All You Need to Know about the Flinders Street Ballroom

Flinders Street Ballroom used to be a popular dance venue located in Melbourne, Australia. It used to be known for its spacious dance floor, great sound system, and friendly atmosphere.

The venue hosted a variety of dance events, including ball and swing dancing, and was a  popular spot for both local and visiting dancers. Flinders Street Ballroom was a ballroom full of colour in the heart of Australia’s business capital, enjoying a wealth of chill rooms and colourful guest lists.

But a series of shut-downs time and time again due to changes in government funding and organizational structures have taken their toll on the maintenance of the building.

flinders street station
Photo by Fyletto on Unlim Photos

With decades of experience under its belt, Flinders Street Ballroom would make a perfect venue for weddings, corporate events, private functions, balls, and much more. But the ballroom isn’t accessible anymore to the public.

On rare occasions, it is rented out. Artists like Patricia Piccinini and Rone have been granted permission to hold exhibitions in the ballroom. Over the past few years, however, the venue of Flinders Street Ballroom has seen a growing demand for access from various people across Australia and internationally.

There have been talks of converting the ballroom into a museum or adapting it for more modern purposes. While the venue is capable of offering services to cater to everyone from beginners to professionals, the people of Australia widely agree that Flinders Street Ballroom must remain true to its roots as a dance hall.

Here’s All You Need to Know About the Flinders Street Ballroom:

Image by Peter H from Pixabay

1. Location and Origin

The Flinders Street Station is located in the centre of Melbourne at the crossroads of Flinders and Swanston. The ballroom is on the eastern rim of the third floor of the station, beneath the light-coloured roof.

Access is occasionally granted by lottery during the Open House Melbourne, which takes place throughout July. However, admission is solely by invitation. Although there are trip packages available for the station, none of them includes access to the Flinders Street Ballroom.

Because of the discovery of gold in the mid-19th century as well as the upsurge of risk-takers looking for their fortune in Victoria, Melbourne was at the time expanding quickly. Railway lines and stations were some of the other infrastructures quickly built to meet the suddenly rising population.

The station continued to grow along with Melbourne. A second framework was constructed in 1877, and a third one was built in 1890. After a sister station, Princes Bridge opened from across the street in 1859, the peptide bond marks of Melbourne’s rail system were divided into two.

The city encountered a long-lasting economic boom in the 1880s as the discovery of gold was approaching its conclusion and farm prices were at an all-time high. It was a period when numerous stunning new buildings were built, and the time period became recognised as “Marvellous Melbourne.

The state legislature decided that it was time to totally redevelop Flinders Street Station because it had plenty of money. In 1883, a competition was held to find design ideas again for Flinders Street Ballroom.

The winning entry, by William Salway, depicted Flinders Street and Princes Bridge as a defined interface joined by a pedestrian underpass. The government, however, decided against utilising his design as it was too expensive and time-consuming. Another subsequent competition was held in 1899.

This time, the winners were two railroad employees, James Fawcett and H.P.C. Ashwerth. A sizable primary component of the Flinders Street Ballroom was a dome over the main entrance, as well as a bell tower close to Elizabeth Street, which was among their French Renaissance-inspired structures.

The amended train line floor plan that had already been chosen could be found in Fawcett and Ashwerth’s plans. Their plan was more practical than Salway’s, though it was also more beautiful. Construction on the new station got underway.

There was discussion surrounding the lengthy procedure because it took ten years to complete. This Flinders Street Ballroom renovation began with the use of private contractors before being taken over by the Victorian Railway’s public work department.

2. Furthur Reconstructions

The expenditures and holdbacks would eventually be the subject of a public inquiry. The renovation of the station was completed in 1910. The new building became the centre of activity.

New platforms and walkability ramps had already been added to improve accessibility. A visually arresting pattern of red and cream-coloured brick was used to decorate the three primary station buildings. The clock tower was three levels up from the cupola.

On the ground floor, there was a public cafeteria, a found and lost office, ticket kiosks, and an information desk. On the bottom floor of the structure that faced the street, there were brand-new retail establishments; the last of these is still operating under the name “City Hatters.

The network’s renovation was finally completed in 1910. New platforms, as well as pedestrian stairways, had been added to improve access. The central train station building, which was three floors up from the central dome to the clock tower, was decorated in a striking pattern of red and cream-dressed brick. There would be a flurry of activity in the new building.

flinders street station
Photo by Edan on Unlim Photos

On the ground floor, there were ticket booths, a found and lost office, an information desk, and a community cafeteria. There were brand-new retail businesses on the roadside, a few of which were hidden and reached by a set of stairs.

The top floor, Level 3, had been got to add after the initial designs. This was intended exclusively for use by the Victorian Railways Institute.

The VRI was established in 1909 and put into operation alongside the renovated station. Its stated goal was to provide recreational and cultural chances for the “betterment” of railroad workers. There was a second, less obvious objective.

In 1903, rail employees went on strike, which had a big effect on Melbourne. The Railways Committee began to look for ways to prevent strikes in the future after the strikes. Additionally, they wanted to reduce the power of the local unions.

Both of these were goals for the VRI. By providing cheap recreational opportunities and other benefits, the Commission hoped to increase job satisfaction because happy employees would lead to fewer strikes.

3. Use for Entertainment Purposes

Image by Peter H from Pixabay

The VRI’s first president, T.H. Woodroffe, would lead a sizable institution with 3300 representatives at its inception.

These ranged from negligible amounts to 5 pounds, which is equivalent to six weeks’ worth of the ordinary worker’s pay. These funds were used by the VRI for a remarkably wide range of projects.

The VRI used a wonderful system in addition to a yearly membership fee as a means of income generation. Employees who disobeyed the rules faced fines from separate disciplinary committees for each rail line division.

On the top floor of Flinders Street Ballroom was a long primary passage that ran the length of the building. A lecture room and a music venue with a huge, open field and a stage were located within the cupola at one end and the gym and gym were positioned inside of the dome at the other.

There were separate bathrooms for men and women in the gym, along with a selection of exercise equipment in the Flinders Street Ballroom. The lecture hall featured talks on a variety of subjects, including health and fitness, the environment, and technological advancements.

The Flinders Street Ballroom hosted musical recitals and performances. The VRI also featured a “Magic Lantern,” a straightforward image projector that was used to view pictures from around the world and served as one of the forerunners to the cinema.

A carer was hired by the VRI to look after the new facilities. While employed in this “live-in” position, the caretaker as well as their family lived in a house just on the station’s roof.

The Flinders Street Ballroom contained a number of different-sized rooms that ventured off the passageway at various times and provided members with additional options. Three of the best pool tables, a game room, a borrowing and citation library, reciting rooms, smoking sections, and classrooms are all included in the property.

stained glass decor
Photo by Mariusz Prusaczyk on Unlim Photos

The Flinders Street Ballroom walls were decorated with tastefully framed artwork, and the furniture was elaborate and substantial.

The library system had 10,000 books at its largest. Members could chart patterns through the rail system as well as pick them up if they couldn’t get to Flinders Street.

Clubs were created to allow railroad employees to pursue their varied interests. Among them were fencing, boxing, beginner theatre, photography, and amateur photography.

Following World War I, dance nights were first held in the lecture hall. The newly-returned soldiers enjoyed the dance halls that had sprung up all over Melbourne.

The VRI emerged as one of the majority popular places in the city during the 1920s as a result of an increase in the variety of dance moves held there. Six nights a week, dances were frequently held.

4. Recent Renovation Plans

Image by Gerd Altmann from Pixabay

For improved passenger flow, the main gate at Swanston St. will be redesigned.

Flinders Street Station, the busiest in Melbourne, sees about 200,000 people per day, and a government report warns that the situation could become dangerous in a few years due to crowd crushes.

Premier Daniel Andrews as well disclosed that the government is taking proposals into account for the renovation of the dilapidated ballroom at the western end of the station, including housing, crisis housing, dining, and retail.

The $1 billion upgrade does not include the restoration of the Flinders Street Ballroom.

The upgrade’s specifics include repairing the leaky roof, repairing and repainting the building’s deteriorating facade, redecorating the stained walls, and renovating the appalling public restrooms.

At the western end of the station, close to Elizabeth Street and on the Degraves Street subway, new station openings will be constructed.

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The last dance was held in the VRI ballroom at the Flinders Street Station in September 1983. In 1985, the VRI moved out of the building and into brand-new, modern offices close to Flinders Lane.

Image by Pexels from Pixabay

Accommodations on the third floor of the Flinders Street Ballroom Station were vacated. In 1996, Premier Jeff Kennett suggested converting the banquet hall into a place where young people could hear live music. There were numerous alternative options in the area.

It received interest from private vendors who wanted to turn it into a restaurant or a bar. The Salvation Army recommended that it be used as emergency housing for those who are homeless. Other suggestions for the other rooms included that they are used as galleries or a venue for events. All of these suggestions were rejected.

Melburnians have a bit of a legend surrounding the station’s abandoned ballroom and a slew of suggestions for use, from holding a craft fair to providing emergency housing for the homeless.

The ballroom’s roof has been stabilised and waterproofed after it fell into disrepair. For safety reasons, the population was constrained. These events’ tickets were so in demand that a ballot was necessary, and they quickly sold out.

The potential Flinders Street Station will serve as a new hub for the city of Melbourne, connected to other systems of transportation infrastructure and taking up 4.68 hectares of space.

A jury led by the professor and interior designer Geoffrey London, a representative of the Victorian Government, chose the winning project from among six short-listed entries.

These celebrations, which took place all over Melbourne, acted as a catalyst for the public to gather and were a compassionate vision. The work of Piccinini was included in the modern art heritage list.

The schedule included the modern art exhibit “A Miracle Constantly Repeating” by Patricia Piccinini, Australia’s most prominent visual artist. Patricia Piccinini, a leading visual artist from Australia who was born in Sierra Leone, makes sculptures that examine the boundary between the natural and artificial worlds.

The top floor of Flinders Street was easily occupied by Patricia Piccinini, who turned it into a substantial gallery for this exhibit. As Patricia Piccinini’s “miracle”, it was well-known. At the location of the art exhibition, Patricia Piccinini did an excellent job. The wall artwork created by Patricia Piccinini is still regarded as a masterpiece today.

5. The Station is Supposedly Haunted.

Image by NoName_13 from Pixabay

People and trains are constantly passing through Flinders Street Station. As a result, it is one of Melbourne’s busiest train stations, with almost 100,000 regular passengers using its gates every day.

It’s rumoured that the station is haunted. Late-night commuters have often spotted this ghost. A man holding fishing gear has been seen numerous times. The ghost’s name is apparently George.

People have reported seeing the ghost of a former fisherman as the station settles down during the night. George used to be the station’s staff member. He has repeatedly been spotted while standing on platform ten and carrying his fishing rod outside the station.

George was thought to have been accidentally swept away in the Yarra River, which used to be a well-liked fishing spot.

He is believed to have existed since the early days of Melbourne’s settlement. However, some people think he is actually the real ghost of George Mansfield (later classified correctly as Ernst Leahy). There had been attempts to rescue him following a boating accident on the Yarra River on Oct. 21, 1902.

Despite Piccinini’s exhibition, the ballroom is still dilapidated and requires major renovations.

But it’s exciting to be in the Flinders Street Ballroom. It seems as if the past is still with you. Setting foot inside Melbourne’s Flinders Street Ballroom, you feel the vivid history is ever-present despite the neighbourhood constantly changing. A visit to this enigmatic structure is definitely recommended if you get the opportunity.



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