Kooyong is a residential locality 6 km. south-east of Melbourne on the south side of the Gardiners Creek valley.

Gardiners Creek was originally named Kooyong Koot Creek by the government surveyor, Robert Hoddle, in 1837. It is thought that the name derives from an Aboriginal word meaning camp or resting place, or haunt of the wild fowl. Kooyong is near where John Gardiner, pioneer pastoralist who overlanded stock from Yass, New South Wales, built his house in the mid 1830s.

Kooyong is at the northern end of the Malvern area. Its railway station was opened in 1890, and tramlines were opened along Glenferrie Road and Toorak Road in 1913 and 1927 respectively. It is best known for the stadium occupied by the Lawn Tennis Association of Victoria, which took possession of the site in 1920, and opened the stadium in 1927. It became the venues for Australian Open and Davis Cup contests until they were moved to the National Tennis Centre, near Yarra Park, Melbourne, in 1988. Kooyong is also the name of an electorate of the Australian Parliament, held by Sir Robert Menzies, 1934-1966, and by Andrew Peacock, 1966-1994. Menzies was Prime Minister and Peacock Leader of the Opposition, both representing the Liberal party.

Kooyong’s residential stock was substantially completed by the end of the 1920s. The land which the Lawn Tennis Association acquired is in the Gardiners Creek valley and needed extensive flood-prevention and drainage works. Kooyong Park to the east is also in the valley. It has several ovals. The Association for the Blind has a property on slightly higher ground. On the other side of the valley there are the Scotch College sports grounds.

Kooyong has a small shopping centre near the railway station and two other reserves, one of which is the Sir Robert Menzies Reserve, on a former brickworks site.

Further Reading:

  • Yallop, Richard, A Serve to Authority: Kooyong, 100 Years of Heroes and Headlines, Mapp Corp Pty. Ltd., 1992.


Toorak is a residential area 5 km. south-east of Melbourne. Its social boundaries have been precisely fixed by its postal district boundaries (SE2 and 3142), which are Williams Road, Malvern Road, Glenferrie Road and the Yarra River. The only authentic part of Toorak outside these boundaries is the railway station, just south of Malvern Road, and its situation is verified by the Armadale North post office, being in the shops beside the station.

The name is derived from Toorak House, a residence built by James Jackson, a merchant, in 1849. The word may have been derived from Aboriginal words of similar pronunciation meaning reedy swamp or black crow. Toorak House, with its Italianate tower, and now in St. Georges Road set the architectural style for Toorak. Jackson died in 1851, and Toorak House became Government House until 1879. It is now the Swedish Church.

Road access to Toorak House was along the Gardiners Creek Road, now Toorak Road, and it was the first good road through the area. Subdivisions occurred along it and a hotel was built in 1855 on the site now occupied by the Tok H in the Toorak Village shopping centre. Toorak continued to be the site for elegant residences in spacious grounds.

East of the village three churches were built: St. Johns Church of England (1862), St. Peters Roman Catholic church and the Presbyterian church (1876). The Methodists built west of the village (1887) and their church was illegally demolished in the early 1990s. A tramline along Toorak Road was opened in 1888. In 1890 the Toorak Central School was opened. Toorak was described in The Australian Handbook, 1893, as –


The population figure of 6,000 is probably an exaggeration, perhaps early evidence of residents vying for the best address. The census figure for 1911 was 3,630, and the estimate for 1920 was 5,700 after considerable subdivision of the large estates had occurred.

Financial depression, increasing costs of upkeep and taxes on property resulted in several sites having their gardens subdivided for suburban allotments or the houses converted into flats. Some subdivisions had new houses put on then but many had flats. Toorak remained an excellent address and a flat was a way of achieving it. Flat development was continuous during the 1920s and 1930s, and by the end of the 1930s there were almost as many flats in Toorak as houses. In the postwar years the process continued, with high rise structures becoming notable in the 1970s.

Trade and industry in Toorak are confined to the shopping area. The rest is residences, churches and schools. Secondary schools for boys are mostly outside Toorak, but Glamorgan Preparatory was opened there in the early 1920s when travel and boarding were not preferred for younger pupils (although boarding was available if wanted). It has become the primary school for Geelong Grammar, has attendances in excess of the State primary, and has been co-educational since the early 1970s. St. Catherine’s non-denominational (1922) and Loretto, Mandeville Hall (1924) provide girl’s secondary education. The Toorak College (1897) for girls was moved to Malvern in 1918. At the northern edge of Toorak where it is skirted by a railway line, the Heyington railway station delivers boys to the Catholic St. Kevin’s College (1918). Next door is the Kooyong Lawn Tennis Association, venue for international tennis contests until the opening of the sports and entertainment centre in Flinders Park, Melbourne.

Toorak’s prestige is undiminished, despite some of its grand residences being confined by newer houses and flats. The village is a major shopping centre, notable for its reliance on dining out, fashion and decorative homewares. Its streets are undisturbed by public transport except along Toorak Road. Several of the remaining grand residences, two churches, the State school and a block of flats (1948) are on either or both the Commonwealth or State historic buildings registers.

The median house price in Toorak during 1987 and 1996 has varied between four and seven times the median for metropolitan Melbourne. The high median of over $1 million in 1989 was affected by the sale of a more than usual number of high-value properties.

Further Reading:

Robb, E.M., “Early Toorak and District”, Robertson and Mullens Limited, 1934. (With illuminating pictures of spacious residences, published when many were being subdivided or pulled down).

Wilde, Sally, “The History of Prahran, 1925-1990”, Melbourne University Press, 1993.

South Yarra

South Yarra is a residential suburb extending from St. Kilda Road to Williams Road, Toorak, bordered on the north by the Domain, the Botanic Gardens and the Yarra River, and on the south by Commercial Road, Prahran. Its prestige as a residential address approaches that of Toorak. Its railway station, 3 km. from Melbourne, is about in the middle of South Yarra. The western part of South Yarra is in Melbourne city and the other in Stonnington (previously Prahran) city. That has been a cause for the western part wanting to secede from Melbourne at various times.

South Yarra was the location of the first of three Crown land sales for Prahran, the subdivisions beginning south of the Yarra river in 1840s and ending at Dandenong Road ten years later. A purchaser in 1840 was Lieut.-Colonel Charles Forrest. He built two residences on Forrest Hill, the most northerly becoming the site of the Melbourne Boys’ High School. Local clay supplied the bricks, and later became the site of the South Yarra brickworks. West of Punt Road in 1846 the former Norfolk Island Commandant Lieut.-Colonel Joseph Anderson acquired the choice site of the South Yarra Hill which overlooked the St. Kilda Road track which straggled through lower-lying sandy and swampy terrain. Anderson Street is named after him. Access to South Yarra was by boat or punt – hence Punt Road – until Princes Bridge was opened in 1850.

Shortly before the 1846 land sale the site for the Botanic Gardens was reserved. The western part of South Yarra thereby achieved the dual advantages of elevation and a first-class pleasure ground. The erection of the new Government House in part of the reservation in 1879 added to South Yarra’s desirability.

A good many original homes of South Yarra west (c.1860-1900) survive, although some have been removed for the building of flats. The sites were smaller than those in Toorak and less prone to subdivision of the grounds or internal subdivision of the houses into flats.

In addition to the Botanic Gardens there is Fawkner Park, reserved in 1862 but abbreviated by the development of the strip fronting St. Kilda Road. The allotments, however, were large, attracting correspondingly large residences to take advantage of the St. Kilda Road boulevard. In the postwar years they became the site of the southway extension of the central business area.

The major institutional buildings are the primary school (1877) on the site of a Presbyterian church school (1854), Christ Church at the prominent corner of Punt and Toorak Roads (1857), and Melbourne Grammar School (1858) on a site chosen in 1854 when the school at St. Peter’s Hill, East Melbourne, looked to its future.

A small shopping centre is served by the tram as it rounds the corner at Domain Road and Park Street.

South Yarra east of Punt Road was connected to Melbourne by railway in 1859, and joined to Caulfield and Gippsland in 1879. The two commercial spines are Chapel Street and Toorak Road, and their intersection had business premises by the mid 1850s. In 1880 a cable tram engine house was built at the corner, later to become the Capitol Bakeries building (1928) and then a retail and entertainment venue (1988).

The northern part of South Yarra was favoured by elevation and larger residential allotments. The southern part approached the swampy part of Prahran and had workers’ houses. In 1893 The Australian Handbook described South Yarra as –


The most notable grand residence is Como built between 1847 and 1855 with grounds extending to Toorak Road. The grounds were subdivided in 1911, but the house preserved and taken over by the National Trust in 1959. Elsewhere in the northern area of South Yarra the desire for a good address stimulated the building of flats along Alexandra Avenue, particularly during the 1930s. Compared with the later high-rise blocks their designs are ornate. The northern section of Chapel Street (Forrest Hill) was industrial, with the Hecla/Electrolux factory (1922) and the brickworks. They become the site of the Como shopping and apartments projects, beginning in the 1980s and unfinished a decade later. The Melbourne Boys’ high school on the other side of Chapel Street was built in 1927, the successor to a co-educational State continuation school originally in East Melbourne. Southwards in Chapel Street the Victoria Preserving Company began operations in 1874 in the building which came to be known as the Jam Factory. It was operated until 1970 by I.X.L. (Henry Jones), becoming a shopping complex in 1979. Although Chapel Street is generally known as being in Prahran, the part north of Commercial Road (which includes the Prahran Market and the Horace Petty housing estate) is in South Yarra’s postcode area. Hawksburn is also in South Yarra.

Whereas the grand churches are west of Punt Road and eastwards in Toorak, the Catholic St. Josephs church (1888), school and community centre is behind Chapel Street, in Fitzgerald Street. Nearby the evangelical Church of Christ was opened in 1908 in unpretentious premises.

South Yarra, like Prahran, was caught in the predicament of higher-density postwar housing in the form of flats. The Prahran council arrested the population decline with Housing Commission high-rise flats, but with considerable public resentment. The resentment became strong opposition in the 1970s when developers persuaded the Council to permit high-rise private developments generally throughout the municipality. The South Yarra Anti-High Rise Group secured restraints on the building heights.

Toorak Road, South Yarra, has a strong shopping strip, with emphasis on fashion, dining out and entertainment. Its viability has been maintained by the creation of rear car-parking lots during the 1980s and 1990s.

South Yarra has numerous places and buildings on historic building registers. The Royal Botanic Gardens, Government House, the former Melbourne Observatory and La Trobe’s cottage (all in the Domain area), are on the Victorian Heritage Register. Melbourne High School (1928), Melbourne Church of England Grammar School (1856), Christ Church and six residences area also on the Register.

Between 1987 and 1996 the median house price in South Yarra was about 92% above the median for metropolitan Melbourne.

Further Reading:

Malone, Betty and Slater, L. Oscar, “Walking Tour of South Yarra Central”, Prendergarst Publishing, 1988.

Slater, L. Oscar, “Walking Tour of South Yarra West”, Prendergarst Publishing, 1987.

Wilde, Sally, “The History of Prahran, 1925-1990”, Melbourne University Press, 1993