2014 was the 150th anniversary of the proclamation of Albert Park as a public park, named in honour of Queen Victoria’s late husband Prince Albert. The park originally comprised a series of lagoons, part of the Yarra wetlands which were occupied by the Wurundjeri people. Following European settlement the area was used for recreation, military training and grazing. In 1864 when it was officially proclaimed a park, it already sported cricket grounds, bowling greens and a tip.
In the late 1870s silt was excavated from the lagoons to form a permanent lake. Viewing the lake from space shows it to be ‘Y’ shape with two islands, the biggest being Gunn Island.
Over the years bits of land were nibbled off to create housing on Queens Road and schools – St Kilda Primary School, MacRobertsons Girls High School and the old South Melbourne Tech occupied opposite corners of the park, if a Y shaped lake can be considered to have corners. Early on, land on the west side was acquired for the creation of the Melbourne to St Kilda railway. Did you know there was also a railway running through the southside of the park, from Windsor to St Kilda in the mid 19th century? Did you know there was a horse racing track where Aughtie Drive is now?
The most significant land nibbler was the Army. Even before WW2 the Army had huts and training facilities on the northwest side – the old red brick signals training depot dating from 1935 still fronts Albert Road. From 1941 the Army acquired almost the entire southeast of the park for military barracks. This arrangement was supposed to be temporary, but it was 30 years before the Army relinquished this land.
In the mid 1950s, Albert Park was the site of the Australian Grand Prix, until the event was shifted to Phillip Island. Then it shifted back again when we stole the GP from Adelaide. The South Melbourne Football Club, sporting Lakeside’s red and white colours, played at Lakeside Stadium where the 1920s grandstand is these days used for soccer.
Lakeside Hash House Harriers selected the Lake as its homeland in 1984. Several early LSH members were defence personnel working at nearby Victoria Barracks in St Kilda Rd and they often did training runs around the Lake. As all us fit hashers know, it’s 4 kilometres and 700 metres if you run the Lake clockwise. Unsure of the anti-clockwise distance. Ch-cake.