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Degraves Street | © Mark Huber/Flickr
Degraves Street | © Mark Huber/Flickr

The History Of Melbourne's Degraves Street In 1 Minute

Picture of Monique La Terra
Updated: 9 February 2017
Degraves Street blends alfresco Parisian charm with Melbourne’s signature street art, and this unique combination has been luring locals for years and has since become one of the city’s most popular tourist spots. Situated between Elizabeth and Swanston Streets, branching north off Flinders Street, the laneway was named after merchants Charles and William Degraves, who settled in Melbourne after moving from Hobart in 1849. The brothers purchased an acre of land off Flinders Street, and in 1851, they built a steam-driven flour mill which is rumoured to have cost £10,000. William Degraves went on to become a member of Victoria’s Legislative Council between 1860 and 1874.

On the 31st of August 1955, the Degraves underpass was built to allow pedestrians to travel between Flinders Street Station and Degraves Street without having to cross bustling Flinders Street. The Art Deco arcade features black marble columns and pink tiled walls as well as display cases which are used by the not-for-profit public art organisation, Platform Artists Group Inc. Founded in 1990 by Andrew Seward and Richard Holt, the group organises exhibitions by local and international emerging visual artists. Platform Artists Group Inc is Melbourne’s longest-running artist-run initiative and one of Melbourne’s most highly visible art spaces with approximately 35,000 people a week passing through the space.

Today, Degraves Street is at the heart of Melbourne’s café culture and acts as a thoroughfare for those heading from Flinders Street to Flinders Lane, roughly connecting to Centreway Arcade. As you pass by the many cafés, including The Quarter, Degraves Espresso and Cup of Truth, you will be enticed by the strong aroma of freshly ground coffee. If you’re after Mediterranean cuisine, then stop by Il Tempo, Café Andiamo and La Citta for pasta, pizza and fresh panini. Little Cupcakes, Waffle On and Doughnut Time offer the perfect treats to accompany your coffee. Degraves Street is also home to a number of hidden shopping gems including WMR records, the Florentine paper merchant Il Papiro, soleDevotion and Clementines.