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Brunswick Street was the first street in Fitzroy to develop as a commercial hub.
The area now known as Fitzroy was divided into 12 allotments, averaging 25 acres each. Subdivision of the area around Brunswick Street began in 1839 with the last subdivision at the Alexandra Parade end completed in 1854.
Captain Brunswick Smythe
During the 1840s the street was unpaved, and was lined with small shops which provided local residents with building materials, food and clothing. In 1851 the section of Brunswick Street between Victoria and Alexandra parades was proclaimed.
Its name is thought to be derived from Captain Brunswick Smythe (one of the original land owners), with nearby Gertrude Street, thought to be named after the Captain's daughter.
During the 1860s and 1870s many of the small shops were replaced with more substantial premises, especially banks and hotels. By the end of the 19th century most of the street had been developed, and a number of original buildings had been replaced.
A cable tram route was established in the late 1880s - the cable tram engine house at the corner of Nicholson and Gertrude streets is a remnant of this period. The line was later electrified.
In the 1960s the southern end of Brunswick Street was altered when a large 'slum' area was demolished and four high-rise public housing towers were constructed.
Brunswick Street transformed
Brunswick Street was in decline in the middle of the 20th century. In the late 1970s the street transformed into one of Melbourne's most popular strip of cafés, bars, restaurants, hotels, bookshops and boutiques.
It is noted for its eclectic signage, public art and street furniture, particularly the section between Johnston Street and Victoria Parade.