Wednesday, October 30, 2013

A bit early?

Olive's Corner, Port Melbourne

Walking through Olive's Corner earlier this week, saw a person reading the PMHPS book 'Chartered Scoundrels: A Brief History of Port Melbourne Hotels'. Couldn't let this go unremarked and stopped for a chat.
Robert Gooding enjoys visiting Port. By 9 am he had already taken two buses and a train to get here. With the book and his camera, he was looking forward to a morning's wandering around the Borough.
As you would know, the 2014 PMHPS calendar also features historic Port Melbourne hotels and is available at the Port Melbourne Town Hall and the newsagent.

Monday, October 28, 2013

Allan Whittaker Memorial Commemoration

Update 3 November 2013
At sunset people gathered at Princes Pier to commemorate the life of Allan Whittaker, shot by police in the waterfront dispute in 1928. Kevin Bracken emphasised the importance of getting together to tell the stories of the place and the people that have shaped Port Melbourne. 
Former Supreme Court Judge Frank Vincent, who was born into a waterfront family in Port Melbourne in the thirties gave an impressive address - all without notes. Here is a brief excerpt from his speech (for more, click here)

 Frank Vincent, born in Port Melbourne
"But the remarkable thing about what occurred at that time, and which is not simply the story of one man, is that there was a bonding, a linkage between those people who remained with the Waterside Workers Federation in the very, very difficult period of almost twelve years that followed that particularly shooting.  Because quite a few defected. Quite a few left the industry entirely.
Those that remained, those that lived in this area of Port Melbourne, formed a very very powerful community and a community that had its effect right across our industrial scene for the many years that followed.
I don’t think anyone should underestimate the significance of the struggles which occurred at that time. The courage that it took for men and women to hold together when they could easily have joined a scab union and defected and given away their principles and given away their community.But they didn’t do that. And it took a very special kind of courage and it ought to be memorialised, it ought to be understood, we ought to be inordinately proud of it.
There are lots of things in our Australian history of which we should be massively ashamed - some of them are occurring at the present time - but this is certainly not one of them."

The Allan Whittaker Memorial Commemoration will be held at Princes Pier on Friday 1st November at 6.15 p m.
The commemoration will mark the 85th anniversary of the 1928 Dock Strike and fatal shooting by police of Allan Whittaker, a waterside worker and Gallipoli veteran.
The commemoration will feature talks as well as the sunset presentation of memorial items to commemorate Allan Whittaker, his fellow waterside workers and rich maritime industrial history.
(PMHPS warrants that this is a photograph taken of a notice about the Whittaker commemoration and is not contrived)

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Metropolitan Planning 2: Entering Melbourne from Port Melbourne

The Town Planning Commission report of 1929 was very critical of the entrance to Melbourne from Port Melbourne. It reported that 'this approach to Melbourne is a drab and shabby one'.  The honorary secretary of the Commission, Frank Heath, said hopefully 'What a difference a tree lined boulevard, extending for several miles around the esplanade would make to the Port Melbourne waterfront.'
The appearance of Port Melbourne's foreshore also attracted a lot of commentary in the papers of the day along these lines: 'Run your eye along the waterfront scene, and you will realise that the overseas tourist's first impression of Melbourne is one of aesthetic horror.'  Perhaps there is just a hint of exaggeration in the following description: 'The scene which greets the visitor leaving Princes Pier might well serve as the background for a theatre set representing a specially unpleasant corner of American desert country'
So successive dignitaries and royals were taken from Port to St Kilda so they could proceed with appropriate dignity up St Kilda Road. This still rankles. However, the picture of Swallow St in the Town Planning Commission report suggests they had a point.

The Port Melbourne Council maintained that the land between the piers was the Melbourne Harbor Trust's responsibility. The MHT said what happened on the landward side was not their responsibility.Throughout the 1920s the Port Council lobbied the Government for improvements to the waterfront. Finally the Melbourne Harbor Trust proposed a bridge to link the two piers. Centenary Bridge was built for the Centenary of Melbourne in 1934 but roads connecting to it were not completed and open to the public until 1936.
All that remains of that unique structure is the lone pylon opposite the London Hotel. Look for the Melbourne Harbor Trust monogram on the pillar. Centenary Bridge was demolished to make way for the Beacon Cove development in 1991.
Once again the area around the Piers is the subject of discussion by the Council and the Port of Melbourne Corporation.

Cautionary tale: the quotes above are taken from a photocopied compilation of newspaper articles, some of them undated. If you ever cut anything out of the paper (an act that in itself may soon become a historical exercise) write the date and source on it in pencil straight away. Without accurate dating, they are less useful.
Sources, notes and further information
The Melbourne Harbor Trust is the antecedent organisation of today's Port of Melbourne Corporation
Please read the fabulously detailed account of the stories surrounding the construction of Centenary Bridge at
G & M Bride The Borough and Its People, Port Melbourne 1839 to 1939

Monday, October 21, 2013

Launch of the ANZAC Centenary at Princes Pier: a time for re-connection

In a way it was fitting that it was a grey and rather sombre day for the launch of the ANZAC Centenary commemorations at Princes Pier. Today marks the day 99 years ago that the HMAT Orvieto departed from then Railway Pier in Port Melbourne. The Orvieto troop ship was the lead ship in the convoy to Albany, and then again led the convoy to the Middle East. Ted Baillieu, chairman of the ANZAC Centenary Committee, spoke of the moment of enlisting as a moment of dis-connection - when people separated from families, friends and communities. The ANZAC Centenary project is an opportunity to re-connect through personal and family stories to the shared history of the First World War.
A descendant of one of the soldiers on the Orvieto has gone on just such a journey into his father's past. At this distance he can only imagine what motivated his father to volunteer in those early days of the war. He referred to the amazingly extensive and accessible resources available to any person inquiring into their family history. They are available to us all.
PMHPS has made a list, for further exploration, of all those on board the Orvieto who gave a Port Melbourne address. (Of course, they are also available through the embarkation lists below).A brief scan suggests that Albert Street had most people on board.

ANZAC Centenary: Sharing Victoria's Stories
Embarkation of the Orvieto: including embarkation lists and images
Herald Sun 21 10 2013

Its History Week from 20 to 27 October

What better way to celebrate History Week than to visit the City of Port Phillip's brand newly opened Emerald Hill Library and Heritage Centre in the former Post Office opposite the South Melbourne Town Hall.
If you can't get there for any reason, there is plenty to explore on the City of Port Phillip's Heritage Website
If you are out and about in Victoria, there is a huge amount on. For a calendar of events, visit

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Metropolitan Planning

Last week, Premier Napthine and Planning Minister Guy released Plan Melbourne which sets out the government's vision for Melbourne to 2050.
In the Society's collection is a copy of the first plan for Melbourne prepared by the newly formed Metropolitan Town Planning Commission in 1929. While the whole report is full of interest, unsurprisingly PMHPS headed straight for the Port Melbourne references. The report is also available online, downloadable chapter by fascinating chapter.
By 1929,  a considerable number of the Garden City Bank houses had been completed or were under construction, as can be seen in the photographs below. (The book is quite fragile so it couldn't be opened fully) Can you help in identifying some reference points?
Garden City Bank houses under construction
Brand new but treeless Crichton Avenue
Of particular interest are references to places still topical or in contention today. The further development of Fishermans Bend was contemplated in the Plan as follows: 'Fishermans Bend aimed at the creation of an industrial suburb of which 340 acres were planned for residential development, 420 acres for industrial purposes and over 80 acres for open space and playing fields.' (p254)
More about the 1929 Plan next week . . .

Further information
History of Strategic Planning in Melbourne

Friday, October 11, 2013

PMHPS 2014 Calendar featuring Port's Hotels is now available

Historic Port Melbourne Hotels
The 2014 Calendar is now on sale for $12 from the Port Melbourne Town Hall Assist Desk - enter off Spring St south.
'In 2000 the Historic Port Melbourne calendar Pubs and Pastimes sold out, so that many of those who keep a collection haven't that copy. We therefore decided to publish an encore, and have included several favourite hotels from 2000'

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Foundation stories

PMHPS finds it endlessly fascinating that it is still possible to 'read' the shaping stories of Port Melbourne in its street layout - the influence of the Lagoon and the Railway in particular.
This is well explained in this report: 'Perhaps the most significant element of Port Melbourne's infrastructure in terms of its ability to demonstrate aspects of the history of the place is its street layout. A reading of the history of the suburb reveals the background to the siting of the original settlement and its main route to Melbourne, the subsequent early surveyed street layout back from Beach Road along the axis of Bay St, the influence of the siting of the railway line in effectively dividing the suburb in two, and the much later and quite distinct planned layout of the model housing estates west of the railway line. (will post about those another day)
The original topography of Port Melbourne, is also reflected in the street layout. This is most important to our ability to visualise large natural features such as the lagoon which dominated local affairs for so long. Few suburbs have a street layout which so distinctly reflects different phases of its history.'
All the elements referred to above, apart from the 20th century housing estates - can be clearly seen  in this 1860 plan which would still help you find your way round Port Melbourne today.
The Borough of Sandridge 1860

Port Melbourne: A Thematic History prepared for the City of Port Phillip by Allom Lovell and Associates 1994

Thursday, October 3, 2013

Notice to Port-ers

  • For Farams fans on facebook, Kevin Anderson has started a facebook page for the Last of the Independents. It includes some great still photographs from the documentary
  • First Fishermans Bend information session is on - this Tuesday 8 October, 5 to 7 pm at Sol Green Community Centre, Cnr Coventry and Montague Sts, South Melbourne

Ghost signs

Dr Stefan Schutt is documenting 'ghost signs' around Melbourne. That led to thinking about signs in Port Melbourne.
Port Melbourne's most splendid signs would have to be those that adorned the UDL building (now the id apartments) on Pickles St. They were painted by sign writer Keith Martin. UDL was a successor company to Joshua Bros Distillery which made brandy, whisky and rum here. More on Joshua Bros another day - this post is about signs.
It is perhaps unlikely that in today's more alcohol sensitive times that such overt advertising would be considered acceptable. The mural was  required to be preserved in the redevelopment to apartments. Here they are in all their splendour - uninterrupted by window openings.
Alison Kelly collection Port Melbourne Historical and Preservation Society
The sign below is painted on the rear of the service station on the corner of Salmon St and Williamstown Road. Can anyone tell what product Diamond Hudson was?

An all time favourite is the barely visible Rootes sign on the roof of the former car makers in Salmon St (south side) between Williamstown Road and Plummer St. Sharing this photograph with you even though you can probably barely make out the sign - a better photo taken from above would show it more clearly.

Schutt says the signs 'remind us that the places we inhabit have former lives. We can easily forget that we're not the first to navigate these streets and live in these buildings.' (Age 28 09)

Do you know of of any other signs of interest in Port Melbourne?

Sources and further information
Ghost signs exhibition on line