Civic Kindergarten

Middle Park


  Our kindergarten has a very interesting history.  When the committee of 1989 decided to include a brief word on the history of Civic Kindergarten in their cookbook there were no locals to be found who could help them with their quest.  Fortunately the archivist at the Municipal Library was able to come to their rescue and they discovered it was not possible to write about Civic Kindergarten without mentioning the Middle Park Community Centre as a whole.

The building now occupied by the Middle Park Community Centre, including Civic Kindergarten, began life as a bakery in 1906.  The site included a corner shop, adjoining cottage, stables and yards. The bakery ran successfully for many years before closing in 1936.  Little is known of the buildings’ use over the next 20 years.  The disused bakery was purchased by South Melbourne Council in 1953 for use as a Community Centre.  This followed years of lobbying by former Mayor of South Melbourne, Cr. Jack Barry, who constantly advocated the need for such a centre in the Middle Park area.

The Community Centre was designed to combine four distinct phases of social service – Maternal & Child Health, a Library, a meeting hall and a pre-school.  Mr Horace J. Tribe was the commissioned architect and Mr Ian Dancey as builder.  The building was re-modelled as follows:

1.  The Maternal & Child Welfare Centre was located in the bakery itself after removing 4 large baking ovens

2.  The library was built into the original corner shop and a new section for the children’s library was added

3.  The old flour loft on the first floor was turned into a large meeting hall, kitchen, toilets and smaller meeting room

4.  The kindergarten was housed in an additional building erected on the site of the original stable yard

The project was jointly funded by State Government, Council and local business and cost 35,000 pounds.

The Middle Park Community Centre was officially opened on Thursday March 8th, 1956 by the Mayor, Cr. F.J. Ferry.  The kindergarten offered both 3 and 4 year old programs funded by Council until 1985 when the 3 year old program was abolished in accordance with Labour Government Policy.  A group of concerned parents then formed the Pre School Association Middle Park Inc.  This Association took over the administration of the 3 year old program in 1986 with the assistance of partial funding from the South Melbourne Council.  The kindergarten continues to operate in this manner, guided by a parent run committee which is actively involved in kindergarten promotion and fundraising.

Special thanks to the Middle Park History Group Inc. for the time and effort put in to researching the history for us.  Also thanks to Kay Rowan, Local History Librarian for the City of Port Phillip, who found this article published in The Age in March 1956.