History of Croydon Main Street
The first retail shops in Croydon were located around Brushy Creek in 1855. There were three blacksmiths and a number of shops, which served the early settlement in an area off Hughes Park on the Healesville Road.
Today the area is still provided with busy shopping centres along the same road off the intersection of Exeter Road and the Maroondah Highway and around Bunnings where the original Brushy Creek blacksmith shops
and other early shops were found.
Trading on Main Street in Croydon began soon after the railway was extended from Hawthorn to Lilydale in December 1882. Like many towns in Victoria, the shopping centre was conveniently located near a railway line, with a hotel situated nearby for visitors and commercial travellers.
When a railway stopping point was placed where Croydon is now, James Hewish saw the potential for a trading post in the vicinity. He built a house on Main Street in 1885 before opening Temperance Hotel on the corner of Main Street and Hewish Road. The hotel was licenced in 1888 and became known as the Wine Hall. Main Street shopping slowly expanded from there, with the addition of a boot maker, butcher, and saddler.
In 1915, Thomas Brew opened a brick hotel on Main Street, which was demolished in 1965. Since then, the site has housed various businesses: a supermarket, bank, and currently a pharmacy.
Brick buildings, which were costly to build, were rare in Croydon at this time. Thomas Brew’s hotel was one of the few buildings built with brick. The other brick building of note was the primary school on Mt Dandenong Road, which was built in 1889. The school still exists and currently operates as Croydon Community School.
Croydon’s earliest shops on Main Street were all built with local timber, a material which was easily obtained and was cheap at the time. The timber mills surrounding Healesville and Warburton fed timber to many parts of Victoria.
Croydon’s timber shops usually had verandas covering a wooden walkway, so that shoppers could be out of the sun or rain. Wooden steps and small wooden bridges helped people to move from one shop to another, or to cross open guttering.
Shop fronts had small windows with wooden divisions, as large glass and other materials were expensive or inaccessible. In terms of signage, shops featured a large board above the veranda which listed their name, business, and sometimes what they sold.
In the 1940s, many old timber shops were demolished and replaced by more solid constructions of brick, with metal cladding and large glass windows to display stock.
As the population increased after World War II, other shopping centres were built in Croydon and adjacent areas. Many of these shopping centres considerably expanded retail precincts that had primarily consisted of general stores or post offices previously.
Some shopping centres were built from scratch, such as Arndale, which commenced in 1964 with a Safeway supermarket that was followed by McEwan’s hardware store. The shopping centre expanded from there and underwent a major reconstruction in 1985.