Ascot Vale remains one of Melbourne’s best-kept secrets, sandwiched between its high-profile neighbours Moonee Ponds and Flemington and the Maribyrnong River.
Proudly exhibiting the best of old and new in its architecture - from Victoriana splendour atop Rothwell Hill, single-front weatherboards in the heart of Ascot Vale, chic Art Deco apartments and red-brick Edwardian beauties in the tree-lined Travancore estate, to the contemporary gems in Doncaster Street with fairway views – it’s hard not to be impressed by the vast array of housing stock that has stood the test of time.
Reputedly named after the famous English horse racing course because of the area’s links to the Sport of Kings, Ascot Vale’s rich history largely began in the late 1840s with the Crown sale of 50-acre parcels of land for use as farms. The gold rush at Mount Alexander (near Castlemaine) in the 1850s aided the establishment of businesses along the goldfields route, and Ascot Vale flourished with the land boom of the 1880s.
Further expansion in the 1920s resulted in more subdivisions – namely Travancore and the Temperance Triangle – the latter was a designated no-alcohol area bounded by Union Road, Maribyrnong Road and Epsom Road created to avoid temptation around the time of the Great Depression in the early 1930s. Homes in the area had a caveat on each title that prevented the distilling, brewing and serving of alcoholic beverages but it only pushed the issue out of view, with hotels being built on the fringes and inspiring a thriving industry in the now-renowned Whisky Hill precinct.
A gentrification boom from the 1980s onwards has transformed the once-humble abodes into period treasures that professional couples and young families find hard to ignore, and shed light on the suburb’s many attractions. Less than 5km from the central business district, Ascot Vale truly has it all. Commuters are spoiled for choice with train (Craigieburn line), bus, and tram (route 57, 59 and 82) delivering them to their work. The Union Road shopping and café strip has every niche market filled, while the nearby Showgrounds Village, Puckle St and Highpoint shopping and entertainment complex ensure that no retail urge goes unfulfilled.
The leisure options are envied, with Fairbairn Park providing more than a sporting chance to our champions of the future, the Riverside Golf Course teeing up business and social opportunities galore, and river walking and cycling trails providing a scenic distraction for those whose competitive spirit may have diminished somewhat.
Factor in the schools, refurbished leisure centre and skate park, and all the boxes are ticked.And horse racing fans still enjoy the best of both worlds, living in relative anonymity in cosmopolitan surrounds, yet retaining the convenience of walking to Australia’s two biggest horse races - the weight-for-age Cox Plate at Moonee Valley and the Melbourne Cup at Flemington during the VRC Spring Racing Carnival.Everyone’s on a winner in Ascot Vale – just don’t let too many people know.