History of South Melbourne

Serendipity Wedding Image  - South Melbourne Town Hall

South Melbourne only came to be known by its in 1883. Prior to this it was known as Emerald Hill, after the mound it was settled around, which the Town Hall itself currently stands on. The Hill was also an important site for the Bunurong group, the tradition owners of the land.

19th Century

South Melbourne once boasted a population many times larger than it currently holds. This huge number of people promoted the development of many fine heritage sites that still stand today. Settlers began to move in in the 1840s. The Victorian gold rush began in 1851. It Melbourne so much brought thousands of people to South Melbourne. They formed a slum, erecting tents and calling the area ‘Canvastown’. Canvastown lasted for two years. The first school was built in 1853, followed by a number of other primary schools. Public education would not be available in the state of Victoria until 1905. The city was expanding. The Victoria Barracks, built in the area in 1859 meant soldiers were also strolling around South Melbourne, adding to the existing population of fishers and gold rush immigrants. Sellers at South Melbourne Market began to offer their wares in 1867.

Serendipity Wedding Image  - South Melbourne Town Hall

The early 1880s had brought ferries between the suburb and the CBD, but more significant to modern Melbourne was the introduction of two tram lines in 1890. Both ferry and tram were steam in these early days, with electrification of the tram lines coming in the next century.

South Melbourne would have looked quite different in the late 19th century, with many industrial sites. It was also home to the Homeopathic Hospital (1882) and a number of cultural and entertainment hubs where the Arts Centre now stands.


Swamps and Lagoons

South Melbourne was once a marshland, filled with lagoons, of which Albert Park lake is the last remnant. Lagoon Pier was built at the mouth of a large waterway, observed to run a mile inland in 1803. Different parts were filled over time, with it diapering in the 1920s. A beautiful reserve is situated on a particular filled in section.

serendipity photography south melbourne town hall

The early city would have been filled with water, which is probably why the local football team were called the Swans. Sadly for South Melbourne, the Swans moved to Sydney in 1982, a time when the area was steeply gentrifying.

The proximity to many beaches and piers aound South Melbourne attracted fishing families, and for a period even had fleet fishing.


South Melbourne Town Hall

The versatile building was erected in 1879–1880, and has a story of its own. The designer, Charles Webb, also built 19th century classic Royal Arcade and the Hotel Windsor. As a location, the South Melbourne Town Hall offers a number of different moods in line with the areas history as part of early Melbourne. The front is clearly inspired by the greatest Grecian buildings, with imposing columns and steps providing a large, dramatic backdrop. The surrounding area is filled with heritage buildings, complete with vintage commercial painting, that lend charm to any shot.

Serendipity Wedding Image  - South Melbourne Town Hall


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