What is Significant? The St Kilda Street bridge in Elwood is a reinforced concrete T-girder bridge over the Elwood Canal. The bridge was designed and constructed in 1905 by civil engineer John Monash of the Reinforced Concrete & Monier Pipe Construction Company.
St Kilda Street bridge is the oldest extant reinforced concrete beam bridge in Victoria and possibly Australia. It marks a watershed in the use of reinforced concrete in not only civil construction but also in the construction of buildings. Soon after the construction of this bridge Monash was utilising the technology in the construction of two warehouses in Oliver Lane (H1135) in Melbourne in 1906-07.
Prior to these works Monash, had to varying degrees of success, been building concrete arch bridge using the Monier patent system with his then business partner J.T.Anderson. The most successful of these is the Anderson St Bridge over the Yarra 1899 (H1440).
Reinforced concrete construction theory was in its infancy in the late 19th and early 20th Centuries and the St Kilda Street Bridge and the Stawell St Bridge in Ballarat before it (1904) represent pioneering developments by Monash into new engineering methods and material use. Unfortunately the Stawell St Bridge was less than successful and the bridge required extra support structure. It was demolished after several years.
Due to the failure of the Stawell St Bridge Monash returned to the University of Melbourne to conduct experiments into the behaviour of reinforced concrete girder construction. From the results of these tests, which he published in the Journal of the Victorian Institute of Engineers, Monash was able to revise the method for the design of reinforced concrete construction such that the next T-girder bridge, the St Kilda Street bridge of 1905, was successful. This bridge is a most important evolutionary step in the development of reinforced concrete technology. Monash's calculations for the design of the St Kilda Street bridge still exist.
The St Kilda Street bridge was designed as part of the Elwood canal works which were built to drain the Elster Creek and the swampy land in the Elwood and Elsternwick areas. The Elwood Canal project provided Monash with the opportunity to further develop reinforced concrete beam technology. The low lying land an shallow canals of the project required low flat bridges which could not easily be provided by arch bridges which require deep embankments or a greater height of construction than a flat bridge. Monash was able to convince Carlos Catani, then the Chief Engineer of the Public Works Department, of the suitability of reinforced concrete beam construction for bridges in the Elwood canal project despite their unproven use. Between 1905 and 1907 Monash's Reinforced Concrete & Monier Pipe Construction Co. built seven bridges in the Elwood area, six of these crossed the Elwood canal.
After the success of the St Kilda Street Bridge, Monash always advocated the adoption of the T-girder in preference to the arch, and this eventually came to be the standard form for most Victorian road bridges.
John (later Sir John) Monash was an important figure as a civil engineer, being a leader in the in the field of reinforced concrete. During the First World War Monash rose to the rank of Major General eventually commanding all five Australian divisions on the Western Front. At various times he also commanded a British Division, two Canadian and two American Divisions. Amongst other major military awards he was knighted in August 1918 on the field of battle by King George V. After the war he became the General Manager of the Victorian State Electricity Commission
How is it Significant? The St Kilda Street bridge is of scientific (technical) and historical significance at the National and State levels.
Why is it Significant?
The St Kilda Street Bridge is of technical significance as the earliest extant example of a reinforced concrete girder bridge known to survive in Victoria, and probably in Australia. It demonstrates the technical innovation achieved by John Monash in the early years of the twentieth century and demonstrates the earliest stage in the development of reinforced concrete technology for bridge building. This innovation eventually led to the adoption of reinforced concrete as a standard bridge building material by road construction authorities in Australia. The survival of the sequence of theory, calculations and fabric relating to an innovative bridge design is rare.
The St Kilda Street Bridge is of historical significance for its association with John (later Sir John) Monash
The St Kilda Street Bridge is historical significance for its association with the drainage works that led to the development of the suburb of Elwood.