With so much history and stories to tell of Healesville and The Old Mechanics, its interesting to reflect back on the origins of the area and the buildings -  I know history isn't for everyone, so don't worry, we won't test you on it!  Directly below is an overview of The Old Mechanics, below that are some great old pictures of the Old Mechanics on the left and Healesville on the right, the history of Healesville is at the bottom.

Mechanics Institutes are the precursors of adult education and libraries in Victoria.  Originally built in 1892, the Old Mechanic has had many uses but was primarily intended as a meeting place and education establishment. Over the many years the building has had many incarnations including Library, Photographic Studio, Theatre, Auction Rooms, Gymnasium, Army Drill Hall, Tea Rooms, Dr’s Surgery, Cobblers, Lecture Hall, Snooker Hall, Art Gallery, Dance and Drama classroom and I suspect many more…

After the Library closed in 1975, the books were donated to the new Healesville Library at the Memorial Hall. The building then took on a new persona, primarily as an art gallery and tea rooms and continued in that manner with many exhibitions and shows that seemed to be very popular. Some of the pictures below show some of the exhibitions that were held.

In 2014, when we purchased the building it had unfortunately been neglected for some years. The only saving grace was that the heritage listing prevented the building being destroyed for Real Estate value and that's when the hard work began to restore again this amazing old building. We are very proud to have revitalised the place and we hope the unusual and varied history add a bit more colour and curiosity to your stay.

Content and imagery courtesy of The Healesville and District Historical Society and Pamela Firth.




Healesville is a very historic town with a fine history.  Located in the beautiful valley of the Watts River, surrounded on several sides by the stunning mountains of the Great Dividing Range, Healesville lies on the ancestral land of the Wurundjeri people.  

Prior to the founding of Healesville, the area had become a thriving base for men en route to the goldfields at Woods Point and Jericho. Stores were brought from Melbourne along the Yarra Track, unloaded at New Chum and transferred to pack horses to continue their hazardous journey to the diggings.

As thousands made their way to the goldfields it became obvious that a 'proper' road was necessary. however those seeking their fortunes still faced the difficult trek over the mountains of the Great Divide. 

The site of present day Healesville was surveyed in 1864 by government surveyor, George McDonald, and the first land sales took place in June 1865, when the price of blocks of land started at one pound each.  

By 1866 over thirty business premises were operating in Nicholson Street Healesville, including six hotels, a post office (which opened in 1865), a saddlery, and a blacksmith.  The Grand Hotel on the corner of Green Street, has looked over the township since 1888. 

The arrival of the railway in 1889 led to increased visitors and then the formation of a Tourist and Progress Association who in the 1920s declared "Healesville, The World-famed Tourist Resort" and published a listing of over 40 beauty spots and 20 hotels and guest houses. 

Healesville Sanctuary was founded in 1920 as the Institute of Anatomical Research by Dr Colin McKenzie. It became the Sir Colin McKenzie Sanctuary in 1934 and is now simply known as Healesville Sanctuary.  

The construction of the Maroondah Dam in 1927 brought further investment to the town but eventually the guest house and tourism boom era died away, as did the substantial timber industry. The railway also closed in late 1980 but has been revived and is expected to reopen to Yarra Glen in 2020. 

Healesville has over recent years experienced a resurgence and is now the centre of the hugely popular Yarra Valley tourism and winery region.  This has made Healesville a 'must stop' not only for visitors to the wider Yarra Valley but also for those on the way to and from Marysville, Lake Mountain, Lake Eildon and beyond.  With a bustling main street filled with dozens of cafe's, hotels, restaurants and speciality shops plus the world famous sanctuary, beautiful parks and tourist railway, Healesville makes a great place to visit and explore any time of the year. 


Content and imagery courtesy of The Healesville and District Historical Society and Pamela Firth.