Carlton Community History Group
The Last Post for Rathdowne Street
Digitised Image: State Library of Victoria
North Carlton Post Office
After nearly 100 years of delivering letters and parcels, the North Carlton Post Office in Rathdowne Street closed its doors at midday on Friday 14 October 2022, and re-opened the following Monday at 607 Lygon Street, Princes Hill. The large brick building at 546 Rathdowne Street, on the corner of Richardson Street, was the first purpose-built post office in North Carlton. The vacant land was acquired by the Commonwealth Government in 1911 and plans were drawn up in 1912. While no report of the official opening date has been located, the post office was in operation by 1913. Over the years, the building has undergone several changes, reflecting developments in postal and telecommunication services. In the original floor plans, the two enclosed booths either side of the main façade are designated as telephone boxes, in the days when public telephone calls were operated-connected. External telephone boxes were added decades later to the picket-fenced area north of the building, and subsequently removed as the demand for public telephone access waned. The external brickwork has been painted over and is now a cream colour. In recent years, steps and a ramp for disabled access have been added to the front entrance.1
The need for postal and telegraph services in the rapidly-growing suburb of North Carlton was demonstrated decades before the new post office was built. In February 1888, a deputation comprising Mr Gardiner (MLA) and Councillor Mills called on the Postmaster General to open the Rathdowne Street telegraph station as a matter of necessity. The first North Carlton post office premises recorded in Sands & McDougall in 1888 was a shop at 783 Rathdowne Street, near the Macpherson Street corner. Miss Eliza White was the postmistress and she shared the premises with Mrs G. White, a stationer. In the early days of Carlton, it was not uncommon for postal services to be operated in conjunction with other businesses, such as stationers and newsagents. Miss and Mrs White remained at the address until 1892, when both moved to 797 Rathdowne Street, a short distance north of the Macpherson Street corner. The next move occurred in 1896 to 428 Rathdowne Street, on the east side, and the last recorded listing was in 1913.2,3
Elsewhere in Carlton, the post office at 146 Elgin Street was built in 1883 and officially opened in April 1884. The Carlton Post Office was closed in 2021 and postal operations were moved to the retail area in Lygon Court.4,5
Notes and references:
1 Digitised plans and historic photos of the North Carlton Post Office building are available on the National Archives of Australia website.
2 The Argus, 2 February 1888, p. 11
3 Building occupancy information has been sourced from Sands & McDougall directories and Melbourne City Council rate books.
4 The Age, 28 July 1883, p. 6
5 The Age, 2 April 1884, p. 5
Is it Curtains for the Curtin?
John Curtin Hotel, corner of Lygon and Earl streets, Carlton
Another historic Carlton hotel – the John Curtin in Lygon Street – has been sold recently and is facing an uncertain future. The hotel's licence expires in November 2022 and, depending on the intentions of the successful buyer, the popular watering hole for trade unionists, politicians, journalists and students could be serving its last drinks before the end of the year. The hotel takes its name from John Curtin, Australia's wartime Prime Minister from 1941 to 1945 and, being conveniently located opposite Trades Hall, it has a long association with the trade union movement and the Australian Labor Party. The hotel's present name is a more recent re-branding from the early 1970s. It was known as the Lygon Hotel for the greater part of its long life and was licensed to Michael O'Meara in 1859. The original early Victorian brick hotel building was replaced, or substantially remodelled, in the early 20th century, with the addition of a distinctive archway façade.
The names "John Curtin" and "John Curtain" – both Irishmen associated with politics and Carlton hotels – are sometimes confused. John Curtain was a 19th century politician, business entrepreneur and publican. He was a Melbourne City Councillor and Member of the Legislative Assembly, and licensee of two Carlton hotels – the old Leicester Hotel in Leicester Street and, most notably, Curtain's Hotel (now Shaw Davey Slum) on the corner of Elgin and Drummond streets. At one stage, John Curtain owned dozens of business and residential properties in Carlton, but he was forced to sell many in the 1880s to cover his business debts. John Curtain died in straitened financial circumstances in 1905. His name is commemorated in Curtain Street and Curtain Square in North Carlton.
John Curtin, former trade unionist and Prime Minister of Australia, died in Canberra in 1945.
Note: Hotel building and licensing information has been sourced from the Australian Architectural Index, Melbourne City Council rate books and contemporary newspaper accounts.
John Curtin (1885-1945)
John Curtain (1835-1905)
Home | News | About Us | Recollections | Street Names | Small Streets of Carlton | Carlton in the News | Crime in Carlton | Travelling in Carlton | Carlton in the War | Names of Carlton | Rathdowne Street | Images of Carlton | Publications | Membership | Meetings | Contact Us | Links