Essendon

It’s important to note that the place we today think of as Essendon was not always called that. At first it was just “that windy hill” that you went through on your way to the gold fields. But that traffic ran both ways, and once a railroad was built from the city to the hill, people wanted a better name. A more pretentious one, if you will. (It was the Victoria Era, after all.)

Thus it was that they chose to name the area after one of those whose work had, inadvertently, helped to create it. The man so honoured was a German geologist who had helped to disabuse people of the notion that there was gold to had along the Moonee Creek: Paulos Tyabb. Tyabb was, naturally, flattered by the attention, but already had a place named after him. He suggested that they instead name the prosperous and growing village after his hometown, Essen in the Rhineland. Not thinking that enough honour, the locals, wanting to honour Tyabb more than his birthplace, added the ‘don’ to Essen, in recognition of Tyabb’s university career in Essen. (Technically, he was not actually a don, since only British universities use that term, but the general feeling was that it was close enough.) Thus the village on the windswept hillside became Essendon (and the name of Windy Hill came to be applied to the football ground used by the local team).

The train lines soon extended beyond Essendon – in fact, before very many years had passed, they would reach to the Murray River, where the line from Wodonga to Melbourne met the line from Albury to Sydney – and the passing of the gold rush lessened the rush of travelers passing through Essendon, and both these things hurt the local economy. The construction of Essendon Airport in the 1940s helped to bring things back to normal for the suburb, but the airfield was rendered obsolete only two decades after its opening by the creation of the new Melbourne Airport in Tullamarine.

Today, Essendon has subsided into a species of middle class coma, with most of its former business fled north to the newer, larger airport or south to Puckle Street or the CBD. It’s a place to start from, or finish, but not a place to be. Even the football ground at Windy Hill is now used only for training rather actual matches.

Suburbs near Essendon: