There are some fascinating places in Melbourne. Russell House or The Old Corner Shop, as it is often called, is one of them. Places like this are what make Melbourne such an exciting city to explore.
As you are wandering up Kings Street or along La Trobe Street at the edge of the CBD you suddenly come upon this funny old house that is completely over shadowed by the high rise buildings on La Trobe Street – so over shadowed that I have known people to walk past and not see it. The Old Corner Shop is the oldest private residence in the city.
It is owned and lived in by Lola, the granddaughter of Valetta Azzopardi who bought the property in 1899, and her husband George Russell. Lola was born in the cottage and has lived there all her life.
Amazing to ponder on that when you consider how we move about today. It is even more amazing to think that the Russells sleep, eat and relax there every day while the heavy traffic and trams grind and rattle past and the city loop train roars underneath.
If you are waiting at the traffic lights in the early hours of the morning give a thought to them asleep only a few meters away.
The plaque on the side of the house says it was built as a shop and a dwelling in 1850/1. Its surprising the building is still standing what with the city loop train line being dug underneath it and then all the construction work for the buildings behind it.
Strengthening and restoration work was carried out in the late 1980s. However the house still looks vulnerable to modern life. It poses the question of what that corner may be like in another 150 years. I hope the little house is still tucked in there and holding it’s own.
The Russells turned the original shop into a cafe and catering business and it is still a shop and cafe today with a black board menu.
I was working in the area during the winter and one lunch hour popped in for coffee. The experience made me wonder if they don’t get many walk-ins. The instant coffee was a very very long time coming but fine when it did. The up-side of the wait was to give me the chance to explore the shop – the ambiance of another era is very strong and well worth experiencing.
I also met William, the Pekingese, who came in from the living area to say hello. He had just returned from his daily walk in Flagstaff Gardens and is very at home in this delightful and incongruous house on the corner of La Trobe and Russell Streets. He, too, has lived there most of his life.
If you haven’t seen the house take a detour that way – it is a blast from the past and if you step inside there is a moment when you believe you’re a time traveller or in a time warp.
Train: The Flagstaff Gardens stop is opposite.
Trams: You can get the free city circle tram and get off at the corner of a Trobe and King Street or take any tram from Flinders Street Station along Swanston Street. Get off at La Trobe Street and either walk or take the next tram along La Trobe to King Street.