218 Abbotsford Street

218 Abbotsford Street
North Melbourne VIC 3051
photographer: Sue Scarfe
Also known as The North Star Hotel [9] first licensed in Howard Street 1853-1859, relocated on the present Abbotsford Street site 1859-2003,
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Social History

The North Star Hotel [9] first licensed in Howard Street 1853-1859, relocated on the present Abbotsford Street site 1859-2003, demolished to be replaced with apartments 2003.

Provost Street

The word ‘provost’ means someone who is appointed to preside. In Scotland it was used to mean ‘mayor’.

The name

Star, popular in the names for hotels throughout the English-speaking world, is said to be linked to the star which led shepherds and the three wise men to the inn in whose stables Jesus was born. In the northern hemisphere, the North Star, which guided sailors’ home, was a symbol for constancy and homecoming and suggested the welcome that a pub of that name would offer.

The two sites

It is sometimes claimed that the North Star at its original site in Howard Street was North Melbourne ‘s first hotel. We can’t prove that it was first; we only know it was among the first. Our research shows that the Empire and thy Lalla Rookh were open in July 1853 whereas the North Star licence dates from 5th September 1853. Perhaps the North Star was operating before the licence became official.

Howard Street was an early and important route to the goldfields even though Elizabeth Street was the main one. Some early pubs were built along Howard Street to service the thousands setting off to make their fortunes, but by 1859 Howard Street was no longer the popular road out of town and the North Star relocated to a stone building on the long-term Abbotsford Street site.

The buildings

The original 12-room hotel in Howard Street was a wooden building. The 1859 building, which was on this site, was of stone and had nine rooms, cellar and stables. It was renovated in 1956 and the bluestone wall, still standing in 2002, was believed to include some of the original stables and to have been built in 1859.

From 1911 to the 1940’s

Older people talking to the Hotham History Project about this part of North Melbourne remember the North Star as a popular family hotel that was leased by the Murrays from 1911 to the 1940s. Mr. Murray was a Councillor of the Victorian Branch of the Licensed Victuallers Association and Mrs. Murray came from a large hotel trading family. They were very much part of the local community. For example, Mrs. Murray provided a layette for each new baby in the street. A well-remembered story was that she offered employment as a housemaid to a young girl from Provost Street, whose mother had recently died. She then structured the girl’s working hours so that she would be available for her young brother when he came home from school, gave her time off on Wednesday afternoons to study for exams and encouraged her to pursue a nursing career.

The 1950’s-1960’s

Rino Foniana and his family were the licensees in the 1950’s and 1960’s, reflecting the changing demographics in the area. The Fontanas also ran a popular family hotel.  However as Italian migrants moved into the area, there were tensions between the new residents and some of the established residents. On Christmas Day 1961, an altercation occurred in the hotel between some of the regulars and a group of Italians.  Rino intervened but after the hotel closed at 1.00 pm, one of the bystanders was punched and kicked to the ground outside the hotel.  He died in hospital on 7 January 1962 ‘from the effects of injuries feloniously, unlawfully and maliciously inflicted by persons unknown’.

In 1968, the same publican suffered a personal tragedy at the hotel when his wife was killed in a freak accident in the hotel’s kitchen. He was taking the dustbins out for collection. His wife reached above the stove to pull down a damp tea towel and touched the gas stove canopy which had been energised by an electrical lead. She was electrocuted. The family had earlier lost a young son to leukemia, but Rino continued on in the pub, bringing up his two young daughters on his own.

Historic Pubs of North Melbourne by Hotham History Project.



Context and Streetscape

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Victorian cottages

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If you or someone you know has any more to add either by old photos or stories of this area, please contact us today. Email info@hothamhistory.org.au