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In pictures: Take a look at these famous Melbourne landmarks back in the day

Rebecca Russo
Written by
Rebecca Russo

We’re pretty fond of Melbourne as it stands today, with our ample coffee shops, beautiful inner-city parks and beautiful, centuries-old buildings littered about. But Melbourne didn’t always look like this.

We trawled through the State Library of Victoria’s impressive digital image pool to find some of our favourite pictures of Melbourne back in the day. Take a look at our favourites below. 

Old photo of Melbourne, Alexandra Gardens and Yarra River

Photograph: State Library of Victoria

The State Library dates this first image from around 1891 to 1914 as it shows a view of Melbourne from Alexandra Gardens. The image shows a path that leads towards the Yarra River, Princes Bridge, Flinders Street Railway Station, St Paul's Cathedral (before its spires were put in) and a clock tower that once lived on Swanston Street. 

Old photo of Melbourne, Flinders Street

Photograph: State Library of Victoria

This image is from 1913 and shows Flinders Street looking east from the Swanston Street intersection. The south face of St Paul's Cathedral is visible, as is the Metropolitan Gas Co's offices and the old Princes Bridge railway station which was located where Federation Square now sits. 

Old Melbourne flinders street intersection

Photograph: A. E Smith/State Library of Victoria

Jumping ahead to January 1967, this image shows the intersection of Flinders Street and Swanston Street. We can see a few W-class trams, a flurry of pedestrians and a huge Coca-Cola sign on the side of the Nicholas Building. 

Old photos of Melbourne, St Kilda esplanade

Photograph: State Library of Victoria

Believe it or not, here we are on St Kilda Esplanade back in 1865. This photograph shows several women and children, including a woman pushing a perambulator (what they once considered prams) along the path. 

Old photos of Melbourne, MCG

Photograph: John T Collins/State Library of Victoria

This image is from August 16, 1979 and shows the grandstands at the Melbourne Cricket Ground, including detail of both the upper and lower levels.

Old photos of Melbourne State Library of Victoria

Photograph: State Library of Victoria

Recognise that? It's the State Library of Victoria back in 1951. This image shows the forecourt of the State Library with statues of St George, Joan of Arc and the soldiers' monument in the left foreground. 

Old photos of Melbourne Royal Botanic Gardens

Photograph: State Library of Victoria

Not much is known about this particular image, except for the fact that it was taken around 1865 and it's of the Aviary in the Royal Botanic Gardens

Old photos of Melbourne Royal Exhibition Building

Photograph: State Library of Victoria

We often forget just how old the Royal Exhibition Building is (it was completed in 1880). This photograph is dated ca. 1885-ca. 1890 and shows a bicycle race taking place outside the building. 

Old photos of Melbourne, view from Royal Exhibition Building

Photograph: State Library of Victoria

Talk about a city skyline. This image, which was taken from the terrace of the Royal Exhibition Building, is a view of Melbourne's southwest taken in 1883. From this viewpoint we can see the Carlton Gardens lawns and paths which lead towards the corner of Spring and Victoria Streets, with elevated church spires in the background. 

Old photos of Melbourne, Brighton Beach

Photograph: State Library of Victoria

This photo of Brighton Beach was taken sometime between 1900 and 1920 and shows bathers cooling off at the beach (but with no colourful bathing boxes in sight, it seems!)

Old photos of Melbourne, aerial shot of Royal Exhibition Building

Photograph: Charles Daniel Pratt/State Library of Victoria

Can you spot your home or office? This is an aerial shot over the Royal Exhibition Building and surrounding suburbs believed to be taken sometime between 1930 and 1948.  

Find more gold with our guide to hidden Melbourne, including secret art spaces, mysterious regional destinations and other secret shenanigans.

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