Allow approx: 1hour (2.52 km on sealed footpath)

Seating facilities: Pioneer Park

Toilet facilities:Pioneer Park

Commercial Box Hill Walking Tour


We commence and conclude this tour at Pioneer Park on the corner of Station and Harrow Streets. Cross Station Street, turn left and walk south to Oxford Street. Walk down Oxford Street to the end, where it meets Thurston Street. Turn right into Thurston Street. Walk north to Carrington Road. Turn left into Carrington Road and head west. Cross the street and walk through Station Walk to Hopetoun Parade. Walk to Elgar Road, turn right and walk north to Whitehorse Rd. Cross Whitehorse Road to the north and walk east to Station Street. Travel south along Station Street on the eastern side until returning to Pioneer Park.

On the opposite (western) side of Station Street and on and near the south west corner of Cambridge Street, lived two families who were significant in Box Hill’s history – the Blood and Shilliday families.

In 1853 Robert Blood bought almost 18 acres of land on the western side of Station Street, and he and wife Jemima and their children moved into a modest single-storey timber cottage at what became No. 519 Station Street. The following year, their fourth daughter Amy became the first white child born in Box Hill. Robert died in 1879 and eight years later his widow Jemima sold most of the land they owned, except for a small block fronting Station Street which housed the cottage. The cottage was completely rebuilt around 1900, incorporating some of the old materials from the original building, and remained in the family’s possession for a number of years. It was sold to Box Hill Council in 1978, which planned to eventually demolish the cottage for much needed car parking, and in the meantime rented it out. In the early 1990s there was a push to preserve the cottage, and the battle waged for some years. While the National Trust placed it on their Register, inspections showed very little of the original structure remained, and the site was eventually cleared. A plaque once indicated the significance of the site and hopefully that will be restored.

In 1924, Mildura born Dr James Ernest Shilliday bought into a medical practice in Box Hill, and two years later built, on a large block, a 2 storey-house and surgery at No. 521 Station Street, on the southern corner of Cambridge Street. In the same year he was appointed as the Council’s health officer and reported on, among other things, local outbreaks of infectious diseases and sanitation needs, as most of the area was unsewered.

Banff Exercise Book

When he was not occupied on public health matters, he and his wife Iona dedicated their time to their garden. Commencing in the 1930s, for over 20 years they entered and sometimes won the annual Herald newspaper Garden Week competition for the best suburban garden. In 1934 the garden was described as having 29 varieties of shrubs, banks of dahlias and about 100 miniature roses. A number of window boxes each had a miniature garden in itself, while a fernery was fashioned to represent a log hut. The rear garden featured a well-stocked vegetable garden and a lawn. In later years the fernery was redesigned, a waterfall was added, and a sunken garden incorporated. The garden, like others in the district, was regularly opened to the public, the entrance fee going to charities. The historical society holds a mahogany shield, awarded annually in Garden Week, for the best garden suburb, and given permanently to the city in 1958 as it had won the competition for many years.

Shilliday sold the practice to other doctors in 1951, and in 1967 the property itself was sold, becoming first a service station then a carpark. Needless to say, today nothing remains of the prizewinning garden.

Cross Station Street and walk south to Oxford Street
Oxford Children’s Theatre

The first Wesleyan Methodist church services in Box Hill were held in 1883, and a church erected on this site in 1886. There was a strong Methodist presence in Box Hill in the 19th and early 20th century.

Henry Willis organ

In 1926 a new and larger church was built to the west; that church has an historical 19th century Henry Willis organ, the only one in Victoria, and which is on the Victorian Heritage Register.

The original church later became the Oxford Children’s Theatre, run by Joy Mudge, who produced her first show in 1978. Mudge rented the former Blood’s cottage next door, and was part of the push to preserve it. The theatre shows continued until 1997.

Walk down Oxford Street past the churches
Horton Girls School badge

At the rear of the churches was a timber Sunday School hall, and from 1903 it housed the Horton Girls School. Founded by Florence Lavers, a daughter of Methodist minister Rev. H. J. Lavers, the school was named after Horton College in Tasmania, where Florence’s brothers had been educated. She herself was educated at MLC in Launceston Tas. Florence was assisted by her sister Winifred and a number of other female teachers. While the majority of pupils were girls, boys under 10 years of age were also accepted.

Florence married in 1916 and in the same year sold the goodwill of the school to Olga Hay. Olga’s story is told in the Albion Road tour. In 1919 new principals took over – Misses Clarice and Lilian Everard - and in 1922 the school premises were transferred to Linsley Street. Its activities there are mentioned in our Whitehorse Road tour.

Next door, at No. 6 Oxford Street, was the manse, into which the Rev W. J. Palamountain and family moved in April 1915. He had transferred from Bendigo in the hope that the change to Box Hill would prove beneficial to his wife Elizabeth, who had been ill for about 6 years. She died of TB in the manse four months later. After her death, he became a leading advocate for the establishment of a community hospital, devoting five years to raising funds to achieve this. In 1920, a 20-bed hospital opened in Richmond. It was called Epworth, after a small town in England, the birthplace of John and Charles Wesley. Epworth Healthcare is now Victoria’s largest not-for-profit private hospital.

On the opposite side of the street was No. 13.

In 1925 a weatherboard house on this site was registered as a private hospital, named Okarita by qualified midwife Sarah Ann Webster. She had previously operated on a site elsewhere, as will be mentioned later. Small private hospitals such as these were quite common in an era in which there was no public hospital – it was not until 1956 that the Box Hill Hospital finally opened. The house, erected in 1910, consisted of 6 rooms, a wash-house and a sleep-out. In 1926, 45-year-old Sarah married 69-year-old Presbyterian clergyman Robert Burns Mearns. Sarah was a spinster, Robert a widower, his wife having died 3 years before. Sixteen months later Robert died of a heart attack. Sarah carried on running the hospital until the early 1940s, when she left the district. Her later movements are unknown. The house reverted to a private residence.

Next door was No. 15 Oxford Street.
Flying Flea

Early in 1936 newspapers reported that two young men, the brothers Howard and Henry Rudd, together with a friend, Horace Roberts, had built a small, single seater plane in a garage in Box Hill, and flown it over the Box Hill golf course. The plane, of the ‘flying flea’, ie ultra-light type, cost £75. The brothers were forming the first Flying Flea club in Australia, with plans to build another 3 planes. Interest in the plane was so high, that the brothers announced that they would be at home, at No. 15 Oxford Street, the next weekend, to allow visitors to see the plane. Subsequently an arrangement was made with the Myer Emporium in Bourke Street to have the plane on display – in the bicycle department.

Alas, the civil aviation authority announced that the planes would need an airworthiness certificate before they could be used, and given their revolutionary style, would never get one, so their plans faded very quickly. The brothers, and their widowed mother, later moved to Queensland.

Walk to No. 25.

Oxford Street originally ended in a dead-end, but in 1923 Council purchased land from the Standard Brickworks, which enabled both Oxford and Cambridge Streets to be extended to Thurston Street and what became Surrey Drive. Box Hill land sales had picked up in the 1920s, and as more houses were built, more requests came to Council to provide made streets and footpaths where only tracks existed. The land purchase allowed Council to establish a works depot, where trucks, material and equipment could be stored. The depot extended from Cambridge Street to beyond Oxford Street, and initially also contained the Council’s electricity supply department.

In 1927 a resident in this house complained of the nuisance caused by the starting up of the Council’s steamroller:

‘we are all smoked out with yellow smoke, it comes into our house in clouds as the outlet in your buildings are only a hole in the roof with a hood over, and the smoke cannot rise up and get away’.

The depot operated at this site until 1990 when it transferred to Ailsa Street, Box Hill South.

City Council Depot.
City Council Depot.
City Council Depot.
City Council Depot.
City Council Depot.
City Council Depot.
Go along Oxford St to Thurston St

From here can be seen the chimney of the Standard Brickworks, to the south-west. Brickmaking in Box Hill commenced in 1884, with the formation of the Haughton Park Brick Co., later to become the Box Hill Brick Co., on a 30-acre site on the corner of Elgar and Canterbury Roads. Bricks were transported to the train station via a rail siding running parallel with Thurston Street. While the company flourished initially, the depression of the 1890s saw it go into liquidation and work ceased. The flooded quarry hole and some of the land was sold to the Council for £1,000 in 1905 and the site became the well-known Surrey Dive swimming hole, which operated until 1968, when it was drained. In 1988, as a Bicentenary project, the hole was filled in to become an ornamental lake.

Surrey Dive swimming hole.
Surrey Dive swimming hole.

In 1910 the Standard Brickworks were established on the remaining land, and works began again. The chimney and buildings built then are what survives to this day, and are on the Victorian Heritage Register, though greatly neglected. A tramway to transport bricks to the train station ran beside the old siding in Thurston Street, at ground level initially, then as it reached Oxford Street, a concrete abutment conducted it over the low-lying ground to the new site. The brickworks operated until 1988, despite numerous complaints about both the pollution coming from the chimney stack and the vibrations on nearby houses caused by blasting. The quarry hole was subsequently filled in with waste. Although a permit was given for housing on the northern side, methane leakages and land slippages occurring in the centre of the site, over the old quarry hole, have meant the site has been vacant for years.

Turn right into Thurston Street and walk north to Carrington Road

In 1922 Emma O’Grady organized a petition of 30 local women, asking for a street light to be placed half way along Thurston Street:

‘for some weeks past women have been accosted by a man who emerges from the embankment, and on occasions have been followed for some distance …’. A street light would make them ‘feel safer when having to come home alone’. It was duly installed by Council.

Alkira, believed to be an Aboriginal word meaning bright and sunny, was originally called the Box Hill & District retarded and spastic children’s association. It was established in the 1950s, and in 1955 leased land from Council for a peppercorn rent, and opened on this site, on the corner of Carrington Road. It later purchased the site. Alkira now has 14 facilities in the eastern suburbs.

Turn left into Carrington Road and walk to No. 93.

In 1950 the Wilkinson family moved into a Californian bungalow on this site. Wilkinson senior ran a real estate agency in Whitehorse Road and no doubt hoped that his eldest son, Eric, would follow in his footsteps. Eric chose differently, however, qualified as a geologist, obtained a job with the Museum of Victoria, and in 1961 rediscovered what was thought to be an extinct animal –the tiny Leadbeater’s Possum. Ten years later the possum became Victoria’s faunal emblem.

Walk on to No. 99.

In 1889 the Colonial Investment and Agency Co Ltd., had two brick houses built on land they hoped to sell as part of their development of the Hopetoun Park Estate, one in Hopetoun Parade and this one in Carrington Road. The Estate covered an area bordered by Elgar Road, Thurston Street, Brougham Street and the railway line, and was previously known as the Racecourse Paddock, as horse races had been held there in earlier days. The houses were designed by prominent Melbourne architects Reed, Henderson & Smart, and were meant to entice prospective purchasers to buy land in the estate.

By 1895 the auctioneer James Wise had purchased the property, which was known as Wattle House throughout this time. The family, wife Emma, daughters Ethel, Amy and Florence and son William were heavily involved with the Methodist church, James being a Sunday school teacher for over 50 yrs. The house and grounds were used for various fundraising activities, including open air evening concerts and fetes. None of the three daughters married, but son William married Madeline, younger sister of Florence Lavers of Horton girls’ school. The family continued to own and occupy the 9-roomed house until 1932, when, during a depression, James’s debts of more than £2,400 caused the mortgagee to put it up for sale, and the family was forced to move out. Tasmanian Russell Woods, a banker, and his wife Mabel, moved in and remained for twenty years. The house had several owners over the next few years, at times operating as either a guest house or apartments. In the early 1980s it was restored as a single family home and has remained so ever since, although the land size is now half of what it originally was.

Cross the street and go to Station Walk. Walk through to Hopetoun Parade; turn left and go to No. 25.

This home was built by local builder Edward Bishop in 1891, for the developers of the Hopetoun Park Estate. The first occupant was Thomas Palmer, founder of University High School and principal of Wesley College, until the school’s committee discovered he had embezzled a large amount of money and dismissed him.

By 1896 solicitor John Ebsworth owned the property which was named Barcore after a ship on which he had served. Five children were born in the house, the last in 1907. But tragedy was to follow. In 1908 their 8 year old daughter Marguerite died of influenza and meningitis. The following year John Ebsworth boarded the ship Waratah, returning to England to visit his elderly mother. The ship disappeared off the coast of South Africa on its way to London and was never seen again; some 211 people lost their lives.

His widow Sarah had to apply for probate, and the file reveals that his only asset was the house and land in Hopetoun Parade; there was no money in any bank and no life assurance policy, but there was a large mortgage and bank overdraft. With no income, she was forced to put the house and the surrounding land up for sale in 1911. She moved to Hawthorn and opened tea rooms in Glenferrie Road.

A later resident of the house led the fight to stop a private hospital for the mentally ill remaining in Box Hill, after some of the male patients escaped at night.

Walk west to Elgar Road, turn right and walk north to Whitehorse Road corner.

In 1970 the State government announced that the railway crossing here would be eliminated by a rail overpass. This news was not greeted with joy in Box Hill; Council and traders had been agitating for years to have the Station Street crossing undergrounded, and had never lobbied for the Elgar Road crossing. Despite assurances that the Station Street crossing removal would take place ‘soon’ it was in fact another thirteen years before that took place.

The famous Whitehorse Hotel is long gone, but a stone cairn on the south east corner records the site. The hotel was built in 1853 by Patrick Trainor, but the wooden statue of the horse was not added to the portico until 1895, long after he had gone broke and left the district. In 1920 residents voted to close all hotels in Box Hill, and the hotel became a boarding house, until demolition in 1933. The white horse and portico were presented to the Council, which, in 1954, placed it in its current position in the centre of the median strip. There it was regularly vandalized with paint, and had the indignity of losing its tail in 1963 and a leg in 1978. The missing parts were recovered and the statue repaired. In 1984 the frail wooden statue was removed, a replica made and placed in the same location, and the original moved to a display case in the Artspace at the town hall, where it remains to this day.

A later owner of the hotel, George Cockroft, also owned large areas of land on both the south western and south eastern sides of this intersection, as well as land on the northern side of Whitehorse Road, closer to Station Street. We meet him again later on the tour.

The Whitehorse Hotel.
The Whitehorse Hotel.

Just to the west of the intersection, a toll-gate was established across Whitehorse Road in 1866. Other toll-gates existed on Canterbury and Burwood Roads. Travellers paid a toll or fee for the toll-keeper to open the gate and allow them to travel along the road. While tollgates were unpopular with travellers, the income raised was used by the Roads Board, and later the Council, to help pay for making and maintaining the roads. They operated until 1876, when they were abolished by the State government.

Edward Lloyd family butcher.

Land on the north western side of this intersection was owned by Edward Lloyd, a butcher. The site included a slaughter yard until the establishment of the Council’s abattoir in Woodhouse Grove in 1910. In 1913 he subdivided the land. Later, in 1922, he sold some of it to Box Hill Council to form what became Kingsley Gardens.

Further along Elgar Road, the Colonial Gas Association works was established in 1889, burning coal to produce gas. In 1890 the first gas-lit street lights appeared, and gas could be piped into households for use in heating, cooking and hot water. The introduction of natural gas in 1969 made the site largely redundant, and the company was taken over by the State government’s Gas and Fuel Corporation in 1974. The site was then converted to the educational use it has today.

Cross Whitehorse Road to the north and commence walking to the east.

A large area of land on this corner was put up for sale by William Ellingworth in 1882, but it would appear few sites were sold, for the first buildings to appear only came after 1910. Although hard to imagine now, in the 1920s and until the area was rezoned to light industrial, most of this area contained only a group of wooden cottages. Box Hill Council owned part of this area from 1911 onwards; in 1952 it was leased to the Box Hill Bowling Club, who operated there until 2016.

Glover’s glass manufacturing business was on the eastern corner of Poplar Street at No. 837, from 1953 onwards; while No. 843, on the western corner of Wellington Street, became an Amoco service station in 1967.

Cross Wellington Road.

On the eastern corner, commercial buildings along this strip to Nelson Road, included a Kentucky Fried Chicken shop, which opened in 1971, despite resident objections to a ‘notoriously garish structure’, Eastbern Toyota, and, later, a Spotlight store.

Head east along Whitehorse Rd towards Nelson Road. Stop at Nelson Road.

In 1891 Alfred Rawlings, a successful businessman and Councillor, had a house built on land measuring 130ft x 275ft on the north-west corner of Nelson and Whitehorse Roads. The building had 13 rooms, including a ballroom, and was made of brick with plastered walls, wooden floors, a slate roof, and ceiling heights of 13ft. It was named Okarita after a goldfields town in New Zealand. The family lived there for 10 years before letting it out to various people.

In February 1914 Nurse Eliza E. McInnes opened a private hospital there, and a number of other women maintained the practice until 1925, when Sister Sarah Ann Webster transferred the hospital to 13 Oxford Street, but kept the name Okarita.

The property was then subdivided, and the house itself was purchased by James Younger. His daughter turned the house into a reception centre called Shadmani—Hindustani for happiness and merriment—and many special occasions were celebrated there.

Holeproof subsequently bought the site, and in 1949 established a large mill and factory which manufactured hosiery, shirts and underwear. It was a major employer of local people during the 1950s and 60s. Shadmani was used as an office before demolition in 1979.

A new knitting room was built in 1986, with machines used round the clock, Monday to Friday. But after various mergers, culminating in acquisition by Pacific Brands, the complex closed in 1992, with operations initially consolidated at a new Nunawading factory. This too was subsequently closed, and manufacturing moved off-shore.

Cross Shipley Street
Russell & Co. agricultural machinery

Russell & Co. was an agricultural machinery business that opened a new factory at this address in 1911. They were rivals of Daniel Harvey, who operated a similar business to the east of the town hall. By 1919 the business had expanded into servicing and selling cars.

In 1939 the company was bought by Harry Burrows and Vera Brock and a new company called Russell Burrows Pty Ltd was registered. This company traded for many years. Next door, Preston Motors operated from the 1960s.

On the southern side of Whitehorse Road and on the corner of what was once Clisby Street, now Clisby Court, stood Bird’s timber yard, one of Box Hill’s major businesses.

Bird’s timber yard

Dr Walter Craig lived on the eastern corner. He arrived in Box Hill in 1894, and from 1906 ran a medical practice on this site, until a few months before his death in 1946. He has the distinction of buying the first car in Box Hill. In the early 1950s the home was leased to Sister Aphry Dodgshun, who had taken over the running of a maternity hospital, Fairbank, in Station Street. The hospital was transferred to this site and continued here until 1965, when the site was purchased by Box Hill Council. More than 7,000 local people were born at Fairbank.

Much of Clisby Street disappeared with the construction of the Whitehorse Plaza, which opened with much fanfare in 1974.

Whitehorse Plaza
Whitehorse Plaza.
Whitehorse Plaza
Walk to the bluestone St Andrew’s church at 909-911 Whitehorse Road

The first Presbyterian church service in Box Hill was held in February 1887. Subsequently, a site in Court Street was purchased, and a timber church erected, but it soon proved too small. In 1911 the Rodgerson family donated this site for a new church, and again a timber one was erected. While the Presbyterian community here flourished, other Presbyterian congregations did not.

A Presbyterian church had been erected on the corner of William and Lonsdale Sts., Melbourne, in 1866/67. Services there were discontinued in the early 1930s, and the building offered to the Box Hill congregation. The church was dismantled, and every bluestone block and window numbered before being transported to Box Hill, where it was slowly and carefully rebuilt. You can see an image of the reconstruction. The church is the only bluestone building in Whitehorse and in recent years has become a focus for the Korean community. The original timber church, used extensively as a hall, has now been demolished.

Cross Bruce Street

George Cockroft, originally a butcher, became a prolific speculator in the land boom of the 1880s. By 1880, he had purchased 20 acres of land on the north side of Whitehorse Road, between Elgar Rd. and Station St., and had built a 9-roomed stone house he named Elland House, after his birthplace Elland in South Yorkshire. Elland Avenue commemorates the name.

George died at the house in 1892, aged 51, his death being caused by a coughing fit which ruptured his heart. His widow and their 9 children survived him, the youngest only 2 years old, and it was believed at the time that they were left in ‘comfortable circumstances’, but it was not to be the case. A worsening economic depression meant that his shares and bank investments were worthless. He had borrowed heavily to finance his land purchases; the value of land he did own had dropped dramatically, and no-one was buying land anyway. The family stayed on in the house initially, but moved out in 1895 and the house was subsequently sold by the executors for £600.

St Andrews and Braeside.k

The purchaser and new occupant was Presbyterian minister, the Rev. James Patten, and he changed its name to Braeside. The property was subdivided in 1922, creating new home sites in Bruce Street, but the house remained in the Patten family until the death of Patten’s third wife in 1929. The new owner, George Bentley, ran it as a boarding house until his death in 1953.

Following the sale of the property, the house was demolished, and a Shell service station erected. That operated for a number of years, before being purchased by the Grollo family, who built the present structure in 2015. The Australian tax office has operated here since then.

Look to the southern side of Whitehorse Road, on the corner of what became the Mall. The next few sites mentioned, with even numbers, are all on the southern side, but little will remain as the area is developed into the suburban rail loop station, so stay on the northern side of the road.

In 1895 a cattle market began between here and the former site of Box Hill Station in Main Street. It became a regular weekly market, and by 1905 was a general market, selling animals and farm produce as well as food and clothing. On market days the highlight was the afternoon cattle auction. The nearby Railway Hotel, on the corner of Station Street, did very good business on market days. The market not only became a popular place for Box Hill locals to shop, but it also attracted customers from all the surrounding districts.

Market scene.
Market stall.

Livestock sales were abandoned in 1929, and the market closed a few years later. In 1946 the Victorian Egg and Pulp Board established an egg-grading depot in the market building, and in 1954 the building was developed into an arcade of shops. The section of the Mall, which opened in 1985 with the development of the transport centre and the shopping complex, is still called Market Street.

In 1885 a large 2-storey brick building was erected on the south side of Whitehorse Road. Named the Recreation Hall, it was used as a centre for community functions and entertainment. From 1911 it was used also as a cinema, with regular film screenings. When a proper theatre was built on the corner of Whitehorse Road and Watts Street in 1920, the building was used much less, so in 1929 it was completely renovated and reopened as the Rialto theatre, with films being screened most nights.

Recreation Hall.
Rialto theatre (Recreation Hall).

While the façade of the building was modernized in the 1950s, little changed in the interior. As other forms of entertainment, such as the Burwood drive-in and television, became more popular, the theatre was finally closed in the late 1950s. In 1961 the building was converted into an arcade of shops and offices known as Palmer’s Arcade.

In 1936 the Box Hill Electricity Supply Department was showcasing the benefits of electricity by holding cooking demonstrations in the brand new Town Hall. In response, the Colonial Gas Company built state-of-the-art gas showrooms and administration offices here. The showrooms were set up with complete bathrooms and kitchens on display, featuring the latest in domestic gas technology. An auditorium held popular cooking demonstrations and talks on domestic management.

Colonial Gas Company.
Colonial Gas Company.
Colonial Gas Company.
Colonial Gas Company interior.
Colonial Gas Company interior.

In the front section, closest to Whitehorse Road, G. J. Coles opened their store with the slogan ‘Nothing over 2/6’ in gold lettering along the front of the verandah. Coles remained on the site for two decades, purchasing the site in the early 1950s, and selling it in 1976.

On the northern side of the road, there were a number of businesses, including the estate agency of Bob Wilkinson, father of Eric, mentioned earlier, and the shoe store of Percy Kingsley, who opened his shop here in 1920. Born in Beulah in 1895 as Percy Koenig, he enlisted in the AIF in 1915 and served until he was gassed in October 1918. He returned to Australia, married and came to Box Hill in 1919, taking an active part in the activities of the local RSL. for some years. His only son, Ron, served in the RAAF during WW2 and was posted as missing in 1943; his body was never located. The Kingsley family papers are held by the historical society.

This building was erected in 1912 and housed the State Savings Bank. The period 1910–1912 was one of rapid expansion of the commercial area, and the Bank of Victoria in Station Street, the post office next door, and a number of other buildings were erected during this time.

In the late 1850s Silas and Emma Padgham built a house and general store on this site. In 1860 Silas applied to the government to add a post office to his store, and as the only address for the area was the Nunawading District, a name was required for the growing settlement. Silas and 3 local men met to choose a name, and when they couldn’t agree, a ballot was held, and the name Box Hill was chosen. On 1 February 1861 the post office officially opened with the name Box Hill. Although Silas was the official postmaster for 28 years, he continued to work elsewhere, and it was Emma who ran the store and post office for many years. Legend had it that Silas had come from Dorking in England, near Box Hill, but detailed research proved otherwise.

The current building was put up in 1910 as a post office, and closed down in the early 1990s when postal services were moved into the shopping centre. The property has had a variety of uses since then.

Look to the right, to the south-west corner of Whitehorse Road and Station St.

After the extension of the railway to Box Hill in 1882, Silas Padgham built the Railway Hotel here and leased it to Alfred Rawlings, who sub-let the hotel, and in 1883 built a butcher’s shop and residence next door.

In 1891 the world famous actress Sarah Bernhardt took a day out into the countryside, possibly with a tram ride in mind, and found herself at the Railway Hotel. To the delight and astonishment of the publican and drinkers, she made herself at home, opened the piano and sang a few French airs.

Originally a single-storey building, the hotel was extended to two storeys, completed with landmark tower, in 1911.

Railway Hotel, single storey.
Railway Hotel, double storey.

The Railway Hotel, like the two other hotels in Box Hill, closed for the last time on New Year’s Day 1921, after a majority of local residents voted in favour of closing them at a Local Options poll. From its earliest days, Box Hill had a large Methodist community, and a temperance society known as the Rechabites, so the vote was not entirely unexpected.

The Railway Hotel was then converted into several shops, including a coffee palace. In the early 1920s, following a fire in the corner building on the eastern side of Station Street, James Tait, a draper, moved into the vacant shop below the tower. The family operated a business there for more than seventy years, until the shop closed in 1995. The site is still known locally as Tait’s corner.

Turn left into Station Street. There is a plaque on the left-hand side.

The Box Hill & Doncaster Tramway Co Ltd., a consortium of landowners and investors, was incorporated in 1888. An electric tram, the first in the southern hemisphere, officially commenced in October 1889. It ran 2¼ miles (3.6 km) along Station Street, from the corner of Whitehorse Road, to the Tower Hotel on Doncaster Road, near present-day Tower Street. The section of Station Street from the eastern freeway to Doncaster Road is still called Tram Road.

Part of the tram line ran through private properties and disputes arose with some landowners, who objected to the intrusion and behavior of some tram travellers. The company finally succumbed to financial difficulties.

A new company – the Doncaster & Box Hill Electric Road Co Ltd., was registered in 1892, with a new syndicate taking over and operating the tram service. However, the 1890s depression, which caused many closures of business and banks, including that of the company’s own bank, the ES&A, led to difficulties in keeping the tram running, and it made its last trip in January 1896. A replica of the tram is on display at Schramm’s Cottage, the home of the Doncaster & Templestowe Historical Society.

Cross over Station Street to the east, then Whitehorse Road to the south, passing the former site of the WW1 memorial in the median strip. Commence walking along Station Street, to the south.

Among the shops which occupied the former Railway Hotel building was that of dentist Marshall Tweedie, the first person to receive a civic award from Council, in 1956. His numerous community activities included being a driving force behind the successful horticultural shows held at the town hall, which attracted thousands of visitors.

Next door, Oliver Gilpin operated a grocery store from 1924; this site was taken over by G. J. Coles, thus enabling customers to go directly from their Whitehorse Road store through to the Station Street shop.

Further along were Patterson’s shoe store, and the bakery of the Moyes family. Their son Gordon, born in 1938, graduated from Melbourne University, and became firstly a Church of Christ Minister, and a well-known radio and TV evangelist. He later became a Uniting Church Minister, and Superintendent of the Sydney Wesley Mission for 27 years. He subsequently served in the NSW parliament for a number of years, and was made a Companion of the Order of Australia (AC)—the highest Australian honour—in 2002. He died in 2015. His book When Box Hill was a village, is a series of stories about growing up in Box Hill; the delightful stories do need to be taken with a grain of salt, however.

As the name implies, before the undergrounding of the rail line, this was one of the main shopping streets in Box Hill.

On the right hand side were two banks, the ANZ and the Commonwealth, major department stores Cox Bros and Rockmans, two grocers, Dickens and Woolworths, and the radio and television business of Brayshaws. A major event occurred here in 1961, with the burning down of the Woolworths store. Also on this side was the pharmacy run by Peter Aanensen – when he was not busy performing in various television shows, such as Bellbird.

On the far side was the impressive Art Deco building, complete with clock, of Clauscen’s furniture store, a branch of a large business originally set up in the 1880s. The building later became Lawfords, then later again an electrical warehouse.

There is no sign now of the once large railway infrastructure of signal box, railway gates and station, nor of the bus depot and subway that served residents for over a hundred years.

Clauscen’s furniture store.
Railway Hotel, single storey.
Box Hill railway station.

On the near corner of Carrington Road was the State Savings Bank, while on the far side, were a number of shops, including McLaughlin’s menswear. Carrington Road was also the site of the first Chinese café in Box Hill in 1957, when Limm Moon Louey rented the former Carringa Café and opened the Liye Youn Restaurant. By 1978 there were three Chinese cafes in Box Hill; an attempt to establish a fourth was strongly opposed by one of the café owners, who argued that the Council should limit the number in the shopping centre to three, otherwise there would be too much competition!

On the eastern side of Station Street, walk to the Baptist church on the northern corner of Ellingworth Parade.

While the Ellingworth family had been members of the Methodist church for many years, William Henry Garibaldi, a son of William and Rose, helped establish a Baptist presence in Box Hill in 1900. By 1902 services were being held in a timber church on this site, part of an Ellingworth orchard. The building was later enlarged, then moved to the rear of the site, and a new brick building erected in 1926.

Across Ellingworth Parade was the original timber home of the Ellingworth family. The site was bought by Percy and his son Alan Broadhead, and a new hardware store erected in 1957.

Back on the western side of Station Street, Nos. 529 to 533, was the site for many years of the local newspaper, The Reporter, first published in 1889. Its most well-known owner was E. F. G. Hodges, who created a number of sporting teams and associations. An earlier owner was the Sampson brothers, uncles of Robert Menzies, who paid frequent visits in his younger days.

Reporter offices.
Reporter offices.

Hoath’s sporting premises was originally in the Reporter building, but expanded to include the building to the south, purchased in the 1970s.

Next door was the Shire Hall, built in 1889, with a second storey added in 1922. It was the scene of tragedy in September 1906, when 26 year-old Edwin Rawlings, the assistant secretary and rate collector, and youngest son of Alfred, committed suicide. He was later found to have been taking money to which he was not entitled.

Once the new town hall was built in 1935, the Shire hall was converted into an annex for the girls technical college, then into shops and offices.

Continue on and finish at Pioneer Park.

We hope you’ve enjoyed this look at the past of Box Hill. Many of the images used are from the picture books (books of photos) that the Historical Society published in the 1990s; copies of these are available from the Society. And if you’d like to learn more about some of the people and buildings mentioned, please visit our premises at the town hall any Tuesday between 11am and 4pm.