Historic highlights: Exploring the heritage of Elsternwick

Historic highlights: Exploring the heritage of Elsternwick

Sometimes it seems there are very few suburbs left that are home to modern and fashionable stores, restaurants and cafes, but still retain ‘soul’.

Elsternwick Village, however, has never lost its essential character, and the reason is simple: its history isn’t in the past; it’s alive today.

Strolling down Glenhuntly Rd you’ll see Jewish families who have lived there for generations dropping off shoes at Blight’s Shoe Repairs, still operating since 1932; and long-time residents, stopping by Dalgarno’s, the homewares store that was established in 1913 and is where their parents bought their wedding gift, and where they are now buying their children’s.

The story of Elsternwick starts in 1860, with the opening of a Post Office.

The following year, a railway line operated by the Melbourne and Hobson’s Bay United Railway Company, was built from Melbourne to Brighton, passing through Elsternwick, and really put the suburb on the map.

The Elsternwick Hotel, which remains as an iconic landmark on Brighton Rd and continues its life as a pub, was built 1854, followed by the Elsternwick Cricket Club, founded in 1902 and still hitting sixes today.

Hattams menswear Elsternwick
Blight's Shoe Repairs in Elsternwick
Dalgarno's of Elsternwick

Retail precinct has historic roots

The retail precinct of Glenhuntly Rd existed for many years to service the local community.

One of those retailers, Hattams menswear store, opened in 1872 and is still doing business today.

Hattams is known locally as an Elsternwick institution, but more widely it’s famous for being one of the last locations in Australia to have a Lamson Rapid Wire Cash Carrier, an elastic-powered device that shoots cash in a canister through an overhead wire system to a central register.

Every kid who grew up in Elsternwick has at one time watched a demonstration with wide-eyed amazement.

The community surged in numbers post World War II, with an influx of Jewish families and migrants from all across Europe.

The influence of these new Australians brought colour and music and life, and their cosmopolitan influence is still strongly in existence today.

Frank's Elsternwick Bakery

But the matriarch of Elsternwick is the Classic Cinema, built in 1889.

It opened as the Elsternwick Theatre, showing it’s first film in 1911, and is currently the longest continuously operating cinema in Victoria.

While Elsternwick has grown to become a modern centre of fashion and food, you can still savour the taste of its long history and tradition. Literally.

Frank Rieck has been opening the doors of Frank’s Elsternwick Bakery for more than 50 years, and is the man behind what foodies are calling the best sourdough in Melbourne.

The secret to his success? The sourdough culture in his loaves is actually about 500 years old.

Frank Rieck migrated from Germany to Australia in 1959 without a word of English, but with his special ancient sourdough culture in his pocket.

And that’s essentially the story of Elsternwick’s history – cultures that came together in a little Bayside town and grew into something quite remarkable.

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