Compiled for OzSportsHistory by Brian Membrey
Playgrounds : The Fires
These days with modern detection systems, it is rare in the extreme to read of major fires in built-
Ballarat City Rowing Club, 28 October, 1950
The first to go was the Ballarat City Rowing Club's rooms and boathouse in the early hours of 28 October, 1950, one of three clubhouses designated to host rowing and canoeing. The boat shed was constructed over the waters of the eastern foreshore of Lake Wendouree, the club losing three eight-
The President of the club said they would ask the Government for permission to rebuild in time for the Olympic rowing and a public appeal was launched; a second-
In October, 1953, Ballarat City announced a credit balance of over £14,000 despite having just 40 members after the loss of the boathouse; it was suggested that it was probably the most financial rowing club in Victoria with plans afoot to construct a new £25,000 concrete building.
Rebuilding however does not appear to have commenced until the autumn of 1956. the O.O.C. refusing to make up a balance of £15,000 of the new estimate of £32,000, instead suggesting it would erect temporary accommodation costing between £4,000 and £6,000.
Whether the O.O.C. relented is unknown -
West Melbourne Stadium 24 January, 1955.
The fire is believed to have started about 12.20 a.m. and accounts of the blaze suggest the intensity was such that the building was destroyed within minutes. Every available fire wagon in the metropolitan area was rushed to the fire to try to cordon it off before it could spread to surrounding factories and the railway line which ran at the back of the Stadium (servicing lines to north-
Extra police had to be called to control more than 8,000 people and to untangle a huge traffic jam. The fire, which could be seen for miles around Melbourne, was at first mistaken by some as a explosion at the Altona oil refinery.
Remarkably, Dick Lean, manager of Stadiums Limited, knew nothing of the fire until a newspaper rang him at 1.10 a.m., less than an hour after the fire started
Fights already scheduled for the venue were switched to the Sydney Stadium while Lean attempted to arrange temporary premises to maintain promotion of the sport in Melbourne. There were two open-
On the two nights following the fire, the Stadium had been booked out for concerts from American crooner Frank Sinatra, who had completed engagements in Sydney and awaiting a flight to Melbourne where he had already performed at West Melbourne on 12 and 22 January.
The concerts were hastily re-
Olympic Park Grandstand, 16 March, 1951
Although reportedly not in the best of condition, athletics lost a valuable asset when the old grandstand at Olympic Park stadium burnt to the ground on Friday night, 16 March, 1951 during the Victorian amateur athletics championships. The loss of the grandstand must have been particularly disappointing for the Victorian Amateur Athletics Association as they had that summer installed Australia’s first permanent cinder tracks at Olympic Park.
The cost was estimated at £12,000, the insurance coverage only £3,500. The stand was said to seat 1,500 and its loss was thought to be a potential threat to the Olympics as with the chronic shortage of housing, it would be impossible to gain the necessary permits to re-
Exhibition Aquarium, 28 January, 1953
An estimated 20,000 workers heading home watched the firemen's tense fight to save the entire Exhibition complex with flames being held in a kitchen of the Royale Ballroom just 15 feet from displays in a £1.25 million Engineering Equipment Trade Show. Despite the blaze, the trade show continued after an emergency clean-
Both the kitchen and the adjoining Royale Ballroom were slightly damaged; an unnamed hero was an off-
Sadly. thousands of fish perished when red-
Although virtually irreplaceable, the collection was said to be nominally worth £30,000. Earlier thought lost in the blaze, the salamander lizard was ironically for centuries supposed to have the power to live through intense fire.
Fears were held for the migrant hostel immediately to the north of the Exhibition when overhanging tree branches burst in flames at the peak of the fire. Fortunately the last six occupants had moved from the camp that morning, although it was noted that the caretaker of the camp and three Yugoslav migrants were the first to fight the blaze.
Total damage including the collection was put at around £150,000.
The fire was believed to have started in a paint shop behind the main building. Two brawls broke out among spectators who surrounded the northern end of the building and eight charges were later laid against six persons at the City Watch House.
The Glaciarium, 12 April, 1963
The proprietors of the Glaciarium in all probability shot themselves in the foot with the excessive demand for rental of venue for the Games. It appears that patronage had almost disappeared and the operations ceased in 1957 (date unknown), and when the building was destroyed on the night of 12 April, 1963, it was revealed that the building had not been used since its closure and up for sale for most of the intervening period -
The fire was described as one of Melbourne's most spectacular for many years with the glow of the flames visible for some miles and a thick cloud of smoke drifting across the eastern suburbs.
Reports suggest the building was well alight when firemen arrived and much of their effort was put into protecting the five-
|Manningham Reserve, Parkville|
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|Manningham Reserve, Parkville|
|And Others ...|