Once was Yarraville’s main drag




It seems like one of those cases of not missing something until it’s gone.

For the most of the decade-plus we’ve lived in the west, the large block on the corner of Somerville Road and Stephen Street was vacant.

I can’t recall us ever using it for frisbee or even walking across it, but it was kinda nice having that empty space there in times of crammed-in housing development.

Then, a few years back, a row of quite nice, larger house were built on Castlemaine Street.

Now almost the rest of it is being consumed by masses of rather tacky-looking townhouses.

Long-time local Chris tells me that the land was once occupied by a big factory that produced Ebeling street sweepers, and that apparently its long non-use had quite a lot to do with soil contamination.

As with many of the online searches I did for this story, I didn’t turn up much more than real estate matters.

But I did find some beaut pictures of Ebeling street sweepers at the State Library – here.




Sticking to one side of Stephen and moving towards Francis Street, I stop to admire the handsome residence know as Glenara.




The plaque on the adjoining garage gives depth to the Ebeling connection to the adjacent, long-empty but now fully developed block.




The building that houses the Village Animal Hospital appears to have three other Stephen Street addresses – two appear to be residential, and the third is displaying signs of refurbishment.




How about these two charming if rather ramshackle looking buildings?

One houses a neat-and-tidy old-school corner store.

The windows of the other are comprehensively crammed with books. Unfortunately, the spines are facing inwards so the occupants’ reading interests remain a mystery.




Yarraville is home to a number of once-were-halls that have been transformed into homes.

I wonder what purpose this one, on the corner of Stephen and Sussex streets, originally served?

Scouts, church, service club, other?




Moving back along the other side of Stephen, the name of lovely new cafe Woven tells something of the mill history of the brick building.

As far as I can tell, all the other occupants are of a commercial nature.




The Yarraville Club building is obviously of a more contemporary nature than the others featured in this story.

But according to the club’s website, its history dates back to 1905.

The club’s orignal premises were opened at the same address in 1910.

These days, the club hosts some cracking music and comedy gigs, but somehow we’ve never attended any.

And we find the food prices a bit scary.




I seem to recall that this now disused takeaway shop was in action until quite recently – i.e. some time in the past half-dozen years or so!

I like the shark signage in the window – it ties in with sharks seen elsewhere on F&C emporiums in the greater neighbourhood (Charles and Roberts streets to name just two).




Finally, and almost returning to the start of my walk, we find what are perhaps Stephen Street’s two most notable and intriguing buildings.

On the corner of Stephen and Lennox, and with the date 1875 on its frontage, is a double-storey building that once housed “Big Smiths” wine and tea store.




According to the plaque, W.P. Smith ran a licensed grocery and produce store here from 1874 to 1906.




Right next door is a swell-looking brick building emblazoned with a front sign that says The Yarra Coffee Palace, while on the side are signs advertising Capstan ciggies and Temple Bar tobacco.

I was thrilled to find this amazing essay – published just a few months back and written by Lucia Nardo for the Melbourne Circle website.

She details her memories of her family taking up residence there in the early 1960s.

And from her story, we learn that the advertising signs were refurbished by the subsequent owners.

(After reading this story, Lucia sent me an email I have printed below in the comments section with her approval.)

Still, how I’d love to know more detail of the Yarra Coffee Palace’s glory days.

When WERE those glory days?

What sort of coffee was served?

Was it a well-to-do establishment or one of a more blue-collar bent?

And, most entrancingly, was food served and, if so, what kind?

You can check out Lucia’s blog here.

21 thoughts on “Once was Yarraville’s main drag

    • in Whitehall st there is a transport co of E.Murphy &Sons I worked for Murphys for 43 years and have known the Murphy family for many years and Bill murphy was one of the foundation members of the Yarraville Club and we always called it the cits club.
      In the club somwhere there is a big picture frame with all the foundation members on it.
      Years ago I sometimes had the job of driving old Bill around and could he tell some stories


  1. Here is Lucia’s email to me:


    Hi Kenny,

    Thanks for taking the time to write to me. Looking at your post made me quite nostalgic. There were a lot of details about the Yarra Coffee Palace that weren’t included in the post I wrote for Melbourne Circle. It’s interesting that if you google Coffee Palaces in Australia, the Yarraville one doesn’t show up anywhere, although others that remain do. It is a deep and lasting regret that when my father decided to sell the YCP, I didn’t buy it. Still, the people who did are still there and have restored the interior to almost original (so I’ve been told)

    The lower floor of the building on the corner of Lennox and Stephen Streets was originally our family’s milk bar. The upper level and the very rear of the building was a private residence. The family that lived there had owned the building for some time and they also owned the YCP. We bought the YCP, but rented the shop space. We ran the milk bar from 1961 to the mid-seventies. It then became an opportunity shop until the building was sold and converted back to the private residence it is today. The doorway pictured in your post was always sealed shut when we had it, with the main entrance facing Stephen Street where there are now windows. The upstairs interior of the building, even in my day was quite grand. There was a front set of stairs and a back stairs which were referred to by the then owners and the “servants’ stairs” and there were two kitchens on the upper level. For some reason there had been a door knocked through on the upper levels of this property and the YCP, which was sealed once we moved in.

    I believe Woven is where the Actil (?) factory used to be. The shop at 127 was a fish and chip shop in my day; different doors but a lovely couple who always threw in a pickled onion. In those days the flake was an inch and a half thick and newspaper was the preferred wrapping.

    I still love Stephen Street. I have friends in the area and drive down there often. It’s been interesting to watch Yarraville’s gentrification, but the days when the street was an industrial strip and we knew all our neighbours for several blocks in all directions form some of my sweetest memories.

    Thank you again for writing to me and for the plug!

    Warm regards, Lucia Nardo


  2. Yarraville Club food prices scary? Pull the other one. Quite frankly I often think that the prices you are prepared to pay for what are typically takeaway food or cafe food to be well on par or in excess of the venerable old club. Take a look at their website – blackboard specials everyday of the week.


    You don’t have to have the headline steak – plenty of economical choices even at dinner time.


    • Fair point, Pablo. I did check out the menu before I wrote the above piece. I guess where it’s at for us is that such food, including that provided by many pubs, seems poor value when compared with other things we like. I get tired of cherry picking such menus for stuff I can afford. BTW, I checked out the Ferguson St noodle joint you’ve mentioned several times. Not bad. Good beef curry, still-frozen curry puff! Will need to visit again before writing about it.


      • Great story Kenny 🙂 Love hearing these yarns and Lucia’s back story was fascinating!

        As an aside, our family had dinner at the Yarraville Club once. Once only I fear. Very average food at silly prices.


  3. An argument without end, so I won’t labour the point.
    Yarraville Club could be described as a pub by any other name. That said, I find that the food there is, by and large pretty good but like any pub food establishment, I wouldn’t recommend the ‘asian’ offerings – horrible but I still can’t get my Chinese wife to understand that aussies just don’t do oriental food well. Similarly, orientals do a crook job on trying to make their food ‘westernised’. (Hint: Poons and Jimmy Wongs).

    I’m heading towards the veteran class so I have seen plenty of food fads in the west. What I am seeing at the present time is an explosion of eating houses – perhaps it is a trend happening ahead of the curve of the gentrification of the inner west. Only the market will determine whether some of these joints will survive.

    Nevertheless institutions like the ‘Yarvle’ Club will survive serving up what the punter wants at a reasonable price point.

    Disclaimer: I am a member and infrequent visitor to the YC. The place has an amiable atmosphere and plays an important part in providing community services beyond just pouring beers and feeding faces.


  4. I’m with you on most of the above, Pablo.

    The curry puff was replaced by a properly cooked one. It was non-meat. It may have been refrigerated rather than frozen; it was certainly very cold in the centre. They told me they make the beef curry puffs on the premises.

    Explosion of eating houses? I guess so, but from our perspective that also includes many non-trendy, non-cafe places deriving from multiple migrant communities.


  5. Hi Kenny, great to see old buildings in re-use and livening up an area. Will definitely check out Woven. I’d love to hear more about the Coffee Palace too!
    PS I think you’ll find they’re called Ebeling street sweepers, sans the ‘m’, after Claus Ebeling.


  6. I guess my perspective is a long one having lived nearly all my 60 years in the inner west. In my youth the nearest thing to an ‘eat st’ was Barkly St between Nicholson St and Geelong Rd with Poons, Jimmy Wongs, Hoy Heng (gone), Dragon Gate (gone), Capri (gone) and Dom Domenico’s. Hopkins St was just a thoroughfare as was Barkly St West Footscray.
    Nowadays you only have to mention the street name and most people will associate it with restaurants and cafes – Gamon/Charles/Victoria St, Hudson Rd, Anderson/Ballarat St, Nelson Pl/Ferguson St, Pier St, Altona. Why even humble Vernon St has roared back to life and the even more humble neighbourhood shops of Wembly Ave, Spotswood is looking to take off. The exceptions are Somerville Rd with little development, Mason St, Newport and very little in Millers Rd, Altona North.
    I’m only highlighting my regular digs. Someone else can fill in the Sunshine/St Albans renaissance, the scene in Laverton/Pt Cook and Werribee and wherever in the west I have missed.


  7. Thanks for sharing the photo of what was once where my father worked. He worked for Ebeling as an engineering draftsman for many years before retiring in 1998. It was sad to see the company go but that’s part of life.


  8. Hi Kenny,
    In the 1950s Nana and Grandpa lived in Knox St which ran into Stephens St and the Ebeling red brick wall. We played cricket in Knox St using a lamp post with a yellow metal tag saying it was a war savings street. We belted tennis balls up against Ebeling’s wall usually sending one through the already smashed windows. Grandpa, Jack Bennet was a president of the club, don’t know when. We walked up the street with Nanna wheeling her trolly, it took ages, she knew everybody and loved them all. Us kids didn’t like the smells coming from the new Australians shops but were more than happy to go up and buy a pound of broken biscuits from (can’t think of his name) lovely man at a mixed business in Stephe St

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hi John! Thanks for that! Interesting to see this old post getting some eyeball action courtesy of the historical society! As it’s getting warmer, I may walk/profile another street soon. Have done Bellair in Kensignton since this one …


  9. My grandparents lived at 11 Knox St.My mother and her 4 siblings grew up there.Ebelings was at the top end of the street Grandpa worked at the sugar works which was a short walk away.Our school holidays were spent there.We came up from Geelong.Nanna played the piano at the local dances.The Bennet family were local identities.Such happy memories.I am 69 but memories of walking up Anderson St with my grandmother are as clear as a bell.

    Liked by 1 person

  10. The building with the VET on the corner was the former LYRIC THEATRE which dates back to the silent-movie era. It was used as the Town Hall prior to that. The 2nd theatre in Yarraville was the ST.GEORGES which began in a 2-storey hall that later became the stage when a new larger auditorium was built facing the station. The 3rd theatre in Yarraville was the SUN.


  11. I noticed my childhood home in your pictures. It is the yellow building on the cnr of Sussex st and Stephen st. My parents bought it 1969 the frontage was very different it was a glass shop front with double timber doors from the early 20th century. The shop had a 2 bedroom bluestone house attached to it with an ooutdoor toilet. There also used to be a bungulow at the back with leadlight windows which was demolished sometime in the early 80s.

    Liked by 1 person

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