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North Melbourne’s first institutions were built in the 1840s, beginning with a cattle yard. At this time the area was not well defined and included Parkville and Royal Park, as well as a part of West Melbourne.
In the 1850s a Benevolent Asylum was built between Abbotsford and Curzon Streets, coinciding with the desire to find space to accommodate the growing population from the gold rush. (The Asylum remained a feature of the area until its move to Cheltenham in 1911.) In 1859 the area was named Hotham borough, after the governor of Victoria Charles Hotham. Hotham Post Office opened on 20 March 1860.
By 1861, Hotham had a population of over 7,000.
In 1869 some of these decided to form the Hotham Football Club that later became a foundation member of the VFA (Australian rules football) today known as the North Melbourne Kangaroos.
Apartments in North Melbourne. The clock tower of the North Melbourne Town Hall is on the far right.
On 26 August 1887 the Borough was renamed North Melbourne Town, after the completion of the imposing North Melbourne Town Hall and the Metropolitan Meat Market.
Although there were pockets of middle class housing in the wider tree-lined streets such as Dryburgh, Chapman and Brougham, by the 1880s the suburb had become a predominantly working class area with most of the male population employed in local industry.
In the 1890s tram routes had entered the area as far as Abbotsford Street, walking distance from the Arden Street Oval.
In the 1930s many areas of North Melbourne, in particular the laneways, became overcrowded and defined as slums. As such, large government housing development projects were proposed, which were eventually completed in the 1960s.