The history of St Kilda’s history is very interesting, it is an area that has been visited, explored, developed, and experienced by many.
In 1842 St Kilda was surveyed and James Ross Lawrence, a master of a cruiser yacht called the Lady of St Kilda, “purchased” the first block. Three unmade roads bound his block; he named these Fitzroy St, The Esplanade and Acland St.
Within a few years, St Kilda continued to develop and became ‘the place to be’ for wealthy settlers. Sadly, the indigenous peoples were driven out to surrounding areas.
St Kilda became the seaside playground, at the edge of the bay, beach, sand, and sun. St Kilda was closely connected to Melbourne city. Nothing could stop the hordes of patrons who would flock down to access the privately run sea baths, the jetty promenade, cricket and bowling clubs and of course the St Kilda Club.
By mid-1860s St Kilda had about fifteen hotels including the George, which is still open today.
During the Depression of the 1890s, however, St Kilda began to decline. People lost their fortunes and mansions were divided for housing.
It became an entertainment precinct for Melbourne’s working class, with wealthy people moving to more exclusive suburbs such as Brighton, South Yarra and Toorak.
In the early 1900’s there was a master plan for the beautification of the St Kilda foreshore, which resulted in the famous leisure precinct along the foreshore.
- St Kilda Sea Baths(1910), which replaced the 1862 “Gymnasium Baths”,
- Luna Park (1912),
- Palais de Danse (1926),
- The Palais Theatre(1927)
- St Moritz Ice Rink (1939),
- Along with many others.
Following the Great Depression, St Kilda becomes a home to crime, drug use and prostitution.
Since the late 1960s, St Kilda has become known for its culture of bohemianism and is home to many prominent artists, musicians and subcultures.
While some of these groups still maintain a presence in St Kilda, in recent years the district has experienced rapid gentrification again pushing many lower socio-economic groups out to other areas.
St Kilda grew as one of the centres of Melbourne’s Jewish community, building synagogues and schools and with Acland St featuring shops and restaurants catering to this community.
However the centre of the Jewish community has slowly moved eastwards to Caulfield. Acland St has lost its distinctive Jewish ambiance but you will still find some of the original cake shops.
Near the junction of Carlisle St and Acland St is Luna Park, one of Australia’s best-known amusement parks. Almost next door is one of Melbourne’s oldest theatres, The Palais. Also on Acland St is the St Kilda Army and Navy Club.
St Kilda has played host to a large number of arson attacks, in 1968, the Palais de Danse, adjacent to the Palais was gutted by fire. The Palace nightclub was built in its place in 1971. In 1981, the St Moritz ice rink was closed, and was later destroyed by a spectacular fire.
Into the 90s St Kilda experienced increased gentrification. It then became particularly popular with yuppies due to its proximity to the CBD. The increased cost of rentals led many long-term residents to leave.
On 11 September 2003 there was another arson attack and a St Kilda icon, the 99-year-old pier kiosk burned down.
St Kilda runs Melbourne’s first major arts and crafts market, which has been run on the Esplanade every Sunday since the 1980s.
St Kilda Festival, since 1980, has continued to grow and attract thousands of people to area each year. The precinct is host to a wide range of performers, musicians, artists and characters from all walks of life.
Many backpackers flock to St Kilda each year, for its unique atmosphere, great restaurants and access to the CBD.St Kilda continues to develop with new shops and restaurants opening and restoration and extension works under way.
Be apart of St Kilda’s history and experience its charm and visit today.
For more information, visit the St Kilda Historical Society’s website http://www.stkildahistory.org.au.