A glimpse of St Kilda’s past through two different lenses

To celebrate History Week, Victorians are invited to step back in time and discover the history of Melbourne’s edgy seaside suburb, St Kilda.

Historians Dr Judith Buckrich and David Willis will showcase two very different ways of looking at St Kilda’s past and the multiple meanings the suburb has for the myriad of people who pass through it.

St Kilda pic

More about the lecture:

“When I moved into ‘The Majestic Apartments’ in Fitzroy Street in 2012 I was immediately intrigued and set about discovering the history of the century-old Majestic,” explained David.

“My work uncovered a variety of St Kilda stories and my History Week talk will explore these.

“It is the story of a building that has a significant place in the architectural and social history of Melbourne.

“It is a story of a suburb in change as old family mansions made way for new modes of living, including the development of flats, boarding houses and apartment hotels.

“It is also a story about people, both the people who lived, worked and played in Edwardian St Kilda as well as the innovative and creative local businessman, builder and developer – John Robert Daley.

“Just as significantly it is the story of the St Kilda spirit: a stoic acceptance of difference and a fair go. As gentrification forced the suburb to change the community stood defiantly when the Majestic and its neighbours were redeveloped and insisted that community housing be incorporated into the redevelopment.

“I will also share at the event how I went about my research project, including accessing online historical databases, using social media to research and finally self-publishing my book, The Majestic: Early Apartment Living in St Kilda.”

Joining David will be professional historian Dr Judith Buckrich. Among her many published books are two ‘street biographies’ – Melbourne’s Grand Boulevard: The Story of St Kilda Road and Collins: Australia’s Premier Street. Now she is turning her attention to famous Acland Street, St Kilda.

“Acland Street encapsulates Melbourne’s social history in a unique way as it has been part of the entertainment scene for more than 150 years,” explained Judith.

“The street saw boom times before the ‘bust’ of the 1890s when many beautiful houses became rooming houses – beginning a trend that intensified over the next 100 years.

“Acland Street became the location of some of Melbourne’s most elegant early apartment buildings, while a constant stream of the impoverished and the bohemian lived in and around Acland Street by both necessity and design.

“In my talk I will illustrate stories of Acland Street – from the days of tight liquor laws to the many brothels and gambling dens – and I will share details on how I plan to approach my new research assignment.”

About the speakers:

Although living just four years in St Kilda, David Willis’ partner settled in the suburb in the late 1970s and, in his mind, this makes him local. His mother described him as an ‘unusual child’, curating his own private museum of historical collectables and ephemera as a teenager as well as researching his family history. David is an ex-teacher with a passion for history so great he chose to teach generalist primary school rather than high school history fearing teaching Year 9 might ruin this passion for him. Although he has written numerous work-related resources, The Majestic is his first book published in his own name. David currently works as a staff union official at RMIT University.

Dr Judith Buckrich was born in Budapest, Hungary in 1950 and emigrated to Melbourne in 1958. She has edited and published extensively and her works include: Melbourne’s Grand Boulevard: The Story of St Kilda Road (1996); The Long and Perilous Journey: A History of the Port of Melbourne (2002); Collins: Australia’s Premier Street (2005); and The Village of Ripponlea (2015). Judith is an Honorary Research Fellow of Historical Studies at Melbourne University, and is Vice-President of the Melbourne Centre.


Location: Royal Historical Society of Victoria, 239 A'Beckett Street, Melbourne

Cost: $10 non-members; free for members

Enquiry: 9326 9288 or office@historyvictoria.org.au

Region: Melbourne Date: October 18, 2016 Time: 5:15 pm - 6:45 pm