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.

Maps

Maps can show you property divisions in a street as well as larger allotments in a block. They can be searched in the Library catalogue by searching with the word ‘maps' and the suburb name; for example: 'Eltham Maps'

You can also add a street name to narrow your search, but mind, not every street name is indexed. Adding a cross-street is also another way to refine your search. For example:

Keilor maps Berry Street

There are bags of suburban maps held in the Heritage Collections Reading Room which can be viewed without appointment. These contain various types of maps which range in date from the 1850's to the 1970's.

Most maps are not digitised and will need to be viewed by appointment. For enquiries call 03 8664 7009. 

The SLV also holds parish plans, which name the original purchaser of the Government land, usually bought in the mid-nineteenth century. They show original land boundaries, measurements and geographical features. You can request to view the parish plans at the Information desk on the ground level at the SLV or call 03 8664 7009.

Auction plans

The Maps Collection includes auction plans, some of which have been digitised. These may show divisions of land, street numbering, auction dates, descriptions of properties and land measurements. Major collections include the Vale Collection and the Batten & Percy Collection. You can also search the SLV catalogue using the following subject headings:

Real property--Victoria--Maps

Auctions--Victoria--Maps

  The ideal estate, 30328102019295

MMBW plans

Melbourne Metropolitan Board of Work (MMBW) plans are of the Melbourne sewerage system. They were produced by the City of Melbourne and MMBW from the 1890s to the 1950s to facilitate the design and development of Melbourne’s sewerage.

They provide a historical record of Melbourne streetscapes and environmental features and may include original house measurements. Some include house names.

To search for MMBW maps, enter the suburb/street name and MMBW in the catalogue. For example:

MMBW Lennox Street

 

More information on the MMBW plans

Fire insurance plans

These sets of plans, commonly referred to by the publishers name of Mahlstedt, show the detailed layout of buildings in the Melbourne CBD. Sets were published in 1888, 1925, 1948 and 1962.

The Mahlstedts divide the city into two areas:

Anything south of Lonsdale St is numbered, i.e. 3, 7, 21. This is known as 'Section 1' .
Anything north of Lonsdale St has an 'A' reference, i.e. 3A, 16A, 20A. This is known as 'Section 2' .

The Mahlstedt titles in the Library catalogue reflect this, i.e:
"Melbourne plans. Section 1 [cartographic material]. Version 3"
"Melbourne plans. Section 2 [cartographic material]. Version 2"

So to find map 16A, you need to view a Section 2 map.

Some of these have been digitised. To view those which have not, call the La Trobe information desk to make an appointment on 03 8664 7009.

Cityscope

Cityscope is a subscription service providing building details on properties around Melbourne since 1977. Areas covered by Cityscope include the CBD, Docklands, Southbank, Camberwell, Burke Road, St Kilda Road and Eastern Melbourne. 

Although the focus of Cityscope is largely commercial, these areas now include an increasing number of inner city residential properties.  Details provided include the year built and recent sales history.

Maps for building research

This article by Professor of Architecture Miles Lewis highlights how maps can provide the researcher with a range of historical information, such as the position of the building, its shape and dimensions.

Finding maps