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Fitzroy, Victoria facts for kids

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The Fitzroy skyline.jpg
The Fitzroy skyline, with the Fitzroy Town Hall visible on the far left
Population 9,430 (2011 census)
 • Density 6,740/km2 (17,500/sq mi)
Established 1839
Postcode(s) 3065
Area 1.4 km2 (0.5 sq mi)
Location 3 km (2 mi) from Melbourne CBD
LGA(s) City of Yarra
State electorate(s) Richmond
Federal Division(s) Melbourne
Suburbs around Fitzroy:
Carlton North Fitzroy North Clifton Hill
Carlton Fitzroy Collingwood
Melbourne East Melbourne Richmond

Fitzroy is an inner suburb of Melbourne, Australia, 3 km north-east of Melbourne's Central Business District in the local government area of the City of Yarra. At the 2011 Census, Fitzroy had a population of 9,430.

Planned as Melbourne's first suburb, it was later also one of the city's first areas to gain municipal status. It occupies Melbourne's smallest and most densely populated suburban area, just 100 ha.

Fitzroy has long associations with the working class and is currently inhabited by a wide variety of socio-economic groups. It is known throughout Australia for its art and music scene and culture of bohemianism, and is also the main home of Melbourne's Fringe Festival. Its commercial heart is Brunswick Street, which is one of Melbourne's major retail, eating, and nightlife strips.

It has undergone waves of both urban renewal and gentrification since the 1950s. In response to past planning practices, much of the suburb is now a historic preservation precinct, with many individual buildings and streetscapes covered by Heritage Overlays. Its built environment is diverse and features some of the finest examples of Victorian era architecture in Melbourne. The most recent changes to Fitzroy are mandated by the Melbourne 2030 Metropolitan Strategy, in which both Brunswick Street and nearby Smith Street are designated for redevelopment as Activity centres.

It was named after Sir Charles Augustus FitzRoy, the Governor of New South Wales from 1846 to 1855. It is bordered by Alexandra Parade (north), Victoria Parade (south), Smith Street (east) and Nicholson Street.


Brunswick street fitzroy looking south in 1906
Looking south down Brunswick Street in 1906

Fitzroy was Melbourne's first suburb, created in 1839 when the area between Melbourne and Alexandra Parade (originally named Newtown) was subdivided into vacant lots and offered for sale.

Newtown was later renamed Collingwood, and the area now called Fitzroy (west of Smith Street) was made a ward of the Melbourne City Council. On 9 September 1858, Fitzroy became a municipality in its own right, separate from the City of Melbourne. In accordance with the Municipal Act, on 28 September 1858, a meeting of ratepayers was held in 'Mr Templeton's schoolroom, George street' to prepare for a local council election, with Dr Thomas Embling, MLA for Collingwood, presiding. The council election took place two days later and the first councilors were; Thomas Rae, George Symons, Edward Langton, Henry Groom, Benjamin Bell, Edwin Bennett and Thomas Hargreave. The first council meeting, held after the declaration of election, was at the Exchange Hotel, George Street, and Symons was unanimously elected chair.

Surrounded as it was by a large number of factories and industrial sites in the adjoining suburbs, Fitzroy was ideally suited to working men's housing, and from the 1860s to the 1880s, Fitzroy's working class population rose dramatically. The area's former mansions became boarding houses and slums, and the heightened poverty of the area prompted the establishment of several charitable, religious and philanthropic organisations in the area over the next few decades. A notable local entrepreneur was Macpherson Robertson, whose confectionery factories engulfed several blocks and stand as heritage landmarks today.

VictoriaParade Fitzroy
Victoria Parade, Fitzroy, 1935

The establishment of the Housing Commission of Victoria in 1938 saw swathes of new residences being constructed in Melbourne's outer suburbs. With many of Fitzroy's residents moving to the new accommodation, their places were taken by post-war immigrants, mostly from Italy and Greece and the influx of Italian and Irish immigrants saw a marked shift towards Catholicism from Fitzroy's traditional Methodist and Presbyterian roots. The Housing Commission would build two public housing estates in Fitzroy in the 1960s; one in Hanover Street and one at the southern end of Brunswick Street.

Before World War I, Fitzroy was a working-class neighbourhood, with a concentration of political radicals already living there. Postwar immigration into the suburb resulted in the area becoming socially diverse. Many working-class Chinese immigrants settled in Fitzroy due to its proximity to Chinatown. There is also a noticeable Vietnamese community, a small enclave of Africans, and the area (particularly Johnston Street) also serves as a centre of Melbourne's Hispanic community, with many Spanish and Latin American-themed restaurants, clubs, bars and some stores.

Like other inner-city suburbs of Melbourne, Fitzroy underwent a process of gentrification during the 1980s and 1990s. The area's manufacturing and warehouse sites were converted into apartments, and the corresponding rising rents in Fitzroy saw many of the area's residents move to Northcote and Brunswick. In June 1994, the City of Yarra was created, by combining the Cities of Fitzroy, Collingwood and Richmond.


Fitzroy Memorial Rotunda
Fitzroy Memorial Rotunda, in honour of Fitzroy residents who died during World War I.

Fitzroy's topography is flat. It is laid out in grid plan and is characterised by a fairly tightly spaced rectangular grid of medium-sized streets, with many of its narrow streets and back lanes facilitating only one-way traffic. Its built form is a legacy of its early history when a mixture of land uses was allowed to develop close to each other, producing a great diversity of types and scales of building.


In the 2011 Australian Census conducted by the Australian Bureau of Statistics, Fitzroy had a population of 9,430. The median age (33) was younger than the national average (37), while the median weekly individual income (AU$788 per week) was higher than the national average (AU$577). Only 25.1% of Fitzroy's population are married, compared to 49.2% nationwide.

44.5% of Fitzroy's population was born overseas in 2011, originating mostly from Vietnam (4.2%), England (3.7%), New Zealand (3.2%), China (3.1%) and the United States (1.2%). 62.2% only speak English at home. Other common languages spoken at home include Vietnamese, Cantonese and Mandarin.

Over 40% of Fitzroy residents do not affiliate with any religious groups, up from roughly a third in the 2006 census and notably higher than Australian average of 22.3%. Catholic was the next most popular response (17.2%), followed by Buddhism (5.8%), Anglican (5.3%) and Islam (4.9%).


Royal terrace carlton
Royal Terrace, Nicholson Street

Fitzroy's housing is diverse. It has some of Melbourne's earliest surviving houses and one of Melbourne's most extensive stands of terraced housing, along with a mix of converted industrial and commercial buildings, walk-up flats, modern apartments and public housing.

Among the earliest homes are Royal Terrace (1853–1858) on Nicholson Street. Overlooking the Carlton Gardens, Royal Terrace was one of the first of its kind in Melbourne. Fitzroy's "character housing" (pre-war) is now mostly gentrified and highly sought after real estate.

As early as 1923, the City of Fitzroy was accused of 'creating slums' by allowing inappropriate development such as three houses on a 31-foot by 100-foot block. By 1953, the state Housing Minister Thomas Hayes, said that Camp Pell in Royal Park, Parkville, Victoria, which had been a temporary military camp for United States forces during the Second World War, 'might become a permanent emergency housing settlement' and 'Fitzroy slum dwellers who had refused offers of alternative accommodation by the housing Commission because they would have to pay higher rents would probably' be moved there. Two years later the headline was 'Outcry Rages Over Fitzroy Slums', as the state government accused the Commonwealth of bringing in immigrants that the states had nowhere to house, arguing that the 'Awful, dilapidated buildings in Fitzroy, crowded beyond description with exploited New Australians were a grave danger to the heath of the community.' The Atherton Gardens high-rise public housing estate, on the corner of Brunswick and Gertrude Streets, is one of Melbourne's largest, built by the Housing Commission of Victoria as part of its controversial "slum clearance" urban renewal program in the 1960s.

Due to its desirability as a place to live, Fitzroy faces increasing pressure for residential development. Recent residential projects in Fitzroy have sought to express a sense of Fitzroy's urban character in various ways and have been hotly contested in some cases.



Fitzroy street art
Various kinds of street art adorn many buildings throughout Fitzroy

There are many small commercial art galleries, artist-run spaces and artist studios located within the suburb. Fitzroy has a thriving street art community and is also the home of Gertrude Contemporary Art Spaces and the Centre for Contemporary Photography.

Live performance

Fitzroy is a hub for live music in Melbourne, and plays host to several prominent venues; The Old Bar, Bar Open, the Evelyn Hotel, Gertrudes Brown Couch, and Cape Live. The well-known Punters Club was also located in the area; however, it was forced to close in 2002. During the late 1970s, Fitzroy was home to the little bands scene (also known as the "North Fitzroy Beat"), which gave rise to experimental punk acts the Primitive Calculators and Ollie Olsen's Whirlywirld, rock group Hunters & Collectors and Lisa Gerrard, of Dead Can Dance.


The Moran and Cato warehouse designed by R.A. Lawson is considered to be of high architectural merit. The Champion Hotel is notable for its fanciful Edwardian design.

A number of buildings and sites have been included on the Victorian Heritage Inventory (VHI) or classified by the National Trust (NT). These include:

  • Aqua Profonda sign, Fitzroy Swimming Pool, 160-122 Alexandra Parade.(VHI) & (NT)
  • Cordial Factory, 12–16 Argyle Street. (VHI)
  • Exhibition High School Residence, 17 Bell Street. (VHI)
  • National School, 40–48 Bell Street. (VHI) & (NT)
  • Dodgshun House, 7–9 Brunswick Street. (VHI) & (NT)
  • The Terrace, 11 Brunswick Street. (VHI) & (NT)
  • Shop & residence, 13 Brunswick Street. (VHI) & (NT)
  • Cathedral Hall, 20 Brunswick Street. (VHI)
  • Melbourne Veterinary College, 38–40 Brunswick Street. (VHI) & (NT)
  • Royal Terrace, 39–49 Brunswick Street. (VHI) & (NT)
  • Shops, 236–252 Brunswick Street. (VHI)
  • Fitzroy Cricket Club Grandstand, Edinburgh Gardens. (NT)
  • Devonshire Arms Hotel, 38 Fitzroy Street. (VHI) & (NT)
  • Christian Israelite Sanctuary, 185–193 Fitzroy Street. (VHI) & (NT)
  • St Mark's Church of England, 268 George Street. (VHI) & (NT)
  • Glass Terrace, 64–78 Gertrude Street. (VHI) & (NT)
  • Shops & Residence, 177–183 Gertrude Street. (NT)
  • Shops, 181–183 Gertrude Street. (VHI)
  • Holyrood Terrace, 331 Gore Street. (VHI) & (NT)
  • Cobden Terrace, 209–221 Gore Street. (VHI) & (NT)
  • Residence, 35 Hanover Street. (VHI) & (NT)
  • All Saints Church Hall, 95 King William Street. (VHI)
  • Falconer Terrace, 36–50 Napier Street. (VHI) & (NT)
  • Fitzroy Town Hall, 201 Napier Street. (VHI) & (NT)
  • Cable Tram Engine House, Cnr Nicholson & Gertrude Streets. (VHI) & (NT)
  • Osborne House, 40 Nicholson Street. (VHI) & (NT)
  • Royal Terrace, 50–68 Nicholson Street. (VHI) & (NT)
  • Mercy Convent, 88 Nicholson Street. (VHI) & (NT)
  • Cairo Flats, unit 1–36, 98 Nicholson Street. (VHI) & (NT)
  • Denny house, 122 Nicholson Street. (VHI) & (NT)
  • Avon Butter Factory, 218–222 Nicholson Street. (VHI) & (NT)
  • Methodist Church, 472 Nicholson Street. (VHI)
  • Post Office, 251 St Georges Road. (NT)
  • Union Bank of Australia, 165–167 Smith Street. (VHI) & (NT)
  • Eastern Hill Hotel, 77 Victoria Parade. (VHI) & (NT)
  • McClelland house, 203 Victoria Parade. (VHI) & (NT)
  • Blanche Terrace, 163–183 Victoria Parade. (VHI) & (NT)


Devonshire Arms Hotel
The Devonshire Arms; the oldest extant building in Fitzroy

Fitzroy has a large number of pubs for such a small suburb. The former Devonshire Arms hotel was located in Fitzroy Street and remains the oldest building in Fitzroy. There are many other pubs in Fitzroy.


The tiny suburb of Fitzroy has many cafés. Only one of the original three cafés is still standing – Marios. Bakers relocated north, and closed in 2007, while The Black Cat has transformed itself into a bar, but still retains its onstreet garden. In fact Silas is the oldest café, located between King William and Moore Streets, on the west side.

With the advance of gentrification, a variety of cafés in different styles have opened up and down Brunswick Street, on Smith Street, parts of Gertrude Street and in some of the back streets, in former milk bars and warehouse sites.

In popular culture

The 2010 Australian television show Offspring was set almost entirely in Fitzroy. The main characters of the show were often seen at the Black Cat, a Brunswick Street bar. Fitzroy has also featured in episodes of a number of Australian TV shows, including City Homicide and Rush (notably in Season 3, where the team shot at Fitzroy Town Hall to commemorate the death of a former colleague).

Australian musicians have also made mention of Fitzroy in their lyrics. Clare Bowditch made a reference to Fitzroy in the song Divorcee by 23, as did the musical comedian The Bedroom Philosopher in the song Northcote (So Hungover). In his song Slater, American rapper Tyler, The Creator mentions skating to Fitzroy. Most notably, ARIA award winner Dan Sultan has the song Old Fitzroy, the black and white video for which is shot entirely in Fitzroy, featuring shots of and from Atherton Gardens, as well as shots of a number of Fitzroy pubs.

Social and community services

The health needs of Fitzroy residents and other Melburnians is served by St Vincent's Hospital.

There are two primary schools in Fitzroy: Fitzroy Primary School (government school) and Sacred Heart Primary School (Catholic school). Fitzroy High School is located in North Fitzroy.

A long tradition of community activism and civil society with many social and community service organisations having been based in Fitzroy. Organisations currently operating in the suburb include; the Fitzroy Legal Service, Yarra Community Housing Limited, Society of Saint Vincent de Paul, Brotherhood of St Laurence and the Tenants Union of Victoria, a free legal service for residential tenants.


Fitzroy Melbourne
Brunswick Street
A1 245 at St Vincents Plaza on route 112 (tram)
St Vincents Plaza tram interchange

Fitzroy's major road arterials are Brunswick Street (north-south) and Johnston Street (east-west). Other main roads include Victoria Parade, Nicholson Street, Smith Street and Alexandra Parade, which circumnavigate the suburb. It is characterised by a fairly tightly spaced rectangular grid of medium-sized streets, with many of its narrow streets and back lanes facilitating only one-way traffic. Traffic and parking congestion is a problem and Fitzroy and local councils have implemented strategies to keep this traffic off residential side streets. It has been the site of several controversial inner city freeway proposals, particularly in the 1950s, however none of which have proceeded.

There are no railway stations located in Fitzroy itself, with the nearest train stations being Rushall in North Fitzroy and Collingwood and Parliament Stations. An underground railway line running between the City Loop and Clifton Hill, with stations located beneath Brunswick Street and Smith Street, has been proposed.

Three tram lines pass through Fitzroy or its boundaries:

  • Route 86 (Bundoora – Docklands): travels along Nicholson Street, Gertrude Street and Smith Street.
  • Route 96 (East Brunswick – St Kilda): travels along Nicholson Street.
  • Route 11 (West Preston – Victoria Harbour Docklands): bisects Fitzroy along Brunswick Street.

The St Vincents Plaza tram interchange, in adjacent East Melbourne, is at the junction of Victoria Parade and Brunswick Street and handles tram routes 24, 30, 86, 109 and 11.

Critical Mass Melbourne - Brunswick St
Critical Mass Melbourne at Brunswick Street

Cycling is a very popular form of transport in Fitzroy, as with much of the City of Yarra. A station for the Melbourne Bicycle Share scheme is located near the St Vincents Plaza tram interchange.

The City of Yarra also supports a car sharing service, which has several locations in Fitzroy.

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