High Street, Armadale, is one of Melbourne’s great shopping strips. It combines eclectic design with avant garde, history and heritage with modern and cutting edge, making every visit a voyage of discovery and excitement.
If you haven’t strolled along High Street lately, then it’s time you did. From the Williams Road end in East Prahran to Glenferrie Road, Malvern, you can get lost in a world of antiques, art, jewellery, fashion and furniture.
Along the way, make time to eat in one of High Street’s many cafés and restaurants: giant raspberry-tinged meringues to rival those of the famous Ottolenghi in London; frittatas and flatbreads to tantalise the taste buds; and a growing number of
Then there are the boutiques selling one-off, quirky items for the house, and bridal shops – 12 at last count. From The Melbourne Wedding Registry through to jewellery and accessory shops and designers that grace the pages of fashion magazines, High Street is a one-stop bridal destination.
The street even has its own website and Facebook page. High Street prides itself on its service, quality products, attention to detail and many loyal customers, but out-of-towners have also discovered its attractions.
Whatever you fancy, there is plenty to indulge the senses in High Street, Armadale. It’s Melbourne’s answer to Rodeo Drive, our most exclusive and stylish suburban shopping strip.
It’s indulgent, it’s colourful, it’s elegant and it offers a whole world of beautiful and luxurious products ready to inspire you.
High Street trades on its history, but it has had to evolve over the years. Many of its shops were built in the great 1880s building boom when the city was known as “marvellous Melbourne”. You only need to look up and see the Victorian pediments with dates such as 1891 and 1878 to see how old some of the structures are.
At the turn of the 20th century, High Street was a vibrant local shopping centre with horses and carts, trams and cabs.
High Street looking east \ Circa 1914
COURTESY STONNINGTON HISTORY CENTRE
Signs for fruiterers, greengrocers, and coal and coke merchants jump out from grainy old black-and-white pictures. Living and doing business was much quieter than it is today. Independent traders ran most of the shops.
The local barber, the tobacconist and the confectioner’s shop were common among the Victorian buildings, with their verandahs held up by cast-iron posts.
By the 1950s great swathes of High Street had become the site of business and light industry. Many plain, red-brick buildings faced the street, but inside there might have been a knitting mill, a scarf manufacturer or a sheet-metal business.
The milk bar of the 1950s and ’60s was a great place for teenagers to meet and escape their parents. Sitting in booths, they sipped milkshakes with names such as Blue Heaven or bought two shillings worth of mixed lollies. There were coffee lounges such as Hernando’s and, closer to Glenferrie Road, The Green Man was famous for live folk music. If you went to the Green Man you were considered hip.
Small private lending libraries, usually run by single ladies, were common along High Street.
As late as 1960 the street was home to plumbers, dressmakers, a cistern manufacturer, a lawnmower manufacturer and several large storage facilities. There were ironmongers, petrol stations, an SEC (State Electricity Commission) substation, confectioners, panel beaters, knitting mills, printers, a raincoat manufacturer and radio repairer.
Next to the landmark Orrong Hotel, D. Fergus was the local butcher, with George’s Seafoods and a sandwich bar nearby. Today, the Orrong Hotel remains, which probably says something about our drinking habits, but the butcher has gone. If locals want to buy meat now, they can shop at the boutique supermarket on the site of the old Armadale Hotel on the corner of William Street.
Today you can take your pick from Thai, French, Italian, Japanese and Chinese restaurants, as well as pizza shops and coffee bars among the myriad places to eat on the strip.
It’s hard to imagine High Street without its cafés and restaurants, but 50 years ago it was a culinary desert, with the exception of the traditional Chinese café; the Sun Sun Cafe was its name. Most likely it served the Australian “Chinese” staples of the era (chop suey and chicken chow mein) but it also did takeaway – if you brought a saucepan from home. The Malvern Cookery Nook, near the corner of Glenferrie Road, was known for its cakes, but the famous food venues were still decades away.
The rise of suburban shopping centres meant that local shopping strips such as High Street lost their importance. High Street reinvented itself as a centre for art, antiques and a tourist and restaurant area that attracted visitors as well as locals.
By the 1970s things were changing yet again. In the residential streets off High Street, the glorious Victorian houses were being bought and renovated by families who wanted to be near the city, transport and schools.
High Street was now famous for antiques, second-hand goods, trinkets and furniture, much of which was bought by people renovating period homes.
The street continues to change with the times. From antiques and second-hand goods, the shopping strip has moved to high-end fashion, exclusive boutiques, bridal shops, homewares, gourmet food and beauty. Day spas and shops that sell exclusive French products and clothes have arrived in the past decade.
The manager of one homewares shop, in High Street for 11 years, said that his shop had evolved from selling antique prints to homewares, with speciality products mainly from France and Italy.
“In this economic climate you have to have a point of difference,” he said. “A lot of homewares shops are beige and neutral. We do colour.”
From street trees clipped into tight green topiary balls to cakes and meringues dripping with colour and elegant shop windows, High Street is anything but beige. It’s a place to stop, shop and soak in the atmosphere.