One of the place names I love the most in Melbourne is the Banana Alley Vaults.
Those three words don’t really belong together do they? The Banana Alley Vaults are at the end of the beautiful Flinders Street Station. They are situated under the rail line and they were originally called the Flinders Street Viaduct.
A post from My Town Melbourne about a tiny cafe under the viaduct (complete with banana yellow banana lounges out the front) prompted this post. I love the look of the whole row of frontages, they look like they are tiny cubbyhouses set into the wall. Clearly they are not all tiny as it is mainly a 24 hour gym under there now.
The vaults themselves have had a chequered history. After they were built they were used for storing fruit and veg for the markets which led to the name Banana Alley.
Businesses were housed under there over the years but they eventually fell into disrepair. In the 1970’s and 80’s the vaults were used by the homeless and the area developed a dangerous reputation before being refurbished by the State Government in the late 1980’s.
I was extremely pleased to find this 1879 drawing of the proposed viaduct in the archives. What an amazing thought that Flinders Street once looked like this!*
The Man and I had recently spent a weekend in the city staying in a hotel which had originally been the Commercial Travellers building and was right across from the Banana Alley vaults. Looking back through the photos I took that weekend I found one taken from the car on the very intersection that this drawing is representing (but not one of the vaults themselves… grrrrr!).
In this photo a small part of the viaduct is visible on the left and the Yarra Family Hotel is the building on the corner of the drawing but has now been replaced with a big shiny….. thing …. I don’t know what is inside, it is just big and shiny and a disappointing replacement as far as I’m concerned.
*I found a webpage called Melbourne’s Lost Hotels, the second photo down is a great photo of the Yarra Family Hotel with horse and carts etc and the viaduct on the side, remarkably similar to this drawing!