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1880s Melbourne

Visitors to Melbourne in the 1880s were amazed. Here in the Southern Hemisphere was a city larger than most European capitals. In just a decade the population had doubled, racing to half-a-million. Citizens strutted the streets, bursting with pride as their city boomed.

While Sydney was seen as slow and steady, Melbourne was fast and reckless. Ornate office buildings up to 12 storeys high rivalled those of New York, London and Chicago. Money was poured into lavishly decorated banks, hotels and coffee palaces. Towers, spires, domes and turrets reached to the skies.

By 1891 the high times were coming to an end. Banks closed their doors, stockbrokers panicked and thousands lost jobs, homes and savings. Some escaped unscathed but many were plunged into hardship.

It was a dramatic fall, and a far more sober and cautious Melbourne faced the new century.


Collins Street looking east
magnifyCollins Street looking east

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