Why Melbourne’s CBD History Walks Rock in Lockdown

It happened very suddenly. The thought. The idea just came. I was walking along Melbourne CBD’s Spencer Street at the start of the second wave of COVID-19 in late July, on a permitted walk under Stage 3 or 4 restrictions, when I had a brainwave. Why don’t I learn about the history of these buildings and streets that I’m seeing on my walks? An exciting proposition, I thought. Melbourne CBD history walks. Let’s write about it. In these unprecedented times, with #StayatHomeSaveLives the new norm, it just made perfect sense.

Turning my regular walks into a history sojourn to learn, research and write about Melbourne’s CBD is a simple way to feel joy. At least for writers like me. I support all the public health measures during this pandemic. My goal is to stay alive and not get infected. I want to create and learn new things in isolation. That’s my natural bent. And just as important, I want to stay positive, strong and focused on the long game during this public health emergency. The size and scale of which we have never ever seen or experienced in our lifetime.

Why this matters

Staying mentally strong is vital. It matters to the many people who love you and care about your well-being. Few, if any of us, are spared from the challenges and anxieties of our time. But I’ve discovered during this second wave of COVID-19 in Melbourne, and the curfew and walking restrictions which are fine, that these walks can give a writer like me a much needed creative outlet. It feeds my brain and my soul, my joie de vivre, replacing that ground hog day feel about a Stage 4 day. It gives me a clear separation mentally between work and personal space.

So here I am.

Welcome to my rather imperfect virtual version of Melbourne CBD history walks. I’m a team player so it makes sense to me to share this in case it helps in some tiny way, someone else, near or far, those I love and those I don’t know during lockdown and isolation life.

King St, Melbourne CBD, August 2020. Image credit: Vienna Richards

“It is in dialogue with pain that many beautiful things acquire their value”

– Alain de Botton, The Architecture of Happiness

Before and after

Pre-pandemic life, when the streets and roads were humming with people, I was too busy rushing here and there, to pay attention to the history of this beautiful city. But that’s changed now. These days, there are very few people out and about in the CBD, other than residents, Victorian police and Australian defence force and food delivery couriers.

I’m walking around a historian’s dream. I could document my neighbourhood, why not? I’m loving the Sherlock Holmes-like purpose my walks have taken on.I’m seeing things I never noticed in Melbourne before. The old historical buildings and the plaques (or did I mean plagues? ). There’s the old police station on Bourke St West built in the 1800s, a warehouse on King St, and churches from a bygone era more than a hundred years ago. And they’re within a 5 km radius of my apartment. That’s the permitted distance to go walking or exercising during this lockdown.

Is Narnia here?

Discovering this beautiful amazing city’s history catches my delight. Curiosity takes over. It’s like stumbling across a secret chest in a scene from C.S. Lewis’ Chronicles of Narnia…well, I’m completely over reaching and dreaming on that analogy. But there is a certain undeniable excitement that comes with discovering history. A lot like family history.

A history that I never thought about, before this pandemic. A history that manages to shine through, even during these painful times in Melbourne’s life.

Thank you for reading me. Writing this helps me. If reading about Melbourne city’s history brings light relief to your day, that makes me happy. If just one other person finds this helpful, then I’m more than good with that. Feel free to drop me a message if you’d like to share your walking adventures.

I am terribly imperfect

Forgive my typos. I built this site and write and edit but that doesn’t mean I’ll always spot my typos. I focus on getting it done good within the small amount of spare time I can give to this. So, rather than perfection, I aim for getting the job done as fast as possible with the minimum of fuss, if I have any hope of publishing online in a timely way.

When I use my photos here, I confess the photos don’t do justice to Melbourne’s beauty, not one bit. Stage 4 restrictions means I take photos quickly, as I’m walking or during a momentary stop with my smartphone. Literally a moment to take a snapshot. Clearly, I’m not a professional photographer and I try to leave photos as untouched as much as possible. When my photographic efforts fail, fear not. I have a back up plan.

If you have a street in the CBD with a history or building you think I should check out, let me know.

Stay Safe, Melburnians.


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