Of all the buildings and bridges designed by John Grainger, Melbourne’s Princes Bridge is the most iconic. On completion, the bridge was viewed as a badge of achievement, a visible manifestation of the rewards which Melbourne offered to those who strove and prospered there. The occasion of its opening, which took place at the height of the land boom in October 1888, presented the city fathers with a powerful and timely opportunity to represent and celebrate their colony’s remarkable progress.
John Grainger designed Princes Bridge to replace the existing bridge of the same name, which by the end of the 19th century was clearly too narrow for the volume of traffic. The new bridge was designed to function as both a conduit between the city and the affluent southern suburbs and as an impressive gateway to the booming Melbourne central business district. The resulting elegant structure unquestionably fulfilled its promise. Standing upon it, looking up Swanston Street, the eye was drawn to that great massed pile of newly-erected stone edifices which gave Melbourne its most commonly used superlative: ‘marvellous’. Most contemporary accounts agreed that the public was very impressed with the splendid new bridge.
Text by Astrid Britt Krautschneider, Curator Collections & Research, Grainger Museum, University of Melbourne
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