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St Kilda, Victoria

St Kilda
Luna Park, St Kilda's iconic amusement park
St Kilda is located in Melbourne
St Kilda
Location in metropolitan Melbourne
Population 17,795 (2011 census)[1]
 • Density 5,560/km2 (14,400/sq mi)
Established 1839
Postcode(s) 3182
Area 3.2 km2 (1.2 sq mi)
Location 6 km (4 mi) from Melbourne CBD
LGA(s) City of Port Phillip
State electorate(s)
Federal Division(s) Melbourne Ports
Suburbs around St Kilda:
St Kilda West Albert Park and Lake Windsor
Port Phillip St Kilda St Kilda East
Port Phillip Elwood Balaclava

St Kilda is a suburb of Melbourne, Victoria, Australia, 6 km south-east of Melbourne's Central Business District. Its local government area is the City of Port Phillip. At the 2011 Census, St Kilda had a population of 17,795.

St Kilda was named after a schooner Lady of St Kilda (which moored at the main beach for much of 1841) by Charles La Trobe and the ship's master and early settler Lieutenant James Ross Lawrence. [2]

During the Edwardian and Victorian eras, St Kilda became a favoured suburb of Melbourne's elite, and many palatial mansions were constructed along its hills and waterfront. Shortly after the turn of the 20th century, St Kilda served a similar function for Melburnians as did Coney Island to the residents of New York City and its history draws an interesting parallel.[3] Densely populated postwar St Kilda became Melbourne's red-light district, home to low-cost rooming houses. Since the late 1960s, St Kilda has become known for its culture of bohemianism and as home to many prominent artists, musicians and subcultures, including punks,[4] LGBT and techno scene. While some of these groups still maintain a presence in St Kilda, in recent years the district has experienced rapid gentrification pushing many lower socio-economic groups out to other areas.[5][6][7]

St Kilda is home to many of Melbourne's famous visitor attractions including Luna Park, the Esplanade Hotel, Acland Street and Fitzroy Street. It is home to St Kilda Beach, Melbourne's most famous beach, several renowned theatres and several of Melbourne's big events and festivals.


  • Name 1
  • History 2
    • Land Boom 2.1
    • Seaside playground 2.2
    • Further decline 2.3
    • Gentrification 2.4
  • Demography 3
  • Culture 4
    • Theatre and cinema 4.1
    • Places of worship 4.2
    • Events and festivals 4.3
    • Music 4.4
    • Sport 4.5
    • Recreation and leisure 4.6
  • Built environment 5
    • Local landmarks 5.1
    • Residential architecture 5.2
    • Historic hotel buildings 5.3
    • Parks and gardens 5.4
  • Education and schools 6
  • References in popular culture 7
  • Transport 8
  • Missing person cases 9
  • Notable residents 10
  • See also 11
  • References 12
  • External links 13


Before being officially named St Kilda in 1841 by Charles La Trobe, who was superintendent of the Port Phillip District of New South Wales, the area was known by several names, including 'Green Knoll' and 'The Village of Fareham'. It was named after the schooner the Lady of St Kilda, which was owned between 1834 and 1840 by Sir Thomas Acland. In 1840 Thomas Acland sold the vessel to Jonathan Cundy Pope of Plymouth who sailed for Port Phillip in Melbourne in February 1841. The vessel was moored at the main beach for most of that year, which was soon known as "the St Kilda foreshore."[8][9]

The schooner "Lady of St Kilda" was named in honor of Lady Grange, who was imprisoned on the island of Hirta, the largest island in the St Kilda archipelago, on the western edge of Scotland, by her husband in 1734–40.


Early lithograph (1864) of St Kilda main beach looking toward west beach and Port Melbourne.

Kulin people lived in Euroe Yroke (the area now known as St Kilda) for an estimated 31,000 to 40,000 years.[10] Evidence has been found of shellfish middens and huts along Albert Park and Lake and axes which were most likely sharpened on the sandstone cliffs behind the main beach. Corroborees where held at the historic tree which still stands at St Kilda Junction, at the corner of Fitzroy Street and Queens Road. Much of the area north of present-day Fitzroy Street was swampland, part of the Yarra River Delta which comprised vast areas of wetlands and sparse vegetation.

The first European settler in St Kilda was Ben Baxter in around 1839. He was a settler from Melbourne on a grazing lease. In 1840, St Kilda was the home to Melbourne's first quarantine station for Scottish immigrants.

The area was officially named St Kilda in 1841. The first sale of Crown lands in St Kilda took place on 7 December 1842. The first block was bought by James Ross Lawrence, who had been master of the Lady of St Kilda until 1842. Lawrence had now settled in Melbourne. His block was bounded by three unmade roads. One of these roads he named Acland Street after Thomas Acland, who had been his employer until 1840 but who had never been to Port Phillip District. The remaining two became Fitzroy Street and The Esplanade. (A plaque at the junction of Acland and Fitzroy Streets marks the site of the block.) By 1845, Lawrence had subdivided and sold the land on which he had built a cottage.[8] The land on the sea-side of The Esplanade has continued to be Crown land.

Within a few years, St Kilda became a fashionable area for wealthy settlers and the indigenous peoples were driven out to surrounding areas. The high ground above the beach offered a cool fresh breeze during Melbourne's hot summer months.

St Kilda became a separate municipality on 24 April 1857,[11] and in the same year, the railway line and railway station connected St Kilda to Melbourne city and a loop line to Windsor. These railway lines brought many visitors to St Kilda and increased patronage to the privately run sea baths, the jetty promenade and the St Kilda Cup, cricket and bowling clubs were formed in 1855 and 1865. By the mid-1860s St Kilda had about fifteen hotels including the George, formerly the Seaview (1857).

Land Boom

An 1880s photograph of St Kilda Junction looking up High Street (now St Kilda Rd) to the left and Barkly St to the right, then the commercial and civic heart, towards the Junction Hotel.
1890 photograph of Fitzroy Street looking toward the intersection of Grey Street and the George Hotel from Albert Park.

St Kilda's population more than doubled between 1870 and 1890 to about 19,000 persons. During the Land Boom of the 1880s, St Kilda became a densely populated district of great stone mansions and palatial hotels, particularly along the seaside streets such as

  • St Kilda Historical Society
  • Luna Park
  • Linden St Kilda Centre for Contemporary Arts
  • St Kilda Film Festival
  • Official Louise and Charmian Faulkner site
  • St Kilda Marina

External links

  1. ^  
  2. ^
  3. ^ Robert Sands, Conservation Analysis, 1992
  4. ^ Melbourne Punk & Post Punk Book Released
  5. ^ a b
  6. ^ a b Gentrification of St Kilda from a speech by Cr Brand
  7. ^ Memories of My St Kilda by Michael Veitch for The Age
  8. ^ a b Lady of St Kilda
  9. ^ Place of Sensuous Resort, p. 53.
  10. ^ Gary Presland, The First Residents of Melbourne's Western Region, (revised edition), Harriland Press, 1997. ISBN 0-646-33150-7. Presland says on page 1: "There is some evidence to show that people were living in the Maribyrnong River valley, near present day Keilor, about 40,000 years ago."
  11. ^ The Australian encyclopaedia, Volume 6. Grolier Society of Australia. 1983.
  12. ^ Melbourne & Australian Architecture Topics
  13. ^ Seaside history
  14. ^ St Kilda Sea Baths
  15. ^ Italian Delegation to Honour Carlo Catani, Designer of St Kilda's Foreshore
  16. ^
  17. ^ Working girls: prostitutes, their life and social control, Roberta Perkins, ISBN 0-642-15877-0, Canberra: Australian Institute of Criminology, 1991
  18. ^ Gay subculture
  19. ^ Memories of My St Kilda by Michael Veitch for The Age
  20. ^ St Moritz – The Skating Lady
  21. ^
  22. ^
  23. ^ St Kilda kiosk gone after 99 years on the sea
  24. ^ Development plan and illustrations from Port Phillip Council
  25. ^ Blaze at St Kilda landmark under control
  26. ^ Light shines on fittings
  27. ^ Fury as councillors approve foreshore project
  28. ^ Save St Kilda – The Triangle Site
  29. ^ unChain St Kilda
  30. ^ St Kilda Triangle plan scrapped
  31. ^ Australian Bureau of Statistics Population Distribution 2004
  32. ^ History of the Astor Theatre
  33. ^ "All Saints' Anglican Church". Retrieved 12 April 2011. 
  34. ^ Full Point Footy. "Southern Football League". Retrieved 21 October 2008. 
  35. ^ St Kilda could be renamed after Shane Warne
  36. ^ St Kilda Penguins Accessed 13 May 2007
  37. ^ A Place of Sensuous Resort
  38. ^ The Priory from "A Place of Sensuous Resort"
  39. ^ Summerland Mansions from "A Place of Sensuous Resort"
  40. ^ Baymor Court – The Esplanade Alliance
  41. ^ Butler-Bowden & Picket. Homes in the Sky. P118.
  42. ^ City of Port Phillip Heritage Review, Edgewater Towers, Citation No. 2049.
  43. ^ Prince of Wales Hotel – St Kilda Historical Society
  44. ^ Walks in Port Phillip
  45. ^ St Kilda has grown up fed a steady, varied diet of film
  46. ^ YouTube – Touched By Love
  47. ^  , p.372.
  48. ^ [2]
  49. ^ RMYS webs site
  50. ^ "Remembering Linda". Retrieved 26 October 2008. 
  51. ^ a b Bowles, Robin (2007). No Justice: An Investigation into the Death of Adele Bailey. Five Mile Press.  
  52. ^ "Where are Louise and Charmian?". 
  53. ^ a b c
  54. ^
  55. ^
  56. ^
  57. ^ "ABC Indigenous Programs – Message Stick: Briggs". ABC. ABC. 24 June 2012. Retrieved 17 February 2013. 
  58. ^ The Magda carta from
  59. ^
  60. ^
  61. ^
  62. ^ Official newsletter of the City of Port Phillip. ISSN 1328-0309. Issue 44 April/May 2009
  63. ^
  64. ^ For "Oppy" and partner a diamond celebration, by David Bruce, Age Newspaper, 14 January 1988, Page1.
  65. ^ The Age Newspaper. Gun Dealer 'angry' over Wainer article. 25 February 1970. (The article makes reference to his Edgewater Towers flat)


See also

  • Alice Wojcik (Model, Mathematician and founder of Tomorrow Foundation)
  • Jim McNeil - Violent criminal and 'Prison Playwright'. Subject of new book titled The Laughing Bandit, to be published by Penguin in 2010
  • Dr Bertram Wainer[65]
  • Morris West - author of The Devil's Advocate (1959).
  • Louis Lavater - poet who spent his whole life in St Kilda from birth (2 March 1867) to death (22 May 1953)[61]
Visual artists
Plaque signifying the home on Grey Street in which former Prime Minister Stanley Melbourne Bruce was born in 1883

Notable residents

Louise and Charmian Faulkner also vanished from outside their Acland St flat on 26 April 1980 after getting into a ute driven by an older Australian male.[52]

Adele Bailey was a 23-year-old transsexual woman who disappeared from St Kilda in September 1978.[51] Her remains were found in 1995 in a disused mineshaft near Bonnie Doon.[51]

Three separate and prominent unsolved missing persons cases are associated with St Kilda. Linda Stilwell was a 7-year-old girl who was abducted on 10 August 1968 from St Kilda Beach.[50] The prime suspect is Derek Percy who has also been named by police as a suspect in the disappearance of the Beaumont children, and the Wanda Beach Murders.

Missing person cases

The Bayside Trail off-road bicycle network connects through St Kilda with an additional Copenhagen-style bicycle lane running along Fitzroy Street connecting Albert Park Reserve to the foreshore.

St Kilda also has water transport in the form of ferries and private boating. Williamstown Ferries[48] operates a regular ferry service running primarily between St Kilda and Williamstown as well as operating services with to the Melbourne CBD with drop-off points at major tourist attractions which departs from St Kilda Pier. Royal Melbourne Yacht Squadron[49] has a building at St Kilda harbour, which has berths for boats and yachts and the Squadron also operates the St Kilda Marina on Marine Parade, one of the first marinas in Melbourne and still very popular.

Tram routes 96 from Bourke Street, tram 112 from Collins Street and tram 16 from Swanston Street, all service St Kilda and are around 25 minutes from the city.

St Kilda is well connected to the Central Business District (CBD) of Melbourne by trams and a dedicated light rail line along the former St Kilda railway and terminates at the Metropol building – the former St Kilda railway station before integrating with the on-road system.

Trams at the Acland Street junction in 2005


St Kilda is the setting for the Sam Feldt & Bloombox Remix videoclip of On Trees and Birds and Fire by the Dutch folk band I Am Oak.

[47] The suburb of

St Kilda is also the residence of the fictional character The Honourable Phryne Fisher from author Kerry Greenwood's series of Phryne Fisher detective novels, which have been made into a television series called Miss Fisher's Murder Mysteries.

Australian rock band Do you see what I see?" which was partly filmed on a train running along the Sandringham line passed parts of East St Kilda, Balaclava and Ripponlea, Victoria. Other musicians to film in the area include Eran James' clip "Touched by Love" which has backdrops including the Palais Theatre and St Kilda Pier[46] and Something for Kate, whose clip "The Futurist" was filmed at St Kilda West pier. The Australian rock band The Cat Empire exclaimed in song, "We're gonna sleep on the St Ki-i-lda sands" in their song "The Crowd".

Many movies and video clips have been filmed in St Kilda including indoor scenes from The Story of the Kelly Gang,[45] the beach scenes of the 2005 hit Bollywood film Salaam Namaste and the 2006 film Kenny which in particular features the St Kilda Festival.

Many of Paul Kelly's popular songs feature St Kilda, including "From St Kilda to Kings Cross" from the Album Post which included the famous lyric "I'd give you all of Sydney Harbour (all that land, all that water) For that one sweet promenade", in reference to the St Kilda Esplanade. The area also featured in songs such as "Killed her in St Kilda" by Voodoo Lovecats, "St Kilda Nights" by Purple Dentists and "Melodies Of St Kilda" by Masters Apprentices. In the early 90's innercity "supergroup" Hell to Pay released the song "Saints and Kings", which featured the line "Ain't too many Saints in St Kilda".

St Kilda has featured prominently in television. The Network Ten drama The Secret Life Of Us, which ran from 2001 to 2005, was set in St Kilda, mostly around Acland Street, Fitzroy Street and in the famous Esplanade Hotel. The main characters were often depicted playing social games of soccer in Catani Gardens and social lawn bowls at St Kilda bowls club, both of which have since become a popular local traditions. The show featured a fictional pub called the Foo Bar which was often sought after by tourists but did not actually exist. The popularity of the name later inspired a real licensed venue in nearby beachside Brighton. St Kilda was also the venue for My Restaurant Rules 2004 series, with the Melbourne restaurant "Seven Stones".

References in popular culture

Past schools include St Kilda Grammar which closed at the turn of the century.

St Kilda is home to several schools, including secondary schools St Michael's Grammar School, Christian Brothers College and primary schools St Kilda Primary School (on Brighton Road) and St Kilda Park Primary School (on Fitzroy Street in Albert Park) all of which have imposing heritage buildings on campus.

St Kilda Park Primary School building

Education and schools

The "Veg Out" Community Gardens at the former St Kilda Bowling Club in the Peanut Farm reserve is another popular public garden. The gardens are primarily rented by residents of apartments in the area and offer local residents the opportunity to express themselves in a small plot of dirt, which results in many colourful artistic displays.

St Kilda is also home to one of Melbourne's few remaining Indigenous Australian landmarks, the Corroboree Tree. The red gum eucalyptus, estimated at being between four and seven hundred years old, is located next to Queens Road, close to the junction with Fitzroy Street. A plaque close to its base reads "Aboriginals of early settlement days congregated and held their ceremonies under and in the vicinity of this tree". These ceremonies celebrated important events, told traditional stories and promoted unity between communities, and are commonly known by the generic term, corroboree, or ngargee in the local language. The site continued to be used, both for ceremonial purposes and as a fringe camp, for some years after British settlement in 1835, as is evidenced by Jacob Miller who told his son how he had witnessed the remnant Kulin population "perform their dancing about the old tree" after moving into the area during the 1850s.[44]

The impressive St Kilda Town Hall and its Victorian public gardens

St Kilda is known for its many parks and gardens, many featuring combinations of the predominant Canary Island date palms, which are synonymous with the area and Californian fan palms. Some of the notable gardens include St Kilda Botanic Gardens on Blessington Street, which has heritage features and gates, a conservatory, rose garden, lake and sustainable Eco Centre building. The gardens were once surrounded by mansions, but was subject to unit development in the 1960s. The St Kilda Foreshore and Catani Arch (Coord 37.867264S 144.973861E) are on Jacka Boulevarde, while the upper Esplanade reserve where the Sunday markets are held features the Catani Clock Tower (Coord 37.865052S 144.972938E), heritage toilets and vaults. The Catani Gardens which sit between the foreshore, Beaconsfield Parade and the Esplanade includes a War Memorial, Captain Cook statue and Royal Melbourne Yacht Squadron Buildings. O'Donnell Gardens is adjacent to Luna Park on Acland Street and features an art-deco monument and tall palms. Alfred Square on the upper Esplanade has numerous war memorials, which include the South African War Memorial (1905) listed on the Victorian Heritage Register. Albert Park is a large park which spans many suburbs, including St Kilda on Fitzroy Street and hosts a number of sporting fields and a recreational lake. The St Kilda Town Hall features a small public Victorian garden facing the corner of busy Brighton Road and Carlisle Street.

Catani Gardens near the St Kilda Pier
Entry gates to the St Kilda Botanical Gardens from Blessington Street

Parks and gardens

St Kilda features many notable grand old hotels, some which still operate as licensed premises and others that function as accommodation, most of which are listed on the Victorian Heritage Register. The most famous is the Nick Cave, Hunters and Collectors, Models and many more. In the 1990s, it was converted into studio apartments. Many of the interior and exterior features are in need of restoration. The Prince of Wales Hotel is another famous hotel which was built in 1940 in the moderne style on the site of the first Prince of Wales which was built in 1920.[43] It has been used as a cabaret venue and is now another live music venue.

Prince of Wales Hotel

Historic hotel buildings

St Kilda is also home to some notable contemporary residential designs. St Leonards Apartments in St Leonards Street is two blocks of post modern apartments built in 1996 to the design of Nonda Katsalidis and is recognised with multiple RAIA Victorian Architecture Awards.

Edgewater Towers, completed in 1961 was Melbourne's first privately developed high rise block[41] and the tallest in Victoria. "It still plays an important symbolic role in the perception of St Kilda's character and imagery - Standing somewhat like a towering section of a stranded ocean liner, it announces St Kilda's uniquely nautical cosmopolitan zone at its southern approaches".[42]

During the Interwar years, St Kilda was heavily subdivided into apartments. This era produced some outstanding early apartment designs including Majestic Mansions on Fitzroy Street (1912). Tompkins is a notable mixture of Edwardian styles and are some of the earliest self-contained flats in Melbourne. Summerland Mansions built in 1920 on Fitzroy Street is another notable block in the "mansion flats" style, a style rare in Melbourne.[39] Belmont Flats on the corner of Alma Road and Chapel Street was built in 1923, an outstanding blend of Arts and Crafts and Californian Bungalow influences applied to an apartment building, was built in 1923. Belvedere Flats at 22 Esplanade on the corner of Robe Street was built in 1929 and is a notable Spanish Mission styled block of flats designed by William H. Merritt and has featured on The Secret Life of Us. All of these buildings are listed on the Victorian Heritage Register. A significant block of Spanish Mission flats, the Baymor Court, built in 1929 was demolished in November 2004 to make way for the Esplanade hi-rise apartment development.[40]

Notable Edwardian buildings include The Priory, built in 1890 at 61 Alma Road, it is one of the few Richardsonian Romanesque homes in Melbourne, built as the boarding house for a ladies school, but now a private residence.[38]

Marion Terrace

St Kilda is home to many "boom style" mansions, dating back to the early days of the seaside resort. Notable historic residences include Eildon Mansion on Grey Street built in 1855 (later modified) to the design of Reed and Barnes is a significant grand old mansion. Hewison House built at 25 Chapel Street in 1869 is a former mansion that has become an administration building of St Michael's Grammar School. Marion Terrace in Burnett Street was built in 1883 and is considered one of the finest Second Empire styled terrace houses in Australia. Myrnong Hall built in 1890 on Acland Street is a large Victorian mansion richly decorated in cast iron.

With many layers of development, St Kilda is characterised by an eclectic mix of residential styles, ranging from rows of Victorian terrace houses, Edwardian and interwar homes and apartments to post-war and modern infill development. Much of St Kilda's innovative architecture is recognised nationally.

Residential architecture

St Kilda Town Hall is an impressive building by William Pitt. Directly opposite is the St Kilda Public Library built between 1971–1973 at 150 Carlisle Street. It is a notable brutalist design by architect Enrico Taglietti, uniquely designed to open like a book. Also includes Ashton Raggatt McDougall’s award winning extension (1994).[37]

Acland Street is a shopping and restaurant precinct famous for its cake shops and cafes. It also features a number of public artworks.

The St Kilda Sea Baths is a Moorish themed building built in the late 1920s and demolished in the 1990s leaving only the front facade. It was redeveloped in keeping with the original style and continues a history of sea baths in St Kilda which dates back to the 1850s.

St Kilda Beach, with gentle bay waves is popular with swimmers and sunbathers during the summer months. It is often criticised by locals and visitors alike for its pollution, but significant recent efforts have been made by government organisations to keep it clean.

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The St Kilda Pier is another local landmark and major tourist attraction. The pier is terminated by the St Kilda Pavilion, an eccentric Edwardian building in the mould of English pier pavilions which is considered of high cultural importance to Melburnians. It was recently reconstructed and listed on the Victorian Heritage Register after burning down. The pier has a long breakwater which shelters St Kilda Harbour and hosts a little penguin colony.[36]

St Kilda has many distinctive local landmarks, most centred on the St Kilda Esplanade and foreshore area, several featuring domes of a Moorish architecture theme established at the turn of the century. Perhaps the best known is Luna Park an early 20th century amusement park with its famous "Moonface" entry and its historic scenic railway.

Fairy penguin climbing to its nest on the St Kilda breakwater
St Kilda Pavilion, formerly Kerby's Kiosk, recently reconstructed

Local landmarks

Built environment

Kitesurfing on St Kilda Beach

Recreation on St Kilda beaches includes most watersports, including windsurfing, sailing, kitesurfing, rollerblading, beach volleyball, diving, jetskiing, waterskiing, sunbathing and skydiving with Skydive the Beach Melbourne. A skate park for the Fitzroy street end of Albert Park is in the planning stages.

Recreation and leisure

Many of the open water events of the 2007 World Aquatics Championships were held at St Kilda beach. The 2006 Commonwealth Games triathlon and cycling time trials were held along the foreshore, and the marathon passed through some of St Kilda's main streets. The annual Melbourne Marathon also passes through St Kilda. St Kilda Beach is regularly used for state and international beach volleyball tournaments.

St Kilda has a vibrant and popular Lawn Bowls scene which attracts younger players and has been popularised in film and television. The St Kilda Lawn Bowls Club on Fitzroy Street has a long history and retains its heritage clubhouse building as well as hosts many community events.

St Kilda also has a strong cricket presence. The Junction Oval is home to the St Kilda Cricket Club and occasionally the Victorian Bushrangers Cricket Club and was made famous as the debut venue of cricket great Shane Warne.[35] St Kilda has a wide range of other minor sports including the Collegians-X hockey club, the St Kilda baseball club, an ultimate disc club and several social soccer clubs.

St Kilda has very strong traditional links with Australian Football. The name St Kilda features in the national Australian Football League with the St Kilda Football Club, known as the Saints. The team retains the name of its former home but has not actually played home games in St Kilda since 1964. The St Kilda area played a large role in the development of Australian Football. The St Kilda City Football Club of the Southern Football League is based at the Peanut Farm.[34] St Kilda also has Women's Australian rules football team, the St Kilda Sharks, who won back-to-back Victorian Women's Football League titles in 1998&99. Albert Park and Lake reserve has a number of ovals which are home to Australian rules football clubs. These include the historic Junction Oval which has in the past been a prominent VFL/AFL venue and more recently a training facility for the Melbourne Football Club. Several amateur VAFA clubs also use the park for their home grounds including the Collegians Football Club (Harry Trott Oval), Powerhouse Football Club (Ross Gregory Oval) and Old Melburnians (Junction Oval) are based in the St Kilda section of Albert Park. The Community Cup was a popular community Australian rules event which was run for 14 years by the local Sacred Heart Mission which up until 2007 had drawn crowds of up to 23,000 spectators.

Fitzroy Street during the 2009 Melbourne Marathon
Junction Oval.


St Kilda has a vibrant local music scene that has produced many Australian live music acts. One of the more famous of these is legendary rock band Men At Work started in St Kilda as an unnamed group.


St Kilda is also home to many major annual events. The largest of these is the St Kilda Festival, which since 1980 has grown over recent years and now attracts over half a million young people to the area each year. St Kilda also hosts the annual gay Pride March, which starts at Lakeside Drive and heads down Fitzroy Street to the Catani Gardens. St Kilda is also home to the many venues of the Melbourne Underground Film Festival. Until 2009, St Kilda was home to the Community Cup festival which celebrates grassroots Australian rules football having attracted record attendances of up to 23,000 and raising money for local charity the Sacred Heart Mission. A similar annual celebrity cricket match known as Batting for the Battlers is played at the Peanut Farm opposite Luna Park and attracts a crowd of up to 2,000. Other local events include the St Kilda Film Festival and St Kilda Writers Festival.

St Kilda has run Melbourne's first major arts and crafts market which has been run on the Esplanade every Sunday since the 1980s. It has been rivalled in Melbourne in recent years by the Southbank art and craft market on Southbank promenade.

Midsumma pride march in 2008

Events and festivals

The former Baptist Church, built in 1876 at 16 Crimea Street served as a masonic hall before being acquired by St Michael's Grammar School. The St Kilda Parish Mission Uniting Church, built in 1877 on the corner Chapel and Carlisle Streets is notable for its polychromatic brick and slate roof design. St Kilda Presbyterian Church, built in 1878 on the corner of Alma Road and Barkly Street was designed by Wilson & Beswicke architects. The Sacred Heart Church is a St Kilda landmark with its tall tower built on Grey Street in 1890 to the design of renowned colonial architect Reed in partnership with Henderson & Smart architects. The former St Kilda Uniting Church on the corner Fitzroy and Princes Streets became part of an apartment complex in the late 1990s. The Holy Trinity Church built between 1882 and 1889 on the corner of Brighton Road and Dickens Street is another church by Reed of Reed & Barnes. All Saints' Anglican Church, on the corner of Dandenong Road and Chapel Street, was designed by Nathaniel Billing with the foundation stone laid in 1858, becoming what is believed to be the largest Anglican parish church in the southern hemisphere, able to seat 1400 people, All Saints' is also known for its male choir which is the only parish church choir of its kind left in Australia.[33] Other notable churches include the Christ Church Complex on the corner Acland Street and Church Square.

St Kilda is home to a large number of places of worship built over the years to serve primarily the Christian and Jewish faiths, although many of the churches have since been converted for other uses. The St Kilda Hebrew Congregation built between 1872 and 1880 in Charnwood Road was one of the earliest. The present building, diagonally opposite the original site (now a block of flats) but located in Charnwood Grove was consecrated on 13 March 1927.

Holy Trinity Church

Places of worship

St Kilda has three main theatres, each catering to a different niche use, all are listed on the Victorian Heritage Register. The National Theatre (formerly the Victory) on the corner Barkly and Carlisle Streets is a Beaux Arts styled performing arts venue built in 1920 which is home to the oldest ballet school in Australia (established 1939). The Palais Theatre is located on the Esplanade and was built in 1927 to the design of Henry White as a cinema (formerly Palais Pictures). It is now used as a live music and concert venue. The Astor Theatre on Chapel Street is a modern/art deco styled cinema built in 1935 to the design of Ray Morton Taylor. It features the largest screen in southern hemisphere and operates as an arthouse cinema with its own year-long film festival and private functions.[32]

Palais Theatre

Theatre and cinema

St Kilda has a unique artists culture, and is also home to many high profile local events.


Despite migrationary trends, St Kilda retains a small number of ethnic groups although like much of inner Melbourne, the community is largely multicultural. There are restaurants and shops representing the cultures of Italy, Japan, China, India, France, Ireland, Vietnam, Thailand and also Egypt, as well as local and international cuisine. The suburb's previously large Jewish community has declined, but a large number of synagogues still function in the area, and the Jewish Museum of Australia is located in Alma Road. An Italian Australian community has also been present in St Kilda for over a century, and a prominent member is Ron Barassi. St Kilda has a large Irish population. A growing French community has established in the area, which is the home of the Alliance Francaise de Melbourne with several schools and art galleries. A small community from the former Soviet Union has also established itself in the nearby area and there are several shops of this community in the Carlisle Street area. While Melbourne's Indigenous Australian population is relatively low, St Kilda has one of the larger indigenous communities and there are several rooming houses identifying with indigenous people.

For many years, St Kilda has had the highest population density in the Melbourne statistical area, and the highest for a metropolitan area outside of Sydney.[31] This density is reflected in the built form, which consists primarily of strata titled units, apartments and flats, including a single Housing Commission of Victoria tower.

Today, St Kilda is an area of sharp social contrast, with many homeless and other disadvantaged people living among the wealthy and fashionable who crowd its shops and cafes. The suburb is noted for its many itinerant backpackers, but also for its many long-term permanent residents.


In December 2009, a new council elected to largely replace the councillors who approved the Triangle development voted almost unanimously to terminate the agreement with the developers, agreeing to pay them $5 million over a period of three years.[30]

In May 2008, the skate park development was stopped by the Supreme Court of Victoria, claiming that the council had acted inappropriately. A hearing was scheduled with the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal. The mayor at the time, Janet Bolitho, was cited to have commented "the area would remain public open space – just maybe not green".

In February 2008, the Port Phillip Council's approval of the proposed Triangle site development despite over 5,000 written objections (representing over a quarter of the population of St Kilda) caused an uproar in St Kilda which saw media attention across Victoria[27] with local resident lobby groups including Save St Kilda[28] and UnChain St Kilda[29] banding thousands of residents together in protest and enlisting the help of celebrities including Dave Hughes, Magda Subzanski and Rachel Griffiths in their fight against the local council. The council had refused to allow a secret agreement between it, the developers and state government to be released which effectively allowed for the transfer of ownership of a large amount of crown land to private owners. As well as the outrage over the sale of public land, many residents believed that the state government and council should have funded the restoration of the heritage Palais themselves rather than pass the costs on to the developers who had proposed a larger development to recover their own costs.

The Palace, a once popular music venue was demolished soon after a fire in July 2007

In 2006, the proposed development of a skate park and concrete urban plaza over parkland on Fitzroy Street next to the primary school at Albert Park caused significant local controversy. The council received a large number of objections. Alternative sites along the foreshore were ignored by council and all of the mature trees on the site were removed before the plans were presented for consultation.

In 2006, plans went out for a foreshore re-development, which included promenade widening and saw the demolition of the bicentennial pavilion which marked the land end of the St Kilda pier.

The area adjacent to the Palais Theatre known as the Triangle Site, including the Palace music venue is the subject of a major re-development, first proposed in 2005. The proposals stipulated the restoration of the Palais Theatre, but controversially many advocated the demolition of the Palace, one of the area's main live music venues.[24] To save the Palace, a legal battle ensued. Ironically, the Palace burned down spectacularly during an arson attack,[25] and fears were held for the Palais. The winning development in 2007 plans a series of lanes, promenades and walkways rambling through eating and drinking spaces, art installations, entertainment venues, retail outlets and open grassy spaces. Further controversy over the new development was caused when the tenants who vacated the Palais illegally removed its 80-year-old chandeliers.[26]

For the 2006 Commonwealth Games, St Kilda hosted an interpretive public artwork called the Lady of St Kilda, a mock timber sculpture of the shipwreck. The installation proved to be extraordinarily popular with locals and tourists and it was left erected for many months afterward. However, the sculpture was subject to vandals disassembling parts of it as well as concern for children's safety on the high unprotected bow of the "ship" so the local council removed it in November 2006.

Lady of St Kilda sculpture at St Kilda main beach in 2006

In 2004, Baymour Court, significant 1920s Spanish Mission flats and hotel stables were demolished despite the campaigning of the National Trust of Victoria and The Esplanade Alliance as part of the commencement of hi-rise Esplanade apartment building.

On 11 September 2003, the St Kilda icon, the 99-year-old pier kiosk burned down in an arson attack.[23] In a swift and overwhelming response to the loss, the government committed to its original plans using what remained of the original materials.

In mid-1998, Becton, new owners of the Esplanade Hotel announced its plan to build a 125-metre, 38-storey tower behind the historic hotel. The plans were later scaled down due to resident concerns.

Tim Costello, then the mayor of St Kilda, worked closely with local social welfare groups between 1993 and 1994 to help clean up the city's streets. Combined with the legalisation of prostitution,[21] St Kilda's streets were becoming safer. However, violence is almost a daily hazard for an estimated 400 street workers in St Kilda (2004) with the notorious Greeves St coming under heavy police presence after hours.[22]

In 1991, the site formerly occupied by the St Moritz ice rink was reopened as the St Moritz hotel, which became the Novotel Bayside in 1993, then Novotel St Kilda in 1999.[20]

St Kilda also experience increased gentrification during the 1990s, particularly popular with yuppies due to its proximity to the CBD. The increased cost of rentals led many long term residents to leave and removed much of the bohemian and artistic character of the area.[5][6][19]

In 1987, the St Kilda railway line was closed, rationalised and re-opened to become part of route 96, one of the first light rail lines in Melbourne, terminating at Acland Street.


In 2015 businesses and residents became more concerned at the downturn of Fitzroy St and Carlisle St because of crime, violence, haphazard development and traffic gridlock. Similar concerns were also raised by Michael Danby MHR and others about high rents for shops and the increasing shop vacancy rates, lack of car parking and the raised tram tracks that cut the Fitzroy St in half.

In 1981, the St Moritz ice rink was closed. Around 1984, it was destroyed by a spectacular fire.

In the late 1960s St Kilda Junction was rebuilt to create a Queens Way underpass connection to Dandenong Road and in the early 1970s St Kilda Road (formerly High Street) from the junction to Carlisle Street was widened by demolishing all the properties on the west side. The landmark Junction Hotel was lost, and High Street, once St Kilda's shopping centre, ceased to function as such. The widening also had the effect of creating a physical barrier between St Kilda's foreshore, civic area and eastern residential streets.

In the early 1960s works to the Lower Esplanade turned it into a fast moving connection between Marine Parade and Beaconsfield Parade, creating a barrier to the beach. 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 2007 this building was closed, gutted by fire and demolished).

St Kilda became one of the city's main areas of bohemianism as well as one of the larger gay and lesbian residential areas[18] From 1965, Mirka Mora's Tolarno Hotel became the focus of many of the local artists.

St Kilda's decline escalated after the Great Depression and it became the growing focus of many of Melbourne's social issues including crime, prostitution and drug abuse.[17] Several cabaret venues emerged. Leo's Spaghetti bar and gelateria was opened for the Olympics in 1956 by an Italian migrant as one of Melbourne's first Italian restaurants and quickly became a Melbourne establishment.

Stardust Lounge and Palais de Danse on fire in 1968.
Crowds line the foreshore to greet Prince Henry, Duke of Gloucester during his visit as part of the centenary celebrations of Victoria in 1934.

Further decline

St Kilda grew as a centre for Melbourne's growing Jewish community and a growing Orthodox community developed with a number of synagogues and schools. Cafe Scheherazade on Acland Street was for many years an icon to this community, however as the community moved eastwards to more affluent Caulfield, it became of more historical interest, before finally shutting its doors and moving to Caulfield in 2008.[16] There are still Jewish neighbourhoods in East St Kilda, mainly of older and more Orthodox people but the Jewish character of Acland Street is no longer the dominant presence it had been once.

Carlo Catani, a native of Italy, was Chief Engineer of the Public Works Department. He was contracted in 1906 to prepare a masterplan for the beautification of the St Kilda foreshore to Point Ormond. His plan resulted in the famous leisure precinct along the foreshore. Notable features included the Dreamland amusement park, which existed between 1906 and 1909, the St Kilda Sea Baths[14] (1910), which replaced the 1862 "Gymnasium Baths", Luna Park (1912), Palais de Danse (1926), the Palais Theatre (1927), St Moritz Ice Rink (1939), and many others. Several landmarks along the foreshore have been named after Catani, including the clock tower, gardens and arch.[15]

During the Depression of the 1890s, however, St Kilda began to decline. Many wealthy families had lost much of their fortunes[13] and several of the large mansions were subdivided for apartment or boarding-house accommodation. After a cable tram line was extended south from the Melbourne central city area, the seaside area became a popular entertainment precinct for Melbourne's working classes. Wealthy people moved to more exclusive suburbs such as Brighton, South Yarra and Toorak. From 1906, the Victorian Railways operated their 'Electric Street Railway' from St Kilda to Brighton.

The hot sea baths and hotel on St Kilda main beach in 1910, which replaced the 1862 "Gymnasium Baths" but burned down and was itself replaced.
Robson's Figure Eight in 1908 on Lower Esplanade was part of Dreamland, the current site of Luna Park and the Palais Theatre but just one of many carnival attractions along the foreshore at the turn of the century.

Seaside playground

Cable tram lines were opened in 1888 and 1891 to run from the Melbourne central city area along St Kilda Road to St Kilda Junction and then branch out along Wellington, High and Fitzroy Streets.

The lower inland areas of St Kilda East were not so wealthy and included many smaller, semi detached cottages, many constructed of timber. Much of the area which is now St Kilda West was swampland, but was reclaimed and subdivided in the 1870s.

on the site of the Seaview hotel (1857). [12]

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