The joy of losing myself in the city is the discovery of hidden gems…

I love Melbourne and am at my happiest pounding the pavement on a sunny day with my family in tow. I can spend hours peeking into boutique stores, sipping coffee in its many hidden lane ways, tripping excitedly down narrow stairs to get to an as yet un-sampled Japanese restaurant and generally enjoying getting lost… Malvern Cadbury Bournville Cocoa I’ve taken a great many photos since I first gave in to my fixation with signs. From Clifton Hill to St Kilda, Drouin to Abbotsford I am barely able to pass through a town or suburb these days without parking the pram or yelling “I’m pulling over – I HAVE to get that sign!’

Abbotsford Newsagency

Included in this post are some of my all-time favourite signs from in and around the city and a little information on the place I love to call home…

Melbourne                                                                                                                                                                The Melbourne landscape as we know it began to take shape during the the Gold Rush in 1851. The sudden influx of wealth and the associated population boom into the city, particularly of educated foreigners, meant a sudden demand for better infrastructure, and the wherewithal to create it. Schools, galleries, civic buildings and churches, some of which remain today, popped up all over the city including the brilliant Parliament House in Spring Street which was built in 1855 and extended to its present grandiose appearance in 1929. For many decades Melbourne was Australia’s largest city but by 1905 the mantle had been returned to Sydney. Building activity virtually ceased during the 1940s and early 1950s, although the Russell Street police headquarters (1940-43) was an exception. Some smartening up came with civic decorations for the Coronation, Royal Visit and the Olympic Games. Clifton Hill Reg. Office Dr Kielly's Arch Rest ShoesIn the early 1950s the Commonwealth Government began a (probably unintended) slum-reclamation movement by acquiring most of the block bounded by La Trobe, Spring, Lonsdale and Exhibition Streets. Eventually a high rise was built in 1958 to accommodate those displaced. in 1956 the I.C.I. building, Melbourne’s first curtain-wall building, was the first to go over the height limit of 40 metres, dictated by the reach of fire-fighting ladders. Technological advancements, Melbourne’s growing population, housing shortages in the city and various governments have impacted the shape of the city we know today. Unfortunately, in my opinion, not enough value has been placed on protecting the visual history of the City but thankfully we still have some beautiful buildings and great signs to help us remember this city’s rich history… Clifton Hill Ronert BrandBelow is the iconic Skipping Girl Vinegar neon sign. No post on Melbourne signs would be complete with a mention of Little Audrey the Skipping girl and this famous sign – the first animated neon sign in Australia. The brand’s name references a skipping rhyme, usually, ‘salt, vinegar, mustard, pepper, if I dare, I can do better…” to which the rope is gradually turned faster. The sign was immediately popular when erected in the 1930s and remained in its original place till the Nycander factory it sat upon brought down by the city’s most infamous demolition company Whelan the Wrecker who then claimed ownership and sold it on to a used car dealership company. Public support for its reinstatement eventually saw another smaller version created in 1970 and erected where it currently stands at 651 Victoria Street. The beautiful sign has been listed by the National Trust (Victoria) and placed on the Victorian Heritage Register. If you have not witnessed its beauty at night I thoroughly recommend a drive-by some time – its pretty special to see our little Audrey skip! Abbotsford Skipping Girl Vinegar

St Kilda Luna Park

And speaking of iconic signs, Melbourne’s Luna Park sign must surely make an appearance in this post with its amazing Mr Moon entrance and long history providing entertainment to the city. Originally opening in 1912, it has seen a number of refurbishments, renovations and modernisations. It has ebbed and flowed in popularity, surviving the two wars, a fire and an accident on the scenic railway that injury 20 people. Its current facade was created in 1999 and remains a must-see for many tourists in the city and is definitely a childhood favourite of mine.

When Pellegrini’s opened its Bourke Street doors in 1954 it was possibly the first cafe to own an espresso machine – though this is hotly debated. Once a city of staunch tea drinkers this quirky Italian cafe has definitely contributed to our long love affair with the roasted bean. Expresso is drunk standing up at the bar and towering plates of pasta and cakes slathered with cream are severed at tiny laminated tables dotted around the homely interior. It remains virtually unchanged since chaining hands in the 1970s. Melbourne Pellegrini's Bar Espresso I must add the Nylex clock sign to my collection as this is another Melbourne icon but it’s quite hard to get a good shot as you’re zooming onto Hoddle Street! Do you know of any others i should add? Let me know in the comments below! Brighton Woy Woy Signage Elwood Jerry's Milk Bar Cafe Drouin Engineering Drouin Andrews Bakery Daysleford StablesYarraville Sun Theatre Westgarth Theatre Westgarth St Kilda Salads Home Delivery St Kilda Palais Theatre Northcote Coke Sign & ghost signs Mont Albert Bread Factory Mont Albert Melbourne Platform No.3 Flinders Street Kingsville The Sun Dry Cleaners Kingsville Herald Sun Tobacco Station Hampton East Milk Bar Brighton Nestles ChocolateElwood Swallow and Ariells


8 responses to “The joy of losing myself in the city is the discovery of hidden gems…

  1. Looking at your latest group of vintage signs makes me feel rather nostalgic for a time when life didn’t have so many luxuries and a sign for a “special” product or a “treat” really got the heart racing. I love the different graphic styles. With so few actual images, the way a word was written had to convey so much more than it does today. Thanks for making all of these signs available at the click of a mouse!


    • What wonderful feedback. These signs certainly can make me wish I had lived in time long ago so I know what you mean. As you say many of the signs explore the thrill of purchasing quite simple items like cocoa and biscuits or just going to the theatre to see a picture! And you just don’t see the same kind of beautiful typography and imagery that they used in moderns signs. Thanks so much for your feedback.


  2. I too love getting lost in the city streets and lane ways, although I am generally literally getting lost!
    Your appreciation for Melbournes history and your beautiful way of collecting the memories of eras goneby is stunning!

    Liked by 1 person

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