Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Flinders Street Station

Jenny Davies is the next guest speaker for the Heidelberg Historical Society's next meeting. Tuesday December 10, 2013 at the Uniting Church Community Centre, Seddon Street, Ivanhoe at 8 pm.  Her talk is Our Station: Flinders Street.  Jenny will speak about the diversity of the tenants of Flinders Street Station and their histories.  

The Railway Commissioners of the late 1890s clearly stated that Melburnians needed a central railway station that they could be truly proud of.  As the grand Victorian Railways Head Office in Spencer Street was completed in 1893, there was no need for such a large building at Flinders Street where only accommodation for the workings of the suburban rail network needed to be housed. Thus, the commissioners declared, “We shall build something three times larger than that required and rent the other two thirds out by which means we will offset the cost of the building.” Indeed, the figures for the first two years of full occupation show that the rental income matched the interest on the bank loan.  Flinders Street Station was considered finished when the famous clocks were installed over the main entrance early in 1910.

Not only did the new station building provide office and other commercial space for lease but, with the decision to add a third floor to the building in order to house the newly formed VRI, established a public building in a key location that housed a diversity of tenants over nearly a 70 year period. The only reason these tenants were forced to leave in the 1980s was because the lack of maintenance by the railways rendered the ‘non railway use’ parts of the building non-compliant with OH&S. The VRI itself anguished over the inevitable move to other premises with the increasing demise of its facilities and eventually relocated to Kings Carpark, Flinders Lane. Had the railways ensured that the building was maintained and compliant, there is no doubt that it would still have enjoyed capacity occupancy.

More than any other building in Melbourne, Flinders Street Station still forms an integral part of our sense of place and identity. The refurbishment of the station to its former glory and the return of the heritage building to public use are essential to the continuity of our living history.

Jenny Davies’ written history, “Beyond theFacade: Flinders Street,more than just a railway station”, was published in 2009 in celebration of the station’s centenary in 2010. The book covers a wealth of architectural, social and commercial history, including numerous anecdotal stories, with over 350 photos and illustrations. In 2012 Jenny created a virtual tour website in order to embrace the increasing number of further stories and photos. 

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