59 Arden Street

59 Arden Street
North Melbourne VIC 3051
North Melbourne Library

Also known as
Previous Address

Timelapse Building Images

Prefabricated iron house. 59 Arden Street, North Melbourne, last owner Mrs Mary Clague, passed away in 1973.

North Melbourne Library

Half of the prefabricated iron house of 59 Arden Street on the back of a truck. The house was moved c 1980 to the iron house complex in Coventry Street South Melbourne.

North Melbourne Library


State Library of Victoria

Land Details

Building Details

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Subsequent Building Alterations

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Architectural Features

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Heritage Significance and Listings

Heritage Listings and Explanatory Notes


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Social History

The Iron House.

It was fascinating to go back and look at what had changed over the last 25 years of the North Melbourne News (the “and West” was added later).

The technology of the late 1970’s were hand-drawn with rulers, headings were added with the dreaded Letraset, and the text was typed (or typoed, depending on the accuracy of the typist). And some of the type-faces used in headlines and advertising certainly date from the late 70’s

Key issue of the day in the neighbourhood was unemployment. There was a substantial population of unemployed people in North Melbourne, and the News ran articles suggesting ways that people could save money. There was even the odd cartoon. Almost every issue 25 years ago had a reference to the unemployment crisis.

The threat of pollution, particularly from lead-containing petrol, and traffic congestion from car use were also recurring themes in early editions of the News. Most cars today use lead-free petrol, although whether we’ve tackled air pollution and traffic congestion adequately is something readers will have to judge for themselves.

The inaugural North Melbourne Community Fair – now the Spring Fling — was held in October 1977, 14 months before the first North Melbourne News appeared. There were photos from the second Community Fair in an early edition.

There were some names of businesses long since gone. Parachute, the first home of the North Melbourne News, was a famous watering hole that disappeared (or, as one cheeky letter to the editor put it, “floated away”). Still, there are a few familiar faces. The Happy Hanger even has the same logo that it did 25 years ago.

The North and West Melbourne Neighbourhood Centre had an illustrious guest speaker one meeting – no less than Dr Jim Cairns. Sadly, Dr Cairns passed away earlier this year.

Also no longer with us is the Iron House, which featured in an article in an early edition of the News. The Iron House had stood in Arden Street since the mid 19th century and was architecturally significant as an early form of prefab housing constructed of iron. It would be nice to be able to report that today’s town planning is more enlightened in preserving our heritage.

2003. (story first published in the North & West Melbourne News.)

Do you know more about this story? Email: info@hothamhistory.org.au


Unfinished Work

A book is being published by friends of the late Ailsa O’Connor. It is entitled “Unfinished Work … articles and notes on Women and the Politics of Art“.

As the name suggests, it is a collection of writings by Ailsa. It will also include some reproductions of her work.

Ailsa was very well known to North Melbourne families as an art teacher at Flemington High School in the early days of the school. She has made North Melbourne the subject of a number of her paintings and delighted in sketching the Victoria Market and the people who shop there.

Her great-grandfather was the original owner of the historic iron house which used to be 59 Arden Street until 1980.

Ailsa died in early 1980 and her friends have been working together gathering her articles, poems and letters.

by unknown author. First published in the North Melbourne News.

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Iron House under threat.

It doesn’t strike you as a house worthy of particular notice, but behind its simple facade, the Iron House at 59 Arden Street has a long history.

It was prefabricated in Britain and brought to Melbourne about 1853 at the height of the gold rush period when the call for housing was great.

North and west Melbourne saw a rash of housing hurriedly built to cater for the exploding population of intending gold seekers.

Many were built of wood or iron and sent out from overseas, prefabricated.

Tents were also a popular form of temporary housing at the time.

The Iron house is believed to have been manufactured by Morewood & Rogers of London although there is some local thought that it might have been imported from Scotland.

It was erected on the site for Andrew Abercrombie who had purchased the land from Thomas Le Mesurier Winter following the early public land sales in North Melbourne in 1852.

Both extremal and internal walls of the house are of corrugated iron. With some economy, pine boards from the packing cases were used to cover the internal iron walls and in turn, were covered with wallpaper.

There are four rooms in the house with an external kitchen built of brick at the back. Both house and kitchen are structurally sound and in relatively good condition considering their age.

The Iron House is classified by the National Trust and is on the Historic Buildings Preservation Register.

It is currently under threat of removal because the present owners wish to expand their business onto the site.

Proposals being considered by the Historic Buildings Preservation Register Council include the removal and re-erection of the house at an outer Melbourne site; re-erection on another North Melbourne site with renovation for viable use; dismantling and storage of the house.

North Melbourne has lost much of its history through the inroads of industry and the Housing Commission.

The Iron House is the last remaining example of a once common building type in North Melbourne and as such represents a particular era in the history of the area.

It is thus precious to the history of North Melbourne.

The North Melbourne Association has submitted its concern that financial reasons might be the determining factor in the fate of the Iron House rather than the need to retain an important part of the community’s valuable history.

by Kay Oddie. (story first published in the North & West Melbourne News.)

Do you know more about this story? Email: info@hothamhistory.org.au


Context and Streetscape




Other Information


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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