The Yarra Coffee Palace, Stephens Street, Yarraville

    By Sean Reynolds

    The Yarra Coffee Palace, a 1914 icon in Yarraville, exudes charm with its brick facade, vintage tobacco advertisements, and a grand hand-painted Coffee Palace sign. 

    Coffee palaces, born from the temperance movement of the 1880s, were magnificent alcohol-free hotels striving to curb drinking habits. 

    This trend ended in the 1893 depression, which lead to a rise in alcohol consumption. Post-World War I, the term ‘coffee palace’ returned with smaller residential hotels, a far cry from the grand ones built three decades prior.

    In 1920, the building housed a confectionery, followed by Mrs. Elizabeth C. Gill’s Coffee Palace and tea rooms. During the Great Depression of 1929, it served as a soup kitchen. Edmund Gill, Elizabeth’s husband, bought the adjacent shop and transformed both into a grocery. 

    Around 1950, the Coffee Palace was abandoned and left to decay until the Romita family revitalised it in 1961 as a milk bar. 

    Today, both structures stand as residences, embodying a rich slice of the west side’s history. 

    If you’d like to read more stories about Melbourne’s past, follow me on Instagram @melbourne_ghostsigns.

    Our content is a labour of love, crafted by dedicated volunteers who are passionate about the west. We encourage submissions from our community, particularly stories about your own experiences, family history, local issues, your suburb, community events, local history, human interest stories, food, the arts, and environmental matters. Below are articles created by community contributors. You can find their names in the bylines.

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