometimes called Toorak Village, on Toorak Road (formerly Gardiners Creek Road). There are also several independent schools, including Glamorgan and St Kevin's College. Others, including Loreto Mandeville Hall and St Catherine's, occupy buildings that were formerly private mansions. The suburb has the highest percentage in Melbourne of children attending private schools.

Toorak has traditionally been the home of Victoria's most affluent citizens and from the 1880s was the hub of the kind of activities that were reported in the social pages of the newspapers. Private balls and parties, especially around Melbourne Cup week, were a feature of the social scene until World War II. Before the 1930s depression, many of the female guests would have worn gowns they had bought in Paris earlier in the season. In later years, the trend to smaller houses and flats meant that both private balls and charity functions were less likely to be held in private homes.

Sally Wilde

Carroll, Brian, and Arno Roger-Genersh, Toorak and South Yarra sketchbook, Rigby, Adelaide, 1974. Details
Paxton, James, Toorak as I knew it (1900-1930), Prahran Historical and Arts Society in conjunction with Prahran Mechanics Institute, Melbourne, 1983. Details
Robb, E.M., Early Toorak and district, Robertson & Mullens, Melbourne, 1934. Details