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Melbourne Town Hall history

The Melbourne Town Hall on Swanston Street is a magnificent heritage building and historical treasure in the heart of the city.

Prior to the building of a town hall, the Mechanics’ Institute in Collins Street (now the Athenaeum) was rented as temporary quarters where the Council carried out its business and affairs.

In the 1840s, the question of a site for a town hall was referred by the Council to its Works Committee, who subsequently recommended that 4.047 hectares (10 acres) of land situated on Eastern Hill should be granted to the corporation as a reserve on which to erect a town hall.

This recommendation, which Superintendent La Trobe agreed to, included the laying of a foundation stone for the proposed town hall on the site where Parliament House now stands.

Influential Council member, Dr. A.F.A. Greeves, opposed the Works Committee’s proposal, suggesting instead the site at the corner of Collins and Swanston streets because of its central position and convenience. Although the Committee’s recommendations had already been adopted, the resolution was later amended in favour of the site suggested by Dr. Greeves, which is where Melbourne Town Hall stands today.

Construction of the first Town Hall, a modest brick building, began in 1850, but a labour shortage brought about by gold discoveries in 1851 delayed completion until 1854. This building was demolished in the mid 1860s and, on 29 November 1867, His Royal Highness Alfred Ernst Albert, Duke of Edinburgh, laid the foundation stone for a new Town Hall, which was completed in 1870.

The new building was officially opened by his Excellency the Governor of Victoria Lord Viscount Canterbury on 9 August, 1870.

The tower was named Prince Alfred’s Tower after the Duke of Edinburgh who, on his second visit to Melbourne in 1869, laid a capital on one of the columns of the Town Hall Clock Tower. The Duke was the first official guest in the soon-to-be-completed Town Hall.

The portico on the Swanston Street frontage of the building was added in 1887.

The Melbourne Town Hall is the place where many of the decisions that have helped to shape Melbourne have been made.

It is also a hub of Melbourne's cultural and civic activity, playing host to theatrical performances, weddings, receptions and exhibitions.

For information on hiring the Town Hall see:

Further information:

 



Melbourne Town Hall interior lit up

 

Melbourne Town Hall exterior at night