Researching buildings and houses

Learn how to research the history of your house or a prominent Melbourne building using the Library’s collection of architectural drawings, maps and online tools.


Here are some books to help with your research. They were produced by government departments, community or private organisations and local history societies. You can find them in the Library's collection or possibly in your local library.

  • How to trace the history of your house: this book teaches you how to trace the history of your house, including identifying housing styles, where to gather information and how to use historical documents.
  • Recognising house styles, 1880s-1990s: chronologically organised from 1883 to 1992, this book uses photographs and diagrams to highlight the distinctive features of Victorian housing styles.
  • Melbourne: the city's history and development: an important survey of the planning and building development of Melbourne from its foundation in 1834. This book includes information about roads, bridges, water supply sewerage and other services. Major architectural works are included.
  • A heritage handbook: this book lists the major resources to consult and steps you through your search.



                                                          The hospital buildings, Melbourne, H32492/7419


Browse our catalogue holdings of magazines using the subject heading Architecture Australia periodicals.

Some popular titles include:

Melbourne's CBD

Map key

Published in 1976, the historic building studies of Melbourne’s CBD are divided into eight areas, examining the buildings and characteristics of each area. It provides descriptions of a building's history through maps, photographs, directory information, as well as architect and builder details. You can order the volumes below using your Library user number. Some of the building descriptions can also be found in the  I heritage database, but not all.

Vol 1: area bounded by Little Collins, Flinders, Spring and Elizabeth Sts.

Vol 2:  area bounded by Victoria, Spring, Lonsdale and Swanston Sts.

Vol 3:  area bounded by Lonsdale, Swanston, Victoria and Elizabeth Sts.

Vol 4: area bounded by Flinders, King, William and La Trobe Sts.

Vol 5 : (3 vols) area bounded by Elizabeth, Lonsdale, William and Therry Sts.

Vol 6 : (2 vols), area bounded by King , Flinders, Spencer and Dudley Sts.

Vol 7: area bounded by Flinders, William, Lonsdale and Elizabeth Sts.

Vol 8: area bounded by Elizabeth, Little Collins, Lonsdale and Spring Sts.

Building journals

A select bibliography of building journals is available in a subject file titled 'Building- Materials', which you can order at the Ask a Librarian desk in the Cowen Gallery, or phone 8664 7002.

Several of these titles have been fully indexed on cards for the years 1888-1905. The card index is housed in the Arts Reading Room on Level 2A at the Library.

Local history files

The library also holds a collection of local history files which contain ephemeral material such as newspaper articles, brochures and occasionally, auction brochures. You can find these using the local history index, which is held at the Information desk on the ground floor at the SLV, and by searching the online Australiana Index.

Trams to the racecourses, river, & zoo, H2007.115/11

Subject headings

You can browse broader subjects headings by entering the below terms into the Library catalogue

Architecture Victoria Melbourne

Melbourne (Vic.) Buildings structures etc

Dwellings Victoria

Suburban searches

Information on buildings may also be found in local history publications.

Search the Library Catalogue by suburb name, and the keyword ‘history'.

For example:

Essendon Vic History

Moorabbin Vic History

Architecture- history

Historic buildings of Victoria edited by David Saunders - includes the essays Building a state - Victoria, Architectural style, and Nineteenth century in Victoria

A manual of architectural history sources in Australia by David Saunders

Architectural walking tours of Melbourne

This series of small books explores the buildings and architects of Melbourne. Each book deals with a particular theme, such as a place i.e, St Kilda, or a person, i.e. an architect.


The encyclopedia of Australian architecture, edited by Philip Goad and Julie Willis.
Port Melbourne, Vic.: Cambridge University Press 2012.

At over 700 pages and including 500 photographs and drawings, this book provides a comprehensive account of Australian architecture, from indigenous beginnings through colonial, modern and contemporary works.

State Bank Homes

The Library holds many resources on the State Bank homes, including books with designs and architectural drawings, which were built in Melbourne between 1920 and 1960.