An Approximate Centenary

   Posted by: cholmondeley   in Culture, Victoriana

Victorian Railways Institute gathering (c.1910-1915)

Victorian Railways Institute gathering (c.1910-1915)

The main entrance to the current building at Melbourne’s Flinders Street station was opened to the public on 10th October, 1909. Some months later, on 22nd of January, 1910, the Victorian Railways Institute held an opening ceremony inside the building, in the lecture theatre that would later become the station’s ballroom. It is the second event that history seems to have selected to be the Station’s official opening date. Which means, of course, that this Edwardian Era architectural icon turns 100 this Friday.

The centenary seems to be attracting little mainstream press or official attention from the city, and certainly nothing from Metro, but Jenny Davies, who’s just written a book on the station and publishes flindersstreetstation100.com, is talking up the celebrations for Friday. She has an exhibition entitled “The Station Turns 100″ currently on display in the Degraves Street subway which provides a nice overview of the station’s history. (She should be there most lunchtimes until Saturday selling books, and is keen to talk to anyone interested in the station.) The publicity she’s generated has apparently stirred up the fickle public interest in restoration and preservation, with a new lobby group forming to attempt to effect change — and possibly attract some of the estimated $10M in funding the station will require.

But is this really the Centenary of the station?

Given the apparent lack of newspaper coverage of such an event, it seems likely that there was in fact no official opening for the new building itself. Jenny Davies notes that there is no known foundation stone for the station — an unusual situation for large public buildings of the period — and believes that the idea that the Victorian Railways Institute opening constituted the “official” opening of the building had crept into currency by the time of the Victorian Railways Centenary in 1954. The VRI was a social club and training institute for railways staff. It was also, however, given responsibility for and control over much of the station building — thus the ballroom is actually The VRI Ballroom — so perhaps its inauguration is an appropriate anniversary to celebrate. In any case, the station is around 100 years old about now, and I for one feel it’s something of a shame more of a fuss isn’t being made about it.

[Update: According to a VRI staff member I spoke to this afternoon, their centenary celebrations have been set for May.]

This entry was posted on Wednesday, January 20th, 2010 at 6:59 pm and is filed under Culture, Victoriana. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can skip to the end and leave a response. Pinging is currently not allowed.

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