Oldest Building in Melbourne
What is the oldest surviving building in Melbourne?
There are two answers to the question: What is the Oldest Building in Melbourne? It depends on where the building was originally constructed. Coincidently, Melbourne's oldest building constructed in Melbourne is not located where it was originally built.
Built elsewhere and reconstructed in Melbourne
Cooks' Cottage (1755) is the oldest building in Melbourne. The two storey brick cottage was transported from Great Ayton in England and rebuilt in the Fitzroy Gardens in 1934.
La Trobe's Cottage, home to Charles Joseph La Trobe, his wife Sophie and their children from 1839 to 1854. This would also be one of Australia's first pre-fab building brought by him from London.
Built and constructured in Melbourne
The oldest building originally built in Melbourne is St James' Old Cathedral (1839) which was relocated from it's original location on the corner of Collins and William Streets to King Street Melbourne in 1914.
Followed by St Francis Church (1841) in Lonsdale St, Melbourne still located in it's original location.
Russell's Old Corner Shop - 330 King St, Melbourne - Built during the gold rush in 1850.
A Monash University history of Melbourne was originally used as a source for this article but has now been removed from arts.monash.edu.au.
1840 - Williamstown Stockade in Williamstown.
1853 - Bishopscourt, 84 Claredon St, East Melbourne
1854 - Residence at 34 Waterloo Crescent, St Kilda
1888 - Residence at 41 Gipps St, East Melbourne
Before the Gold Rushes
Transcript from book
Melbourne was a country town, with a rapidly expanding pastoral hinterland as livestock were brought form Tasmania and New South Wales. Buildings were often hasty, temporarily run up affairs, usually made from bricks not well fired. If water did not get in through the bricks it could do so through weak mortar or roof shingles which shrunk in the summer heat. When the property booms came during the gold rushes and the 1880s, most buildings were weather-damaged or too small, and they were replaced.
There are a few rare survivors in Melbourne, three of them being churches. The transepts and nave of St. Francis church, Lonsdale Street, were built in 1842. The brickwork is concealed by weather-proof mortar. In Collins Street the rear of the Baptist church (1845) survives, and its brickwork is similarly concealed. St. James Old Cathedral best shows off its stonework. Built in 1842 at the north-west corner of Collins and William Streets, it took the site of Melbourne's all-denominations Pioneer Church (1837). Its supersession resulted in its being re-erected in King Street in 1914.
There are a few pre-Gold Rush secular buildings. Two former hotels, Oddfellows at 33 Little Lonsdale Street and Black Eagle at 44 Lonsdale Street, date from 1849. Others are Jobs warehouse, 58-60 Bourke Street (1848-9), and buildings at 300 Queen Street (1848) and 328-30 King Street (1850-1) | Oldest Hotels
1839: St. James Old Cathedral
Collins and William Streets Melbourne [NW]
Foundation stone laid 9th November 1839.
Relocated  King Street Melbourne
1841: St. Francis Church, [transepts and nave] [brickwork concealed]
Foundation stone laid 4 October 1841.
Lonsdale Street Melbourne
1845: Baptist Church [brickwork concealed]
Collins Street Melbourne
300 Queen Street Melbourne
1848-1849: Jobs warehouse
58-60 Bourke Street Melbourne
1849: Oddfellows [former hotel]
33 Little Lonsdale Street Melbourne
1849: Black Eagle [former hotel]
44 Lonsdale Street Melbourne
328-30 King Street Melbourne
An unchanging feature of the west end has been the legal fraternity's precinct. The Supreme Court (1874) in William Street has as near neighbours the Federal Court, the County Court and the Magistrates' Court. Owen Dixon Chambers accommodates the barristers.
The finance and business sectors also inhabit the west end of town, causing lunch-time eateries and gentlemen's outfitters to move there from the middle of town. The medical and dental professions have a continued presence at the east end of Collins Street.
As the central city's building profile has grown skywards, once prominent buildings are overshadowed. In the 1960s the Herald Sun building and its radio masts, viewed from passing trains, dominated the skyline. In the 1990s it was low-rise.
During the early postwar years the visually dominant city buildings included the Finders Street Station (1900-10), General Post Office (1859-1907), the town hall (1867-1887), Queen Street government offices (1874, 1900), the Royal Mint (1869), ANZ Bank and former stock exchange at Collins and Queen Streets (1876), a row of five commercial buildings at 471-502 Collins Street, including the Olderfleet and the Rialto (1887-91), the shot tower (1889) and the electricity power house and chimney stack at Lonsdale and Spencer Streets.
Also visually dominant was a later generation of medium-rise buildings including T&G (Temperance and General), Manchester Unity, Myer Stores Bourke and Lonsdale Streets (1930s), Police Headquarters, Russell Street, Herald-Sun, Southern Cross Hotel in Exhibition Street (1962) and the Reserve Bank, Exhibition Street (1965). The last three of these have been overshadowed by post-1960s high-rise buildings. The prominent ones, either standing well above their neighbours or with eye-catching facade treatment, include BHP House (1972), ANZ towers (1981), Nauru House (1977), Rialto Towers (1985), 101 Collins Street (replacing the Conzinc building, 1960s), 333 Collins Street (incorporating an historic banking chamber, 1990) and Melbourne Central. The Museum railway station underneath was renamed Melbourne Central, virtually upon the announced transfer of the Museum from Swanston Street to the Carlton Gardens. Rialto Towers has an observation deck with views over Southbank, Docklands, and Port Phillip Bay.
The central city postcode area includes a triangular area between La Trobe and Victoria Streets, from William Street to Spring Street. It contains several historic reservations and buildings, educational institutions, retail facilities, transport terminals and hotels.
Moving from east to west there are the Royal Society buildings, a scientists' society in a building dating from 1858, the Horticultural Hall (1873) and police and penal establishments - Old Melbourne Gaol (1853), City Court (1911) and the former Russell Street Police Headquarters (1944). The Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology occupies nearly a whole block, including the former Emily McPherson College (1925). Near the Institute is the City Baths (1903). Across Swanston Street are air line and bus terminals, hotels and the historic Mac's in Franklin Street (1853). The Dairy Produce Section of the Queen Victoria Market is in Elizabeth Street, on a market reservation of 1859. At its rear (and in the West Melbourne postcode area), are the market sheds and covered areas, originally for wholesale and retail fruit and vegetables, but retail since 1969 when the new wholesale market was opened in Footscray Road.
By the 1960s the central business district was extending down St. Kilda Road on its western side, following approval by the metropolitan planning authority for offices to be built there. In about twenty years nearly all the pre-war buildings along St. Kilda Road were replaced. The Chevron Hotel (1934), Church of Christ Scientist (1920), Kia-Ora flats (1936) and a few mansions from the previous century are examples which remind the observer of an earlier era. The most prominent office building was BP House with its curved facade (1964). The area was under the South Melbourne council, and there was reason to believe that the council welcomed the extra rates from development on its border.
At the Yarra River end of St. Kilda Road the Victorian Arts Centre was opened in 1968, later enlarged to include the Concert Hall, State Theatre and Victorian College of the Arts. BP House was converted to Domain Towers (apartments) and the site of the Homeopathic/Prince Henry's Hospital (demolished 1994) was earmarked for apartments. Throughout the commercial developments and return to residential living St. Kilda Road kept its plane trees and green trams.
Other peripheral areas of the post-1990 central city area are Southbank and Docklands.
A-Z Historical Sites
Brighton Bathing Boxes
Flinders Street Railway Station
La Trobe's Cottage
Manchester Unity Building
Melbourne Town Hall
Old Melbourne Gaol
Old Treasury Building
Rippon Lea House & Gardens
Royal Exhibition Building
Shrine of Remembrance
St Michael's Uniting Church
St Patrick's Cathedral
St Paul's Cathedral
The Scots' Church
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⊜ 326 Lonsdale Street, Melbourne | Map
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