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News / City Life

These are the oldest recorded photos of Melbourne

Swanston Street in 1858
Photograph: State Library of Victoria

Melbourne sure has come a long way. Back before settlers arrived in the 19th century, Indigenous Australians had already lived on the land for around 31,000 to 40,000 years. Where our city centre now lies was an important meeting place for the clans of the Kulin nation, including the Wurunjeri, Boonwurrung and Wathaurong people. Thanks to the central Yarra River, or Birrarung, it was an important place for tribes to meet and source food and water.

These days, Melbourne is still a hub for food, drink and entertainment – albeit a little more built up. With the help of the team at the State Library of Victoria, we managed to track down some of the earliest recorded photographs of Melbourne.

Swanston Street in 1858

Photograph: State Library of Victoria

This first one shows Swanston Street looking north from Collins Street. It was taken in 1858, but not much else is known about the photograph or who took it.

Bourke Street in 1858

Photograph: State Library of Victoria

This one shows a much less crowded Bourke Street with a view west from Spring Street. It was also taken in 1858.

Yarra River in 1858

Photograph: State Library of Victoria

The last one is of the Yarra River in 1858. Its title is “The Yarra below the Falls”, which refers to an area near where the Old Customs House was beside the Yarra. It once had a set of cascades where salt water from the ocean met the freshwater of the river. It had rocks over the top of the falls, and was used as an avenue to cross the river. The falls were eventually removed using dynamite explosives in 1883.

Like old photos? Take a look at these snapshots from the past.

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