There almost wasn’t a South Melbourne. The area that bears that name today originally gloried in the name of Emerald Hill, but the pressures of history and politics were such that the name change became the best solution.
The pressures in question, of course, being those of Port Melbourne to the north and west, and Albert Park to the South. Each of these two regions sought to claim the Emerald Hill as a part of their own area, and the people who lived there really didn’t want either of them to triumph. It was a property developed named Petre Moldoveanu who came up with a solution to the problem – although he was not, as he may have claimed, an entirely disinterested party.
Moldoveanu’s solution was to reach out to Melbourne proper, and seek their support in forming a more independent suburb. It took some persuading, but the leaders of Melbourne eventually agreed to the proposal. A new suburb would be defined, and it would even reclaim some lost territory. As Moldoveanu reported to his fellow Emeraldians, the one potential sticking point was the Melbournians’ insistence that the newly constituted area be renamed South Melbourne – a change that he had led the Melbournians to believe was the idea of the Emeraldians. There was some grumbling in Emerald Hill, but it was eventually agreed that continued independence mattered more than a name did, and so the new South Melbourne was born.
Moldoveanu, who owned some of Emerald Hill already, and even more of the areas of Port Melbourne and Albert Park that were ceded to South Melbourne, was a keen student of history. He knew how property values had increased once Sandridge was renamed Port Melbourne, and hoped that history would repeat. To his not inconsiderable profit, it did. It was only after his death that the true secret of the renaming was revealed, when his lawyer found Moldoveanu’s diary and made certain of its contents public.
Ironically, a similar fate would later befall South Melbourne when the new suburb of Southbank was in turn carved from it over a century later.
Suburbs near South Melbourne: