• November 26, 2014

The Multicultural Intrigue of Footscray

You could call Steve Wilson an investigator as he works at The Footscray Historical Society. He often uncovers fascinating facts about the area, architecture and helps people find their family roots. However as we sit at Java cafe in Yarraville, there is one question about the suburb of Footscray which remains unanswered. “The word, Footscray is a mystery. There’s a place situated in Kent, England called Foots Cray which we think is where it may have possibly derived from. The theory is that in about 1846, someone was passing through and a surveyor used the name but there’s no record.”
His first memory of Footscray is traced back to viewing the 1960s British comedy film, “Bottoms Up.” “I was only four and I can vividly recall it. My mum and Dad would pop on our dressing gowns and off we would go to The Barkly Theatre.” As a child, Steve lived in Emily Street which does not exist anymore, Victoria Street and Napier Street. “As a kid I loved the shopping area, I used to go down there and of course I love the Western Oval. Go the bulldogs! I often would go to the old pool in Barkly Street. You’d spend the afternoons travelling down the hot streets where all the kids would play.”
Footscray continues to boom on with high rise buildings in the making and an ethnic kaleidoscope of people gives this suburb a cultural edge. It’s interesting to note that a median price for a home has risen rapidly.  In the last quarter of 2001, it was $255,000 and has peaked to currently $625,000. Families continue to flock to this area at a rapid rate. However, there was a moment in time when according to Steve, Footscray wasn’t thriving. He acknowledged how the Vietnamese restaurants were this suburbs saviour.  “Quite a while ago we were worried that Footscray had spiralled into the doldrums but it has emerged and has changed incredibly. Restaurants are prosperous and there’s a large art culture in development.”
The interesting facts do not stop here, Steve also revealed that Footscray was once home to David Jones. “Back in my day there was actually a lot more show and presentation as shop fronts were ornate. The younger generation like yourself may not realise what a big industrial city it once was. There were factories spread out all over the place. My favourite building still is The Grand Theatre. I’m speculating that a theatre culture will move in soon and continue further defining this beautiful suburb.”

Steve disclosed how the meaning of  Footscray’s name remains a mystery.

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