I love spending time in North Melbourne. Whether it’s slowly meandering down busy Errol Street, popping into The Auction Rooms for scrumptious bite of lunch, or grabbing a quick takeaway coffee from Code Black Coffee, North Melbourne is a delicious blend of shabby and chic, posh and passé, glamour and grit.
It is also a suburb rich in old hand-painted and architectural building signs with a few rare examples of old neon signs too. Being an originally working class suburb, buildings have not been particularly well-maintained and many signs still exist from the turn of the century through to the 50s and 60s.
With every new discovery I found myself reaching for my iPhone and angling for the perfect shot. My sign-hunting addiction was showing no signs of abating…
North Melbourne is a residential, commercial and industrial suburb immediately north-west of central Melbourne. It is often associated with West Melbourne (in which is situated the North Melbourne railway yards), and the boundary between the two is Victoria Street.
Established in the 1840s, by 1861 the borough had a population of over 7,000 people. In addition to the churches and the benevolent asylum, it had numerous hotels and, by the turn of the century had grown to over seventy.
From this time and well into the 1950s North Melbourne was considered a working men’s suburb, with local industries and plenty of housing within walking distance of work. Some remnants of this time still remain today adding a contrasting edginess to the growing gentrification of the area.
The Cleveland sign was one of the first that I was drawn to capture in North Melbourne. I love the great old deco font, the boarded-up door and iron gates. I am intrigued to know more about the business that presumably operated from here in the 20s or 30s. Do let me know if you have any insights or information regarding this old architectural building sign!
This old factory sign for K.B Johnstone is also a wonderful example of a very early sign from North Melbourne’s industrial past.
While I thoroughly enjoy the mystery that surrounds those signs for which the Internet offers no explanation, I am always thrilled to find out more about signs and their history when I can!
The Bulla Cream sign is one such example where I have been able to source more information. The owners of Bulla Cream opened the premises on Arden Street, North Melbourne in 1928 some 18 years after successfully inventing a new process that created pasteurised thickened cream.
In 1935 a boom in family-operated milk bars meant big business for Bulla Cream whose ice-cream and cream were regularly purchased by consumers from their local milk bar. In the 1950s and 60s their products could be purchased for the first time through supermarkets and the brains behind the brand developed innovative take-away containers for ice-cream and cream responding to huge improvements in home refrigeration and growing public demand. Bulla Cream is still operated by decedents of the founding family and has remained successful by continuing to evolve, innovate and respond to consumer preferences and market trends. What a great old sign – I simply adore the slightly upside-down looking ‘B’!
I love this old milk bar sign which depicts a just visible smoking cigarette. With the current ban on all smoking advertisements in Australia it is an interesting marker of a time when smoking was much more ubiquitous and acceptable.
The hand-painted The Age and Herald Sun newspaper signs may well have been from the 50s or 60s given the ageing and the font style used.
The Sun newspaper is no longer operational since its merger with The Herald in 1990.
Here is a taste of a few of the other great signs I found in North Melbourne. Do you know of any others? Let me know!