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40 Interesting Facts about Melbourne

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by Gayle Beveridge (subscribe)
Gayle is an accountant. Shh – don’t tell. She thinks she’s a writer.
Published June 27th 2018
Have fun exploring these Melbourne tidbits
Do you know how long the famous nude painting, Chloe, has hung on a Melbourne pub wall or which hotel hosted five members The Beatles, (yes five!)? Are you old enough to remember when the 'Six O'clock Swill' came to an end? Have you any idea why Melbourne's Chinatown has world significance? Did you know Melbourne used to be the capital of Australia? Read on for the answers to these questions and learn where to go today to connect with this small offering of Melbourne's rich and vibrant history.

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Brighton Beach Boxes (Photo by Leonard Koh CC BY-SA 4.0 via Wikimedia Commons)

1. In April of 2108 a beach bathing box at the Dendy Street Beach in Brighton was auctioned for a record $337,000. Bathing Boxes have been at this beach since the mid-1800's and can be seen today at 131 Esplanade, Brighton. They are a choice subject for photographers.

2. The famous nude painting, Chloe, has hung on the wall of the Young and Jackson Hotel since 1909. The hotel, which was previously called the Princes Bridge Hotel, opened in 1861. See Chloe in Chloe's Bar at Young and Jacksons on the corners of Flinders and Swanston Street in Melbourne.

3. The first Parliament of Australia was opened in Melbourne's Royal Exhibition Building on 9th May 1901 and Melbourne remained the capital city of Australia until 1927. Visit the Royal Exhibition Buildings at 9 Nicholson Street, Carlton. Visit the website for details about tours.

4. Infamous bushranger Ned Kelly was hanged on 11th November 1880 and by the following day, his death mask was on display in Bourke Street. He was the first person born in Victoria to be hanged. Visit the Old Melbourne Gaol or book on one of the available tours.

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Old Melbourne Gaol (Photo by Hideki Saito from Bellevue, WA, USACC BY 2.0 via Wikimedia Commons)

5. The 2011 Census revealed that Melbourne had the largest Greek population of any city outside of Greece at 151,785 persons of Greek ethnicity. Financial troubles in Greece in recent years have seen a renewed interest in emigration from Greece to Australia. To discover more about Greece and Greek heritage visit the Hellenic Museum at 280 William Street, Melbourne.

6. The first tram in Melbourne, a horse tram in Fairfield in 1884 was the beginning of the world's largest urban tramway network. Modern trams still operate in Melbourne today. The history of these captivating machines is on display at the Melbourne Tram Museum at 8 Wallan Road, Hawthorn. Check the website for opening days.

7. The CSIRO began in 1916 as the Advisory Council of Science and Industry at 314 Albert Street in East Melbourne. Its first research project cost £250 and was to explore how to control the prickly pear cactus. Australia's first digital computer, CSIRAC, was designed and built by the CSIRO in Australia in 1949. At the time of writing it is off public display at the Melbourne Museum and soon to be announced at its new home.

8. Before being called Melbourne the city had a number of names including Barebrass, Batmania, Dutergalla, and Bareheep. Much of Melbourne's history at the State Library of Victoria at 328 Swanston Street, Melbourne.

9. Luna Park, a family amusement park, opened for business in 1912. Mr. Moon, the giant face that is the entrance to the park has now been smiling for more than a century. Luna Park is at 18 Lower Esplanade, St. Kilda.

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Mr. Moon, the Entrance to Luna Park (Photo by Greg O'Beirne CC-BY-SA-3.0 via Wikimedia Commons)

10.The Melbourne Cup, the race that stops a nation, was first run in 1861. Seventeen horses raced and Archer was the first Cup winner and also the second, when it won again the following year. Now the highlight of the annual Spring Racing Carnival, the Melbourne Cup is run on the first Tuesday in November.

11.At 297.3 metres high, Eureka Tower is Melbourne's tallest building, a record it will lose in 2020 when Australia 108, rising 317 metres, is due to be finished. Visit the Eureka Tower Skydeck and test your nerve on The Edge at 7 Riverside Quay, Southbank.

12.The original Flinders Street Station opened in 1854 and the present building was opened in 1910. The Flinders Street Clocks have long been a meeting place for Melburnians. Visit Flinders Street Station and stand beneath the clocks on the corner of Flinders and Swanston Street, Melbourne.

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Flinders Street Station with Eureka Tower in the Background (Photo by Douglas Paul Perkins CC BY 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons)

13.Pubs in Melbourne were required to close at 6pm until 1966. This gave rise to 'The Six O'Clock Swill' where men rushed to buy drinks before closing time. Many would buy multiple pots of beer and scull them before having to leave the pub at 6.15. You won't have to travel far to visiti one of Melbourne's hotels; they are plentiful.

14.Melbourne's Chinatown in Little Bourke Street was founded in 1851 and is the longest continuous Chinese settlement in the Western world. At the eastern end of Little Bourke Street, Chinatown runs between Swanston and Spring Streets and is renowned as a premier precinct for dining, entertainment and shopping.

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Chinatown in Little Bourke Street was Founded in 1881. (Photo by Alex Proimos CC BY 2.0 via Wikimedia Commons)

15.Vegemite was invented in Melbourne and first appeared on Australian grocery shelves in 1923. It was invented by Dr. Cyril P Callister, a leading food technologist of the time, as an Aussie alternative to Marmite. Although it continued to be made in Port Melbourne Australian ownership was lost to Kraft in 1935. In an historic move in 1916, Australian company Bega purchased to iconic brand and brought it home. The Bega Cheese Heritage Centre is in NSW at 13-11 Lagoon Street Bega.

16.The Werribee Sewerage Farm was developed in 1898 to divert sewerage from Melbourne which was at the time colloquially referred to as Smellbourne. Now referred to as the Melbourne Water Western Treatment Plant it is a popular bird watching site. It can be found via Exploration Avenue off Geelong Road/Princes Highway, between New Farm Road and Newmarket Road, Werribee.

17.The Queen Victoria Market has been operating since 1878 and at seven hectares is the largest open air market in the Southern Hemisphere. The Queen Victoria Market is in Queen Street, Melbourne.

18.In 1906, 'The Story of the Kelly Gang', the first feature length movie in the world, was produced in Australia. It ran for over an hour and was shown in the Athenaeum Hall in Collins Street in Melbourne on 26th December, 1906. The Athenaeum still operates today. Book a ticket to one of the shows and experience this historic site.

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Athenaeum Theatre (Photo by Smit & Johnson via wikimedia commons)

19.Melbourne's worst industrial accident was the collapse of the West Gate Bridge in 1970. The bridge was under construction when a section fell resulting in the death of 35 workers. The bridge was subsequently completed and remains in use today. Beneath the bridge, Westgate Park is a popular recreation area and provides good views of the bridge.

20.The city's first newspaper, The Melbourne Advertiser, was published on January 1838. It's first nine editions were handwritten. The Melbourne Advertiser and many other early Victoria and Australian newspapers are held in the collections of the State Library of Victoria.

21.Australia's first pizza restaurant, Toto, opened in Lygon Street in 1961, where it still operates today. As well as the original restaurant at 101 Lygon Street, Carlton, Toto's Pizza also has restaurants in South Melbourne, Richmond and Essendon.

22.In 2004 the City of Melbourne renamed Corporation Lane to ACDC Lane in honour of the rock band. Home to the infamous Cherry Bar ACDC Lane runs off Flinders Lane.

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ACDC Lane (Photo by Commander Keane CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons)

23.World famous opera singer, Dame Nellie Melba (1861 – 1931), whose real name was Helen Porter Mitchell took her stage name from her home town of Melbourne. For details of exhibitions relating to Dame Nellie Melba or for more information visit the Nellie Melba Museum website.

24.There are only three legal nude beaches in Victoria. Melbourne's clothing optional beach is Sunnyside North Beach at Mount Eliza on the Mornington Peninsula. Campbell's Cove Beach in Werribee lost its clothing-optional status in September of 2015. Sunnyside North Beach is at 1 Sunnyside Road, off Nepean Highway just south of Mount Eliza and is a 10 minute walk along a path from the carpark.

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Do you dare to go skinny dipping (Photo by Gisele Porcaro from Brasília, Brasil (IMG_0130a) CC BY 2.0 via Wikimedia Commons)

25.On Sunday 5th April 1970, the first ever Australian Football League (then VFL game) to be played on a Sunday was attended by the Queen, Prince Philip, Prince Charles and Princess. For all things AFL and current fixtures visit their website.

26.Currently the second largest city in Australia with a population of 4.82 million (in 2017), Melbourne is set to steal the title from Sydney by 2050. Check out current estimates for Melbourne and your own area on the id population forecasting website.

27.The Royal Melbourne Show, an agricultural show has been held every year since 1848. Until 1994 a public holiday was observed in Melbourne for Showday. See what's in store for you at the next Royal Melbourne Show on their website.


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Royal Melbourne Show (Photo by Chris Phutully from Australia CC BY 2.0 via Wikimedia Commons)

28.Melbourne has not one, but six sister cities the first of which was Osaka in Japan. The other five are Boston in the US, Milan in Italy, St Petersburg in Russia, Thessaloniki in Greece and Tianjin in China.

29.In 1882 The Doll Hospital, where dolls and teddies are taken for repair, opened for business in the Royal Arcade in Melbourne. It still exists today but has moved to Claremont Ave in Malvern.

30.The Great Hall of the National Gallery of Victoria is home to the world's largest stained glass ceiling. Designed by Leonard French it sits 13.72 metres above the floor and measures 60.9 x 15.24 metres. The National Gallery of Victoria is at 180 St. Kilda Road, Melbourne.

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The Glass Ceiling at the National Gallery of Victoria (Photo by I, Sailko CC-BY-SA-3.0 via Wikimedia Commons)

31.In 1891 Melbourne brothels were the first to use a telephone system for ordering prostitutes and it was from this that the term 'call girl' was coined.

32.Developed as a winter sport for cricketers an experimental match of Aussie Rules Football was played at Richmond Paddock (Yarra Park) in 1858 and the Melbourne Football Club was formed. For more information about the Melbourne Football Club and current fixtures visit their website.

33.The Yarra River which flows through Melbourne from the Yarra Ranges to Hobsons Bay is 242kms long. Yarra River Cruises are available from a number of operators including Melbourne River Cruises.

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The Spirit of Melbourne cruising restaurant. (Image from Melbourne River Cruises Facebook Page)

34.The National Gallery of Victoria is the oldest art museum in Australia. Founded in 1861 it now holds more than 70,000 works in its collection. The National Gallery of Victoria is at 180 St. Kilda Road, Melbourne.

35.The Athenaeum Theatre in Collins Street was built in 1842. The Melbourne City Council met at the Athenaeum until the Town Hall was built in 1952. The current Melbourne Town Hall is at 90-130 Swanston Street, Melbourne. Regular tours of the town hall are available but must be booked.

36.The Birdman Rally, where people fling themselves off the Swan Street Bridge in homemade (hopefully) flying apparatus, has been part of Melbourne's Moomba Festival since 1976. Details of the next Moomba Festival can be found on the website.

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An entrant in the Moomba Birdman Rally - a Melbourne Silliness (Photo by Chris Phutully CC BY 2.0 via Wikimedia Commons)

37.Melbourne hosted the Olympic Games in 1956. Television was introduced to Australia in time for the games, the first broadcast taking place on September 16th, barely two months before the November games.

38.Captain Cook's Cottage in Melbourne's Fitzroy Gardens was deconstructed brick by brick in 1933 and transported from North Yorshire to Australia. Built in 1755, it was not the home of Captain Cook but of his parents. It is not known if Captain Cook ever lived in the cottage. The Fitzroy Gardens are in Wellington Parade, East Melbourne.

39.Pentridge Gaol commenced in 1850, at which time it was only a stockade. The structure with its bluestone walls and towers was built between 1857 and 1864. The prison which closed in 1997 was colloquially known as 'Bluestone College'. Pentridge is in Coburg and is being developed into a residential and community hub. Some of the old buildings will be resotred and preserved as part of the process.

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Pentridge circa 1861 (Photo by Jean Baptiste Charlier in the public domain via the State Library of Victoria)

40.In June of 1964 the Beatles arrived in Melbourne and were greeted by an estimated 300,000 people. Ringo Starr was ill and the group arrived in Australia with his replacement, Jimmie Nichol. Ringo later joined them at the Southern Cross Hotel which is the only hotel to have ever hosted five Beatles. Sadly the hotel had closed by 1995 and was completely demolished by 2003.
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Your Comment
lol what a great read Gayle ... only two without links, well done!
by Kate Blake (score: 3|1285) 146 days ago
This is a lot of history and very interesting.
by Roger (score: 2|599) 146 days ago
Yes, she is a great city. Well done with all these well-researched tidbits
by Nadine Cresswell-Myatt (score: 3|5330) 144 days ago
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