Architectural neighbours #5 – Beyond the death of the milkbar

Many writers have mourned the death of the Australian milk bar. Overrun by 7/11’s and increased trading hours by supermarkets, the unique little local shop has few finger holds left in the fabric of the modern Australian suburb. I was so pleased to come across signs of life in my recent wanderings only to find that both milk bars I had ‘discovered’ are now also fossilised and up for lease.

Having obliterated the milk bar and the local shops, another slow cancer is peppering the sleepy suburbs. Hoardings of a promised dream life in a heavily glazed apartment block are poised ready to swallow up the local garages, small workshops and pubs, to overshadow the low rise street-scapes. Locally, a short row of shops, an antique centre, the remnant of a corner store – perhaps a hardware – are all soon to be made over by the aggression of developers.
And the tentacles of this slow parasitic march are everywhere.

Glenville Homes’ displays a cheery signage: ‘Staff only – Strictly No Parking – Offenders Will be Towed’ which no doubt reflects the developer’s general view of the local community. Before their takeover the now vacant antique store, merely suggested there were chairs and tables inside and you were welcome to park where-ever you liked and come inside.

This lovely post with a short history of the milk bar in Australia and some great pics is worth a read


8 thoughts on “Architectural neighbours #5 – Beyond the death of the milkbar

  1. Hey Chas (long time, no blog visit – chasing my tail) …. I grew up in corner suburban milkbars! As a kid my parents owned three in succession – they are all derelict now 😦 Nobody interested in maintaining the milk bar, and due to location, no-one wanting to redevelop the site! I guess because they were suburban a developer can’t get an industrial or commercial permit and the block it too small for residential or apartments, etc…

    However…. you may be happy to know there are still a few in Ballarat & surrounds…. for how long I don’t know!!


    • Hi Dawn so nice to hear from you. How amazing to be part of milk bar history! Definitely needs to be more done to preserve the precious milk-bar. I’ve been off-line for about a month too – poorly child (doing much better now thankfully) and new job starting tomorrow. Way too much happening. Hope it’s not getting too chilly where you are just yet :>


  2. This is sad. For some happy reason our village is slowly acquiring new small shops, while the nearby town is disappearing under apartment blocks.


    • Hi Hilary – How are you? I think we need to have some sort of campaign on this it is so insidious. They have relaxed planning laws in Melbourne and lifted the building heights everywhere so developers a really going as hard as they can taking advantage before we wake up and realise we are losing the environment we’ve known for so long. On the flip side Melbourne was laid out in the belief that the river of gold would run endlessly and that the Metropolis would surpass London – so we are lucky to still enjoy very wide tree lined streets and buildings rarely more than two storeys high, even in the inner city.


    • Oh yes – luckily for Melbourne we have kept a bit of that at bay -even in the suburbs. We have a thriving Greek community where I live and no Gloria Jeans or Starbucks is going to survive a nano second beside a Greek cafe in this neighbourhood.There is a Subway tucked in on the pedestrian street but it never has anyone in it.


  3. we have the same things happening here in San Francisco, too, and it really sucks … it’s like a cancer, whole neighborhoods fall. the worse part? all these glittering glass and metal condos with tiny floor spaces and astronomical selling prices all look exactly the same.


    • Thanks for the comment Stephen – it is a bit of a global trend. I don’t mind modern next to old but when modern just supplants something old that has some potential to be revived or at least respected and reinterpreted for today’s use – I feel we’re just losing our soul – and that is pretty sad.


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