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Chapel Street's Hidden Past

Annie Gray

Many people see Chapel Street as a destination stretched across the three suburbs of South Yarra, Prahran and Windsor, full of great shops, trendy cafes and delicious eateries. But as the beautiful old buildings suggest, there is more to Chapel Street than meets the eye, before it was transformed into the trendy iconic destination it is today.


Chapel St Origins

Named after a chapel in Prahran, which used to be the only place of worship in the area for over two years, the street was an old windy cowpath used to connect the more frequented roads such as Toorak Road, Commercial Road, High Street and Dandenong Road. Today, there is an intersection where Commercial Road and Chapel Street crossover where there was once a swamp. When it rained, this caused a great problem for churchgoers who had no option but to walk across planks to get to the chapel. The original chapel was gone in 1860 to be used as a school before it was demolished in 1883. It wasn’t until 1889 that the tramline made it’s way to Chapel Street, leading more visitors and business into the area.


The Prahran Arcade- 282-84 Chapel St, Prahran

Perhaps one of the most spectacular façades on the street is 282 to 284 Chapel Street. At street level the building’s store fronts are now occupied by JB Hi-Fi and a bottle shop, but look above to see the amazing ornate architecture of what was predominantly known as the Prahran Arcade. Originally built in 1889-1890, this was an important building in the city consisting of two stories with 30 shops and Turkish baths. Sadly, the interior’s shopfronts inside the arcade have now been removed. Upon gazing up at this building, you can see the importance of this dark grey façade is heritage listed to show the extravagance Victorian architecture in the late 19th century.


Bridie O’Reilly’s- 462 Chapel St, South Yarra

Now an Irish themed pub on the Corner of Chapel St and Wilson St, this building is the sole surviving Church in the central part of the street. Filled with leather lounge chairs and a beer garden surrounding the façade of the building, this icon of Chapel Street was formerly a Baptist Church built in the 1850s. The stone and arched windows and door the front of the building are very much reminiscent of the building's past. 


Jam Factory- 500 Chapel St, South Yarra

Located in between Toorak Road and Commercial Road lies a shopping complex known as the Jam Factory. Originally housing a brewery from 1858 to 1876, this building was later converted into a jam factory for the jam company IXL, only to close in 1970 and reopen in 1979, converted into shops. The demand for jam decreased by consumers having a taste for fresh fruit and as it appears trendy shops. In present day when you step inside, it may be divided into many shops and even a cinema, yet there are still remnants of a converted factory floor with high ceilings, rustic brick and some machinery left still intact. It is definitely worth the wander through.


These are just a few sights to see as you wander down Chapel Street. To see more of what Chapel Street has to offer including amazing street art, join our Chapel Street Tour>>



Photo Credits:

Stock Images