History of Lygon Street in Carlton

August 13, 2016

Lygon street – Where should I begin?

As soon as people hear the name of Lygon street in Carlton, their minds are filled with essences of hot and gourmet Italian food. Travelers, students, residents – they all associate the street with some delectable Italian food. It may sound strange to some people as,

“How can one associate a street with a particular cuisine?”

Well, it can be concluded after delving into its’ rich past and culture.

Lygon street is situated on Wurundjeri land. Traditionally, the First Nation’s people would have found the Carlton area a good hunting ground up the hill from the Birrarung (Yarra river). While there is scant written history about Carlton from Wurundjeri perspective, today Carlton is home to aboriginal organizations and residents, such as the Lowitja Institute.

The name for the street originates from Lord Lygon who was a British cabinet minister in 1830s in Australia. It spans more than a few kilometers running north to south in the inner northern suburbs of Melbourne. At the southern most point it connects to Russell street at the city centers Hoddle Grid. In the north it proceeds from Carlton to Albion street in East Brunswick. It is a geographical marker at the heart of Carlton though.

Built in 1916, the electric tram route of 1 and 8 meets Lygon street at the corner of Elgin street in Carlton.

Established in 1852 by Robert Hoddle, the Carlton section of Lygon street was formed by government surveys. The most notable landmark is the Trades Hall in the area of 19th century. The interwar period saw the maximum changes with the large, local Jewish and Italian populations opening shops and cafes giving it a diverse pluralistic nature. Popular throughout Melbourne, some businesses have survived and flourished such as King and Godfree, University Café, Jimmy Watson’s Wine Bar and Toto’s.

Legendarily, the first coffee espresso machine, the coffee that we are all so familiar with today and enjoy, was brought in to Australia by University Café in 1950s and became a popular meeting place for Italian migrants. The Italian influence strengthened with postwar migration and eventually led to the formation of the Lygon Street Festa in 1978. The street has become synonymous for Italian Food and is a hub for the students of University of Melbourne and RMIT.

Today Lygon street has prospered and is a popular destination for locals and visitors alike. With its’ Italian charm combined with the intricacies of the modern era; I’m sure the street will continue to thrive and retain its individuality in the multiracial metropolitan city of Melbourne.

By Rujuta Nikam.

Some links showcasing the history and development of Lygon street in Carlton.




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