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… 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!’
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. In 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… Below 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!
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. 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!