Melbourne’s Forgotten Ballroom
Unknown to most, Flinders Street Station is so much more than a busy transport hub where one simply goes to catch a train. In fact, in its long history, the building has had many uses such as acting as an education space to host lectures and night courses, housed a lending library, boasted a private gym featuring both a boxing ring and a running track (on the roof all places!), featured billiard and ping pong tables in the men’s lounge areas, and, most interestingly, hides a forgotten ballroom!
Designed in 1899 and completed in 1910, Flinders Street Station was designed to be both a workplace and an entertainment hub for the many railway workers and engineers of the time. The building consists of three levels and is capped by the iconic dome for which the building is famously recognised. Hidden up on the third level however, is the grand ballroom, a space intricately designed with arched windows, polished wooden floorboard and a high, arched ceiling with detailed trimmings.
During its heyday in the the 1950’s and 60’s, public dances were held in the ballroom every Friday night where people would gather after work to dance the night away. The ballroom would be crowded with people, dancing, laughing and enjoying the music and nightlife. The evening would run to a strict schedule however, always sure to end right on time so revellers could catch the last train home.
Sadly, the recreational areas of Flinders Street Station were minimally maintained and during the 1980’s parts of the building were deemed unsuitable for tenants. The last dance was held in the ballroom in 1983 and in 1985, the ballroom and the entire third floor was shut up for good. For 35 long years the space remained closed to the public and the unused ballroom fell to decay, the untouched rooms leaving a haunting impression of a bygone era.
Excitingly, in 2019, extensive works were done to repair and revitalise the condemned spaces of Flinders Street Station. The ballroom has been fully refurbished and the space is once again open for public use. Currently, the ballroom is housing an art exhibition, but the room will be available for a variety of functions. Perhaps, maybe, hopefully, a new era of dancers will get the opportunity to experience the magic of dancing in the the Flinders Street Station ballroom. What an experience it would be to enjoy a blissful evening of toe-tapping music and dancing in such an historic place, topping the night off with the thrill of rushing to catch the last train home.