Monday, April 09, 2012

Prahran Arcade

Jokingly we used to call Chapel Street, or Chaple Street as electronic road sign programmers know it, Chapelli Street, because of the large number of Greek and Italian immigrants who settled there when property prices were much cheaper. There are still a number of them; remaining residents of where they know and have become old, while their now grown up children have moved on to balustraded boxes in Bulleen.

Chapelli Street had shops that were cheap to rent, and it was a service street, with outside visitors perhaps only coming to visit Maples large store, the large Coles Variety Store and Moore's Corner Store. Now it is very popular with the young and the trendy and prices reflect this. Even the Windsor end of Chapel Street has become popular with the young and the young at heart. Still, it is our local street, with our local shops. We visit our comfortable old shoe often, but not for clothes shopping.

It has some fine buildings and a fairly intact streetscape, with only a few horrors barely punctuating the sky. You won't see much at ground level, but if you look up, it can be quite glorious.

I know nothing about this building, but in its current state or when it is eventually repainted, it pleases my eyes.

This one at 282 Chapel Street I do know a little about. It is well worth clicking the photo just to see the eagles.

Its principal tenant is now JB Hi Fi, but I remember it better as Dan Murphy's liquor store. It had a wide central arcade leading to the rear of the shop with galleries either side. It has been known as Prahran Arcade and The Centreway. As you can see below, the roof has been significantly altered but otherwise it is quite intact.

It was built for a Mrs Elizabeth Delany and opened in 1890 with a grand banquet. Within it were a hotel, Turkish baths, a bakery, billiard rooms and a restaurant among thirty or so shops. Just over a year later it was sold to finance agency. Tenants over the years have included estate agents, Registrar of Births, Deaths and Marriages, Theosophical Society, an oyster saloon, Independent Workers Union and  an art school.

Up until recently at least, some of the upper floor rooms were artists' studios and there was often an amusing display constructed on the first floor balcony. I can remember some large stuffed and fibreglass animals and at another time a display using mannequins. I have a feeling that these artists' studios were occupied for a very long time but I can't remember the detail now. An artist well known by me, the brilliant but late Howard Arkley was one such artist who had a studio there.

A permit was for installation of bars and restaurants on the first floor was granted in 2009 but it has lapsed. For what it is worth, it is National Trust listed and on the Victorian Heritage Register.

So go and take a look at it from the opposite side of Chapel Street and inside, gaze up in wonder at its history.


  1. We have a lot of buildings here with the same architectural style as the first building. The second is beautiful. What a fun neighborhood it looks to be.

  2. Interesting post, Andrew. I had not known, let alone investigated its history. It looks like Turkish Baths featured then, too.

  3. I notice the name Baillieu on the side of the building on the last photo. It made think how there are family names associated with the state of Victoria over the years but unless I have had a mental blank I can't think of any equivalent names for New South Wales. Maybe Lloyd-Jones as in the David Jones empire? Oh yes, the Packers. Now that I think more, the Fairfaxes.

  4. Thanks for that post Andrew. I've always wondered about the history of the building.

  5. Bonza history lesson and what a blast from the past Maples is, the last time i came across a Maples store was in Glenroy many, many moons ago :-).

  6. One of my favourite parts of Melbourne architecturally, including the town hall.

    I used to shop in Chapel St all the time, but since we moved from St Kilda, it is only on special occasions. Still, the antique shops are wonderful, the new and second hand book shops are inviting, and the food is to die for.

    Do you remember Patterson's Cakes? I wept when they closed down.

  7. Rubye, the first I guess it is a Victorian building. I don't know if you use that phrase. It means it was built in a certain period during Queen Victoria's reign. Our state of Victoria was very rich from the wealth of gold.

    Christine, Turkish baths sound a bit naughty to me. All that heat and steam is bound to have some effect.

    Victor, your NSW dynasties are just a bit younger. Ibrahim, Freeman, Saffron.

    Stands out a bit doesn't it AdRad.

    Maples were great stores Windsmoke. They did hire purchase too.

    Hels, of course yes Patteron's Cakes and the useful Rubenstein's supermarket and who doesn't enjoy a browse in the Bazaar.

  8. What a lovely old building!
    I would have loved to visit back in the day when it had a hotel, the turkish baths and bakery. A more genteel time.

  9. River, I'll just add the oyster saloon too.

  10. Anonymous7:44 pm

    Patterson's Cakes has closed???? That's tragic! I loved going there, not only for their delicious cakes but also for their yummy pies. I also loved the Greek cake shop that was further up towards High Street. Is it still there? Ah Chapel Street... V.

  11. V, I don't think that is there either any more. Windsor is now bars and restaurants.

  12. I've been away from Melbourne for too long. Dan Murphy's closed? It's enough to give one a case of the vapours!

  13. Stop fanning yourself HH. It moved across the road to a modern building.

  14. 'Anon'1:14 am

    I've found this very interesting.

    The arcade was derelict for many years until Dan's plonk business took it over.