Streets paved with gold …

 

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Bendigo is packed with beautiful Gold Rush-era buildings. Pic Sarah Nicholson

IT was not so long ago when View St was one of Bendigo’s most decrepit corners.

In the early-1990s this historic avenue decayed into such a state of disrepair that neighbourhood children were told to take another route should their journey between school and home take them near View St.

The wide verandas and balconies that stretched across the footpaths were demolished to protect passing pedestrians from crumbling structures weak from years of neglect.

The street, established during the Victorian Gold Rush as the flourishing settlement’s fiscal centre, was ignored in the years after World War II when property owners lacked the money and inclination to maintain the town’s glorious Victorian architecture.

The tide turned in the 1990s when locals began to recognise the worth of the Bendigo blocks that had been built from the wealth unearthed on the central Victorian goldfields after the first colour was spotted in 1850.

Baronial banks were assembled to process the bounty flooding from surrounding diggings, with rough nuggets melted into gold bullion in the smelters, and everything from elegant hotels to regal theatres were designed to accommodate and entertain prosperous entrepreneurs.

View St is an example of gold-rush development, with the people who migrated from around the world to strike it rich on the Victorian goldfields eager to spend the money they made erecting grand structures and civilised cultural institutions they knew at home.

It’s this history the City of Greater Bendigo was keen to honour and, when ratepayers could no longer tolerate the decline, it set about recognising “the preparedness of the early citizens to invest in Bendigo”.

Powerlines were buried and vintage street lights restored, careful attention was given to landscaping with shade trees planted beside the asphalt, heritage colours were adopted when buildings were renovated, verandas and balconies replaced, and new businesses moved into the classic shops.

Dudley House and Temperance Hall were the first to be restored in the 1990s, with all work done on View St carefully planned to celebrate the rural city’s Gold Rush legacy.

Today View St is home to art galleries, quirky boutiques and artisan’s workshops, fashionable places to eat and drink, gift shops and designer furniture stores, antique emporiums packed with bygone treasures, and a variety of other businesses promoting goodies produced around the region.

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Bendigo Art Gallery. Pic Sarah Nicholson

The address is a cultural heart, with the Bendigo Art Gallery now considered to be one of the world’s premier regional galleries, and The Capital Performing Arts Centre regularly welcoming acts from around the globe.

The Bendigo Art Gallery, which moved into the Bendigo Volunteer Rifles’ orderly room on View St in the 1880s, has grown over the decades as extra wings were added and the institution now features an esteemed collection of Australian art with important pieces from acclaimed 19th and 20thcentury artists.

Finn Vedelsby is one Bendigo resident who witnessed the evolution of View St and so, when he decided it was time to open an eatery in his hometown after working in venues around the country, he elected to convert one of the street’s majestic buildings into the fine-dining restaurant Rocks On Rosalind.

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Lunch at Rocks on Rosalind, a fine-dining restaurant in on of Bendigo’s historic Gold-Rush banks. Pic Sarah Nicholson

Growing up in Lockwood South, 15 minutes from Bendigo, Vedelsby says he remembers when all the buildings on View St looked as though they were falling down.

“I noticed the turnaround a couple of years ago … what was happening with the Bendigo Art Gallery and Wine Bank on View, and decided there was no better place for us to be in Bendigo (than on View St).”

Rocks On Rosalind occupies View St’s original National Bank, built in 1863 near the intersection with Pall Mall and beside Rosalind Park, with Vedelsby and chef Ben Massey converting the interior into a comfortably casual space that complements the cuisine.

“I understand this is the oldest bank still standing in Bendigo, it operated at a time when the surrounding goldfields were the richest in the world and they used to smelt the gold out the back, so you can only imagine the wealth that has gone through this vault,” Vedelsby explains.

“We fell in love with this building because the bones were absolutely stunning. It still features the original vault and high ceilings.”

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Rocks on Rasalind. Pic Sarah Nicholson
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THIS STORY FIRST APPEARED IN THE DAILY TELEGRAPH ON THURSDAY, FEBRUARY 19, 2015

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