St Kilda Road and Australian Federation

There was a moment in St Kilda Road’s history of robberies, armed bandits and bushrangers. This was in the 1850s. It was a track through scrub linking the town to the wealthy beach side of St Kilda.

By 1901 the road had been cleansed of ‘larrikins and dead-beats’ and transformed into a ‘noble boulevard’ or ‘parkification’ – a word coined by Town Planner, JD Fitzgerald.

Just in time for the celebration of the Federation of Australia. They were getting ready for the royals to arrive.

And The Argus captured the moment.

“A new city was created yesterday to welcome the Heir-Apparent and his Royal Consort- a veritable Paris of the South, the city of a faerie dreamland. Not, however, the mere ‘baseless fabric of a vision which leaves, not a wrack behind,’ but such a reminiscence of the civic glories of the older world as leaves the noble suggestion of a future glory for the new.”

There was a real flurry of arch building – all temporary.

The main one spanned St Kilda Road and was designed by Melbourne architect, Harold Desbrowe Annear.

| The Corporation Arch, 1901 |

The Argus continued to gush”‘Half-way between Government house and the Yarra the Royal attention was arrested by a noble spectacle. A magnificent vista was opened out. The great triple avenue of the St Kilda road, with its new made gardens on either side, lacked only some aged umbrageous elms to complete the resemblance of those famous ‘Champs Elyees’ which are bounded by the ‘Arc de Triomphe’ in the French capital.

“Though the arch is of mere fleeting material – rubberoid and timber, ochre and paint – yet the outward semblance is of white marble dressed with porphyry and banded with gold, electric beads of light in the daytime give the illusion of jewels in the circlets, whose facets are catching the glance of the sun.”

A beautiful illusion.

| George and Mary firework display, 1901 |

Julia Ritson

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