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Glen Iris: Once the butt of jokes, there’s no laughing about its status now

Barry Humphries wasn’t kind to Glen Iris. Dame Edna Everage might have joyfully lampooned Moonee Ponds but it was that “decent, humdrum little old man” Sandy Stone and his wife Beryl who called 36 Gallipoli Crescent, Glen Iris, home.

Humphries chose his setting well, for Glen Iris is both solidly middle ring and middle class. It is telling that the average house there now sells for almost $2 million, but not quite.

It is a suburb well-endowed with private schools (Sacre Couer, Korowa Anglican Girls’ School and a campus of Caulfield Grammar among them) and parklands.

Should anyone want to leave Glen Iris, the Monash Freeway cuts straight through, dissecting the suburb into two uneven pieces. For the public transport-minded there are several tram lines, while Glen Iris and Gardiner train stations both opened in 1890 and serve the Glen Waverley line, which provides a 20-minute journey into the CBD.

Glen Iris also has a tale to tell about Melbourne’s urban sprawl. The suburb was deemed Melbourne’s geographical and demographic centre for a time in the mid-1990s (in fact, the centre of Melbourne was pinpointed to a bench in Ferndale Park) although sprawl to the city’s west and the north has since superseded its claim to fame.

Camberwell and Malvern just over the border have better shopping but Glen Iris can counter with the Hill ‘n’ Dale park, with its skateboarding and BMX tracks, and the Gardiners Creek linear park and bike trail.

Houses aren’t as neatly defined into period streetscapes as its neighbours either. Edwardians, California bungalows and post-war builds are now rubbing shoulders with new apartment and townhouse developments aimed not at the investor market but at the empty nesters looking to downsize without leaving their old stomping ground.

Sandy Stone and geographical epicentres aside, Glen Iris’ other claim to fame is as the home of sternly brutalist architecture of the Harold Holt Memorial Swim Centre on the corner of High and Edgar streets.

Named for the sitting prime minister and local member who presumably drowned off Portsea in 1967 during the pool’s construction, the name is an unintentionally ironic contribution to the annals of Australian comedy – or maybe it was quite intentional, and we need to give Humphries’ humourless residents credit for their brilliant black joke.

Community