There may have been a time when living right next to a railway line bespoke glamour and status.
But mostly I associate railways lines, in cities and towns around the world, with being living territory for the blue collar and the poor – or poorer.
Bellair Street in Kensington, between Racecourse Road and through to Macaulay Road, is an exception.
Yes, it runs parallel with the railway line – but the wide road, lovely trees and many gorgeous houses have quite some elegance and a well-to-do feel about them.
Walking from one end to the other, I spied just two buildings that seemed to be of a more contemporary, post-World War II style.
First up at the Racecourse Road end is a building emblazoned with the words “CHILD WELFARE CENTRE”.
These days it serves as the HQ for a legal service.
The staff tell me it served its original purpose rather briefly and that there was other sort of business there before the arrival of their service.
Next door is the town hall, which I’m told served originally both Kensington and Moonee Ponds.
These days, it’s a service outpost of Melbourne council, a venue for hire and home to Kensington market.
The majority of houses on this stretch of Bellair are elevated, single-fronted Victorians.
Mostly they display ample evidence of being well loved – but not always.
Mind you, there are a couple of grander abodes.
Further towards Macaulay is a group of three buildings that seem older than their neighbours.
They have the sort “crammed in” look I associate more with some parts of Carlton close to the CBD than I do with the western suburbs.
This stretch of Bellair is dominated by two grand, large, two-storey buildings.
The brick one appears to have not changed for many years.
All the windows are blocked with blinds and the like.
It has a boarding house vibe about it.
The locals I talk with find it as mysterious as do I.
Like the old, towering bank a little further along, the brick edifice appears to have facilities at the rear for horses and/or servants.
Not necessarily in that order …
I recall that about a decade ago, there appeared to be some revamp/renovation activity pending at the old bank.
These days, it looks well kept but devoid of life.
But I suspect looks, in this case, are misleading.
The popular cafe/shop end of Bellair these days boasts two new arrivals …
… a barbershop and …
… and a Turkish bakery/cake shop.
CTS spends much time eating on Racecourse Road.
Consequently, we’ve also spent a lot of time cruising the back streets around there looking for viable parking spots that won’t cost us a ticket.
It’s only recently I’ve realised – hooray! – there is invariably plenty of parking just around the corner, on Bellair and right adjacent the town hall.
But instead of always driving down Bellair, I’m glad to have walked it, camera in hand.
It’s certainly one of our more notable thoroughfares.
It’s a sweet street, but it’s let down my the overpriced yet underwhelming cafés. ‘Premises’ looks like it should be good, but it serves the blandest, “Hawthorn-in-the-’80s” coffee I’ve ever had (and for $4? presumptuous prattishness) and the most boring scrambled eggs in town. In fact, it’s so WASPishly dull I’ve dubbed this stretch of shops North Hawthorn (or.. Northorn). The only saving grace is the sweet and cosy White Rabbit Record Bar with its dog-friendly courtyard out the back. More than once we’ve wandered in mid-afternoon and Stu k around until closing time 🙂
Hi there! Yeah, I tend to agree. In fact, Macaulay Road, too, generally strikes us an underachiever – except for the cool gelati place 1565 and Frying Colours. Have you tried the Bellair Japanese/Korean place? I had a fine, fresh cheese-and-spinach gozleme at the new Turkish place – but it did cost $14! Wow – love your artwork!
Love Bellair St 🙂 (and the White Rabbit as previously mentioned – I practically lived there when I resided in Kensington).
The story goes that the old “bank” was not actually a bank, that the signwriting was done for The Sullivans TV show. Not sure of the truth of that though, might just be a Furphy.
One notable literary aspect of Bellair St is that Hal Porter’s classic autobiography The Watcher on the Cast Iron Balcony was partly set in his childhood home at 36 Bellair St.
Hi Juz! Ha that’s great goss!
Now that’s odd, Juz – Google gives 36 Bellair as pretty much where the town hall is. The earliest number I can read without another visit there is 40 – which is the newer brick building right next to the town hall.
Google gives the town hall address as 30-34, perhaps 36 once stood nearwhere the newer brick building is near the cnr of Anthony St?
An explanation: it’s has been demolished. But see the excerpt – the story of Bellair St gets better.
“I gave the URL of this blog to my friend Frank, remembering he grew up in Kensington himself. Turns out he lived in Bellair street, too. He went back there to have a look recently, and spotted another famous Australian icon, Barry O. Jones, watching from his Cast Iron Balcony. (There you see, great minds, etcetera.) Frank asked Barry where the original Porter house was. Unfortunately, it has been demolished. A kindergarten stands on that site now. Well, better than a MacDonald’s.”
Ha! That’s cool! I reckon it must’ve been right next door to the town hall, where there’s now a more modern, brick extension, off to the left as you’re facing it.
I lived in Kensington for nigh on 20 years until 2010. I used to absolutely detest the “famous” Belair St cafes (only famous in Real Estate Agents’ eyes). Besides not being a coffee drinker, the footpaths were continually clogged up with “coughers” polluting the immediate vicinity with their fags. What used to really get me going though were the ridiculous attempts at serving up healthy breakfasts all day long comprising about 150 different types of lettuce leaves then topped off with a slab of greasy bacon and eggs – artery hardening stuff.
Unfortunately I left Kensington just as the Newmarket shops started to sprout some pretty good Asian restaurants.
HAVE YOU NOTICE NUMBER 54 BELLAIR ST GOT LOTS OF HISTORY OF JANE EASTON WHO LEAVE THERE