In Search of Melbourne’s Oldest Home

As part of my very imperfect ‘Melbourne CBD history walks’ also known as my one hour max of walking outside within 5kms of home, I went looking for the city’s oldest home. Built about 170 years ago, I couldn’t wait to find it. So off I went after work one day. In search of Melbourne’s oldest home.

A friend told me about its location: ‘it’s behind the scaffolding, you’ve walked past it all the time on the corner at La Trobe and King St’ something along those lines.

This was the only place that came to mind. This fenced area right on Flagstaff Gardens, closer to the Flagstaff train station. But it wasn’t on the corner of King and La Trobe. I couldn’t remember seeing any scaffolding on the corner, or on the street. On closer inspection this week, as demonstrated by photographic evidence, exhibit one…it was clearly fencing.

In search of Melbourne’s oldest home.Before I go further, this story serves to remind me how little attention I paid to things like scaffolding in the CBD. My mind did an interesting leap into the next best connection, the fencing here. Not a great start to historical walks. Maybe the fencing is also called scaffolding?

Flagstaff Gardens, August 2020 – The La Trobe Street end where I mistakenly thought this was the location of the oldest house in Melbourne. I peered through the fencing only to see rocks and an empty space with no building on it. Image credit: Vienna Richards

So, as a result of my brilliance, I walked right past the real historical location on the corner of King St and La Trobe. In the process, I missed the historic building entirely on that walk. Something called a looming curfew prompted an early end to my walking investigation.

Is this Melbourne’s oldest home?

A question mark hung over this discovery. Am I blind? Image credit: Vienna Richards

“Go somewhere you know nothing about and see what happens.”

Karl Ove Knausgård

But before I had to return back to my apartment, I did walk all over Flagstaff Gardens and found the red brick house on the grounds. Could this be Melbourne’s oldest home? I can’t imagine so. This definitely wasn’t built in the 1800s or 170 years ago. The good news is that this is where the penny started to drop. But before it could drop further and distil an ‘aha’ moment, I batted away my doubts and remained in my ignorance. And returned home to ponder some more.

I found it!

Take 2. Action. Second time lucky. In search of Melbourne’s oldest home. I went walking after work and I found it by accident. Right on the corner of King and La Trobe. It was waiting patiently there, where it has always been, even on the night I couldn’t find it. Exactly where my friend said it was…

Inner city Melbourne’s oldest store and home dwelling dating back to 1850/51, 170 years ago. Now covered in graffiti on the upper side facing Flagstaff, and dwarfed by high rises, it does have scaffolding. It is situated at 33 King Street, corner of King and La Trobe Streets, Melbourne CBD. Image credit: Vienna Richards

The next time I write about this home and store, I will have learned more about its unique place in Melbourne’s early history. In the meantime, this is the plaque on the building. Check out the brick work. Fascinating, isn’t it?

Finally, tonight I saw a comment online about another oldest home in Melbourne. The commentor said the home dates back earlier than 1850. I’m at the start of this adventure. And, by most accounts I’ve read so far, this is the oldest but I’m here to learn about this amazing city. So, could it be that there is a distinction between the function of the building as to which was the oldest? The answer is already out there, I’m sure.

I’ll tackle that question in my next post on 33 King St. #LockdownMelbourne just got exciting again.


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