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Flinders Street Station, Melbourne
Photograph: Robert Blackburn

35 incredible facts about Melbourne that you probably didn't know

Prove you are more Melbourne than Melways, Molly Meldrum and the MCG put together with this arsenal of little-known facts

Written by
Jenny Valentish

1. Melbourne’s CBD has the highest ratio of street furniture (benches to rest your weary legs) to people in the world.

2. We also have the largest organ in the southern hemisphere – the Grand Organ in Melbourne Town Hall, that is.

3. Beloved music den the Tote was originally located at 136 Johnston Street and was an illegal gambling venue hidden behind a teashop. Punters entered through a gap in the lane at the rear, reached via Sackville Street.

4. During the building of the new home for Circus Oz, a sealed-up concrete bunker with a single bed and newspaper was discovered under the car park. It was rumoured that this bunker belonged to gangsters or bookies who built tunnels under Collingwood.

5. George Raymond Johnson – the architect behind North Melbourne Town Hall, the Meat Market, Northcote Town Hall, Collingwood Town Hall, Fitzroy Town Hall and many other civic buildings – has had most of his dedicated theatres torn down, but his town halls live on as theatres.

6. In 1966, pupils and a teacher from Westall High School were wrapping up sports class when they saw a flying saucer with a purple-grey hue over the oval. The story bagged two front covers in The Dandenong Journal, but only a couple of column inches in The Age.

7. Squizzy Taylor once claimed sanctuary at Abbotsford Convent when on the run from local authorities. He was put up by the Sisters in a shared room, but he had disappeared by morning.

8. Billy Thorpe reckons he buried a few kilos of weed in the ground. When he came back to collect it, Toorak Library had been built over it.

9. Parliament House has gun slits with a clear line of sight down Bourke Street to defend it from mobs during the Great Strikes of the 1890s.

10. The model who posed for the infamous ‘Chloe’ portrait at the Young and Jackson pub (pictured here) threw a party and drank poison, due to unrequited love with the painter who immortalised her.

11. James Kilgore, one of the members of the Symbionese Liberation Army who kidnapped heiress Patty Hearst, fled to Melbourne and majored in African history at La Trobe.

12. ACMI's 87m-long Gallery One, which hosts major exhibitions, was originally one of Flinders Street Station's underground platforms.

13. IM Pei – the architect who designed the Louvre's glass pyramid – helped to design our very own Collins Place. The development originally called for subway pedestrian tunnels to link up with Parliament House and Parliament Station, but this phase of the plan was never started.

14. When Hamer Hall opened in 1982, a special private bathroom was created for visiting dignitaries Prince Charles and Lady Diana.

15. Don’t even think about operating an air-con unit, pool pump, central heating system or hot water system in the City of Brimbank before 7am or after 10pm on a weekday, because fines WILL apply.

16. Squizzy Taylor’s bullet holes are said to be in the now-closed Bella Union. Look for them the next time you’re exploring Trades Hall.

17. Swanston Street, our civic spine, has more pedestrians per day than London’s Regent Street.

18. It is widely rumoured that Flinders Street Station wasn’t meant for Melbourne – it was meant for Mumbai but the plans got mixed up. In Mumbai, there’s the very ornate, gothic Victoria Station.

19. Literary journal Overland was initially published by members of the Communist Party of Australia – whereas its rival Quadrant was published with funding received from the CIA.

20. The Seamstress Restaurant on Lonsdale Street was formerly a sweatshop, a Buddhist monastery and a whorehouse.

21. Collingwood was the first place in Australia to open a traditional Japanese bath house. Ofuroya was opened on July 7, 1999, and you can still go soak there today

22. The Royal Melbourne Hotel is home to the oldest pear tree in Victoria. The tree is estimated to be around 160 years old.

23. You’re probably not surprised to learn that Melbourne is home to the largest operating tram network in the whole world, 75 per cent of which is shared with general road traffic. Remember to ... hold on.

24. Indigenous Australians (more specifically the Boon Wurrung and Woiwurrung of the Kulin nation) have lived in the area of Melbourne for around 40,000 years.

25. In its early days of European settlement, Melbourne was also called Batmania, Barebrass, Dutergalla and (our personal favourite) Bearburp.

26. The federal government resided in Melbourne for 26 years following the Federation.

27. Huff and puff, but it really doesn’t get that cold in Melbourne. The lowest recorded temperature in the city was -2.8 degrees on July 21, 1869.

28. The highest temperature happened more recently. On February 7, 2009 (the day of the catastrophic Black Saturday bushfires) the mercury hit 46.4 degrees in the CBD. These fires were the worst in Australian history.

29. Melbourne has more skyscrapers than any other city in Australia.

30. The NGV is the most visited museum in the southern hemisphere. Globally it’s the 19th most visited.

31. There are about 1,700 tram stops in Melbourne, but only around 420 of them are considered accessible.

33. Clifton Hill Shot Tower is the tallest shot tower in Australia. Melbourne Central Shot Tower is arguably the prettiest, though.

34. Melbourne Museum only owns Phar Lap's skin. The skeleton is at the Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa, while the heart is at the National Museum of Australia in Canberra.

35. There is a memorial to Elvis Presley in Melbourne General Cemetery. It was commissioned in 1977 by the president of Australia's Elvis Presley fan club.

Like quizzes? Check out how much you know about Melbourne with this quick test.

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