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The areas now known as North Carlton and Princes Hill were developed from the 1850s as an outpost of Melbourne Town.
Extension for Melbourne's residential suburbs
North Carlton was surveyed in 1869 as an extension for Melbourne's residential suburbs. The new half-acre blocks extended as far as Fenwick Street, continuing the north-south grid of Carlton, with 30 metre frontage allotments served by generous 20 and 30 metre wide government roads. Reserves were set aside for public buildings and gardens. The renowned surveyor, Clement Hodgkinson, was the initiator of the 1869 North Carlton plan, as head of the city's Crown Lands and Survey Department.
In 1876 the balance of North Carlton (north of Fenwick Street - approximately 173 acres) was subdivided into small suburban lots. Most lots featured 15 metre frontages and each was provided with the Victorian-era amenity of rear service lanes, separating utilitarian household functions such as coal and other deliveries, nightsoil cartage and stabling, from the formal house façade.
The 30m wide roads of Drummond, Rathdowne and Canning streets were also extended north. The subdivision led to a distinctive form of housing development where closely spaced, sometimes richly decorated, houses look over low, formally arranged front gardens and fences, forming a continuous and distinctive residential Victorian-era streetscape.
The extension of the Melbourne Building Act in 1872 to cover all of the Melbourne municipality ensured fire proof regulated construction and promoted a more homogenous built character for North Carlton.
Public transport, which initially consisted of a horse-drawn omnibus from Nicholson Street to the city, stimulated development in Canning and Station streets. Standard pattern terrace housing dominated this area. With the population growth came the first government primary school (opened in 1873 and later replaced by the Lee Street Primary School in 1878), shops, shop rows, and corner hotels.
The 1883 announcement of Rathdowne and Nicholson streets as future cable tram routes meant an explosion of dense residential development of terrace housing in almost every street north to Park Street. In 1887-8 new cable tram and Inner Circle railway services gave this area perhaps the best access to public transport of any Victorian-era inner Melbourne suburb: rows of shops and residences were built along the tram routes.
At the cable tram terminus in Nicholson Street, adjoining the North Fitzroy Inner Circle railway station, a major shopping centre developed with grand shop rows extending from Macpherson to Park streets. Then at the fringe of suburbia, northern sections of Canning and Drummond Streets were popular for larger, detached late Victorian houses that might have been served by private transport in the form of stabling. The Inner Circle passenger train link to the Melbourne (Princes Bridge) was completed in 1901 and operated until 1948, which explains the popularity of North Carlton in the Edwardian and Interwar eras.
Significant public landscape in the area is both early, in the form of Curtain Square with its Victorian-era residential perimeter, and residual, such as the linear park along the former Inner Circle railway in Park St. Significant street trees include median planting of Drummond St (mature poplars) and Canning St (mature palms alternating with poplars), more recent median planting of exotic trees along the line of the former cable tram route in Rathdowne Street (pin oaks), and the plane trees along the centre of Newry St.
Small front gardens in the dominant terrace housing of the suburb make up most of the private landscape, including typically low and visually transparent iron and masonry fences, ornamental borders to garden beds, and paved paths and verandah floors: all often highly decorative.
These living landscape elements along with the hard landscape of the street and its fittings, such as the stone paving and cast-iron street furniture, reinforce the strong sense of period in the suburb.
Main development phases
Post-1900, infilling of North Carlton's vacant sites proceeded quickly and by about 1915 the suburb was virtually complete, with religious and educational buildings, and government services following each development surge. Once developed, the area was almost entirely residential with some factory-warehouse development in Nicholson and Rathdowne streets providing a commercial hub.
North Carlton is a highly homogenous 19th and early 20th century residential suburb largely occupied by dense terrace development, set within a rigid rectilinear grid of north-south and east-west streets, served by rear lanes as an obligatory feature of polite suburban life of the era. Early and original rear outbuildings are an integral feature of the Victorian and Edwardian era character of North Carlton and are of particular historic significance where houses are on corner allotments where their outbuildings are exposed to public view.
As a dense residential enclave close to the city, public transport and services, North Carlton was able to accommodate an influx of European immigrants. Newly arrived immigrants were able to be placed in cheap housing stock and made significant contributions to the existing Victorian and Edwardian-era infrastructure.
Traces of the original Jewish, Greek, Italian, Lebanese and Turkish communities that settled in the suburb are still evident. Their community gathering places include those for the Serbian Orthodox, and Ukrainian Orthodox Church communities, the 1932-3 Kadimah (former Jewish centre), St. John the Baptist‟s Greek Orthodox Church, and the more recent Mosque in Drummond Street.
Beyond the meeting places are the distinctive house renovations that transformed the Victorian-era Italianate into a form of post World War Two Italianate. Examples of these have been documented by the National Trust of Australia (Vic). All of these places are important milestones in North Carlton's development as a reception centre for immigrants.