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Smith Street and Smith Reserve

Two streets, one in Port and one in South Melbourne, as well as a section of Port Melbourne’s Railway Reserves, are named after Thomas Smith.

This rare distinction reflects Smith’s ‘lengthy and irreproachable’1 service as Councillor and Mayor, first in South Melbourne and later in Port Melbourne. He also represented Emerald Hill in the Legislative Assembly.

Smith Reserve, Rose Postcards, State Library of Victoria

Smith was born in Warton, Warwickshire in 1846 and was a boy when he came with his parents to Australia. The family first went to Launceston. Smith’s father, Benjamin, was a hatter and Thomas followed in his footsteps. He started his apprenticeship as a silk hatter and afterwards worked as a journeyman in that trade. At one time he acted as the Treasurer of the Silk Hatters’ Union1. He was 25 years old when he went into business making and selling hats in South Melbourne in 1871.

He was elected to South Melbourne Council and was Mayor from 1888 to 1889.

Smith went on to represent Emerald Hill in the Legislative Assembly for fifteen years from 1889 to 1904. As well as making and selling hats, his business interests extended to being a founder of Enterprise Permanent Building Society of South Melbourne and a director of T. & G. Life Assurance Company2.

Smith was a teetotaller and a long standing district member of the Independent Order of Rechabites.

Over time Smith acquired a very significant amount of property. He owned properties in Clarendon, Ward and Dorcas Sts, South Melbourne and later bought property in Port Melbourne. Among the properties he owned were 196, 198 and 200 Nott St, part of Jubilee Terrace. He also owned 219, 207 and 205 Bay Street in the ‘Market Buildings’ where he sold hats.

Smith was Mayor of Port Melbourne from 1906 to 1907, 1914 to 1915, and from 1920 to 1921. A Labor man, he at one time sought to contest the seat of Port Melbourne in the Legislative Assembly but George Sangster was selected to run for the seat instead. In addition to his council duties he was on the committee of the Infectious Diseases Hospital and a Justice of the Peace.

In a photograph from that period, Smith wears his mayoral robes with ease and assurance.

Thomas Smith, Mayor of Port Melbourne 1906 to 1907

Smith married twice: first to Jane Johnson in 1870 with whom he had six children, three of whom died in infancy. Jane Smith died in 1913. In 1915, he married Mrs Jessie Marian Lynch in a quiet ceremony at the Baptist Church in Collins St.

He died in August in 1925 while still serving as a Councillor of Port Melbourne.

Smith St is a short street, just 230 metres, connecting Plummer St and Williamstown Rd in Fishermans Bend. It terminates almost opposite Emery St, the shortest street in Port Melbourne. On its northern boundary is the former Rootes factory.

Short, but wide, Smith St in the Wirraway precinct of Fishermans Bend

Smith St is characterised by by some very large gum and poplar trees. It is a street in transition from its former industrial use to residential use. While at present it is neglected, favoured for rubbish dumping and rat running between Williamstown Rd and Plummer St, the Fishermans Bend Framework imagines generous Smith St as more like a linear park which will contribute to the character of Wirraway as ‘a family friendly inner city neighbourhood close to the Bay and Westgate Park’2.

Smith Reserve is on the eastern side of Port Melbourne’s Railway Reserves between Bridge and Raglan St.

The other Smith Street follows a curve between Dorcas St and Bridport St West.


1 Worker (Wagga, NSW : 1892 – 1913), Thursday 6 September 1906, page 5

2 Parliament of Victoria Former Member Profile Thomas Smith

Fishermans Bend Framework, p75

Notes on Thomas Smith provided by Kay Rowan, City of Port Phillip local history librarian.

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