The St Kilda pier was developed from the1850s and St Kilda’s popularity as a beach resort grew as years passed. The Pier was used as a landing place for passenger crafts and at various times it was the point of entrance for dignitaries and visiting Royals. Being Melbourne’s premier Gateway, the Pier and the St Kilda foreshore were considered to have National rather than local significance. In 1853, the St Kilda Pier and Jetty Company was formed to collect fee from the users of the Pier. From its early days itself, the pier was developed with a prime intention of creating a pleasure promenade. This was in contrast to other major Piers in Australia developed around that time.
By 1889 St Kilda pier had reached its full length of 2300 feet. The 200 feet long L shaped end enabled paddle steamers to berth along. Port Phillip excursion steamers such as the Ozone, Hygeia and Weerona berthed here until 1949. In 1901 visiting Royals, Duke and Duchess of Cornwall and York, landed at the pier to a grand welcome for the inauguration of Australia’s first Federal Parliament.
Around that time, St Kilda local council decided to transform the St Kilda foreshore into an entertainment Centre considering its national significance. Francis Parer who came from Spain and settled in Melbourne, submitted plans and details of his proposal to build a Kiosk at St Kilda Pier to the Public Works Committee of St Kilda Council in October 1903. His original brief proposal described an observatory first, and then a refreshment kiosk.
In 1904, the St Kilda Pier Pavilion was constructed at the L junction of the Pier and it was originally named Austral Refreshment Rooms. Though constructed as a Pavilion in traditional English style, the Kiosk was designed as a decorative building with the commanding arches of the Edwardian Period, unique to Victoria and rare in Australia. it was popularly known as Parer’s Pavilion. With the arrival of the Pavilion, the status of the Pier changed from a working Jetty to a recreational facility. The Pavilion also served as an observatory.
People flocked to the St Kilda foreshore during the summer months, as transport options in Melbourne improved. The Pavilion’s open balcony was a perfect place to catch the refreshing sea air and the refreshment room patrons enjoyed a chat over a coffee or ice cream but the upper balconies were popular with courting couples. Francis Parer and his wife Mary operated and lived at the Kiosk from its opening till the 1930’s, on a 30-year Government lease. As a public service, Parer also flew flags showing weather forecast for the day with information received each morning from the office of Mr HA Hunt, the Commonwealth meteorologist.
During the years of Great Depression, like everywhere else in Melbourne, the Pavilion also lost many of its patrons. As its use and patronage changed it became known as a Kiosk. Francis Parer died in 1925 and when the New Manager Major Payne took over, had plans to open a Cabaret to attract more people but did not proceed with it. But the next manager Kerby installed a dance floor. After Noble Kerby and his wife Ivy, their son Colin and wife Judy took over the running of the Kiosk. The Kiosk was under the control of two generations of Kerby family from 1939 to 1989. During the Kerby occupancy, the second floor was converted and extended into the family’s residence, and many more additions were made to the rear of the Pavilion.
During the World War II, St Kilda was booming and the venue became popular with US servicemen stationed in Melbourne. In the 50’s Kerby’s also introduced Performing Seals, a show conducted early dusk and warm afternoons.
The timber extensions of the Promenade were replaced by a stone breakwater to shelter the yachts in preparation for the 1956 Melbourne Olympics. When Noble Kerby died in 1959, the lease was transferred to Son Colin. The timber pier was rebuilt in concrete in the 1970’s and moved slightly north. The Kiosk was restored in 1988, in time for the bicentennial Celebrations. After the renovation and restoration work of the 1988, the rent was increased from $40 a week to $500, which the Kerby’s couldn’t afford. Colin and his wife Judey after retiring in 1987 at the expiry of their Crown lease went on a sail around the world in their boat, Ooroo
The new tender was won and lease was secured by Minatee Pty Ltd who promised to keep the kiosk a ‘peoples café’, and renamed it “The St Kilda Pier Kiosk”. Later the lease was transferred to Joe Sillitoe, and then to Carmel Grant.
On 11th September 2003, a fire destroyed the Kiosk. Allom Lovell Pty Ltd won the tender to reconstruct the kiosk as per the 1904 drawings. After the reconstruction, it was reopened in March 2006. Currently the Kiosk is leased to Peter Tzambazis. The Pier’s maintenance is entrusted with Parks Victoria.
Address of St Kilda Pier Kiosk : Pier Rd, St Kilda VIC 3182
What else to do at the Pier?
Take a stroll along the Pier
Visit the Penguins at the Breakwater
Catch a Ferry to Williamstown or Southgate
Fish off the pier or fishing charter
Click the link for St Kilda Pier and Kiosk Discussion Forum. https://tomelbourne.com.au/forums/topic/st-kilda-pier-and-the-kiosk/