By world standards, Melbourne is a young city. But it has layers of history. Here you can discover some of them. Bluestone and concrete, paint and neon, Victorian-ornate and sheet-glass - all cram into the cross-hatched canyons that are Melbourne's streets and lanes.
Melbourne started as an illegal settlement. Despite opposition from the government in Sydney, sheep farmers from Van Diemen's Land (Tasmania) crossed Bass Strait in search of new pastures.
In May 1835, a syndicate led by John Batman explored Port Phillip Bay, looking for suitable sites for a settlement. Batman claimed to have signed a 'treaty' with Aboriginal leaders, giving him ownership of almost 250,000 hectares of land. Three months later, another syndicate of farmers, led by John Pascoe Fawkner, entered the Yarra River aboard the Enterprize, establishing the first permanent settlement.
New South Wales Governor Richard Bourke declared Batman's treaty illegal and the settlers to be trespassers. But within two years, more than 350 people and 55 000 sheep had landed, and the squatters were establishing large wool-growing properties in the district. Bourke was forced to accept the rapidly growing township.
Measuring a Town
When Governor Bourke visited the new settlement in 1837, it was clear that there had been little progress with the initial land survey of the area.
Bourke selected Robert Hoddle, the senior surveyor from Sydney, to take up the chain and theodolite for the government. On 4 March, Hoddle and Bourke rode over the area on horseback and traced the general outline of the township. On 7 March, Bourke directed that the town be laid out, and on the 9 March the governor named the settlement 'Melbourne' after the British prime minister of the day. By the end of April, Hoddle's plan of Melbourne was lodged at the government survey office in Sydney.
Robert Hoddle's field books
Not all have agreed that the plan of Melbourne is actually the work of Robert Hoddle. Governor Bourke, Robert Russell and William Lonsdale have also been credited with Melbourne's grid design. Whatever the verdict, the 1837 grid of wide and narrow streets remains Melbourne's dominating historic memento of European settlement.
Gold Rush Town
Immigrants leaving Britain in 1852 bought more tickets to Melbourne than to any other destination in the world.
The new arrivals chased a single dream - gold. Thousands arrived daily. Lodging houses and hotels were packed to bursting point. Makeshift houses of iron, timber and canvas sprang up on the city's edge.
Gold brought both progress and problems. Sudden wealth transformed a small port town into a frantic world centre. The wharves were constantly jammed with shipping, cargo and migrants disembarking. Society seemed to be turned upside down as diggers drank champagne from buckets and Irish maids paraded in silks and diamonds.
The authorities feared disorder. New civic buildings - the Customs House, Post Office, Treasury and Parliament - publicly displayed state power.
By 1861, Melbourne was a city of 125 000 people. Gas street lighting, regular piped water and solid buildings gave the city a more permanent appearance. The instant city was maturing.
Visitors to Melbourne in the 1880s were amazed. Here in the Southern Hemisphere was a city larger than most European capitals. In just a decade the population had doubled, racing to half-a-million. Citizens strutted the streets, bursting with pride as their city boomed.
While Sydney was seen as slow and steady, Melbourne was fast and reckless. Ornate office buildings up to 12 storeys high rivalled those of New York, London and Chicago. Money was poured into lavishly decorated banks, hotels and coffee palaces. Towers, spires, domes and turrets reached to the skies.
By 1891 the high times were coming to an end. Banks closed their doors, stockbrokers panicked and thousands lost jobs, homes and savings. Some escaped unscathed but many were plunged into hardship.
It was a dramatic fall, and a far more sober and cautious Melbourne faced the new century.
Melbourne had become a wired city by 1910. Networks of pipes and cables coursed underground, drooped across streets and snaked up buildings. Increasingly the city was seen as a machine, tended by its engineers.
The new systems changed the way the city worked. Stockbrokers and lawyers could telephone their clients. Clerks were elevated to their offices in lifts - Melbourne already had over 1000 by 1907.
Timetables regulated the comings and goings of suburban commuters. Usage of suburban trains and trams doubled between 1898 and 1917.
Flinders Street Station became the city's new gateway. From 1910, the clocks above the entrance to this Edwardian baroque masterpiece acted as pacesetters for the tens of thousands of people who passed beneath daily.
As well as work, entertainment drew people to the city. About ten cinemas were operating by 1913, mostly in Bourke Street. The mechanised, jerky look of early films reflected the tempo of the city.
Postwar City - the 1950s
Host to the Olympic Games in 1956, Melbourne was transformed in the years that followed. Buildings grew taller, traffic got thicker, and new arrivals brought new ideas.
Many old buildings, with their stone gargoyles and cast-iron lacework, tumbled under the wrecker's ball. The central city rang with the din of jackhammers. Glass and steel skyscrapers reached into the air - symbols of enterprise.
Immigrants from continental Europe brought their distinctive cultures to the city. New flavours were added to the arts. European-style cafes gave the city pockets of sophistication.
But Melbourne was still a '9 to 5' city. Hordes of cars from the suburbs jammed city streets in rush hours. As soon as offices emptied, streets were deserted.
Nevertheless, the blueprint of today's Melbourne was in place.
A visit to the Melbourne Museum is a must for anyone wishing to learn more about Marvellous Melbourne..
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⊜ 11 Nicholson St Carlton | Map
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