The Emerald Hill Estate encompasses a block that was occupied by the Melbourne Protestant Orphan Asylum from 1855 until 1877, when it sold the freehold of part of the land for new municipal buildings and the leasehold of the remainder for a term of 50 years. This unusual method of sale has resulted in an essentially intact precinct of mainly two storey, 1880s, brick, commercial and residential buildings. The majority of buildings on the estate were purchased by the state government in 1974, some time after they had returned to the control of the by now Melbourne Family Care Organisation. Many of the shop verandahs have since been reinstated and the residences refurbished for use as public housing.
How is it significant?
Emerald Hill Estate is historically, socially and architecturally important to the State of Victoria.
Why is it significant?
The Emerald Hill Estate is historically and socially important for its extraordinary development as a leasehold rather than freehold precinct. This is a direct manifestation of its associations with the Melbourne Protestant Orphan Asylum that insisted on this form of development, thereby ensuring its survival as a unique and homogeneous precinct. The commercial buildings in particular collectively represent an extraordinary example of an 1880s shopping precinct with a high degree of intactness unmatched in extent anywhere else in Victoria.
The Emerald Hill Estate is architecturally important as an extraordinary example of municipal planning during the 1880s boom. The symmetrical and mannered arrangement of commercial and residential blocks around a municipal precinct is unique in Victoria. While the architectural importance of the Emerald Hill Estate lies mainly in its cohesion as a precinct, the former Harcourt and Perry drapery (1885), 256-264 Park Street, is notable in its own right for its unusual Gothic treatment and its Omaru limestone facade.