The Esplanade Vaults that once housed 10 shops are located on the Lower Esplanade across from the St Kilda sea baths.
In the 1890s, public transport on the Esplanade was upgraded with a new cable tramway. The upper Esplanade roadway needed to be widened to accommodate the new tram tracks. As part of the embankment works, provision was made for ten shops with arched ceilings facing onto the lower Esplanade and built into the supporting wall - now known as the Esplanade Vaults.
Designed and managed by the then city surveyor W B Downe, this whole project cost the council more than £5,000. It was the opinion of some councillors that the rent from these well-positioned shops with attractive verandahs would contribute to paying the interest and principle of the council's loan for the road works.
The shop verandahs were removed in the 1950s. The vaults were bricked up when road widening took place in the 1970s, as the footpath was significantly reduced. The steps were covered over when the bridge was constructed in the early 1970s.
Source: History of St Kilda, J B Cooper, 1931 and St Kilda Historical Society
Tram Stops: Stop 136: The Esplanade on route 96
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⊜ The Esplanade St Kilda | Map
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→ Esplanade Vaults
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