Ivanhoe is a suburban district on the northern side of the Yarra River and bounded by Darebin Creek to the west. The name (from the novel by Sir Walter Scott) was given to a farm established in the 1840s by Archibald Thom. It was perpetuated when a subsequent owner donated land on the corner of Upper Heidelberg and Waterdale roads for the Ivanhoe school in 1853, and the Ivanhoe Hotel was built not far away. Their establishment followed a population spurt which accompanied the development of a number of farms in the area to meet the growing market for food during the gold rushes.
There was little further growth and until the late 1880s the village consisted of simply the school, hotel, butcher’s shop, blacksmith and a few residences along the Upper Heidelberg Road. During the 1880s land boom there was a spate of speculative subdivision which established Ivanhoe as an area of high socio-economic status with pretensions to be the ‘Toorak of the north’. The pleasant undulating land was generally offered in relatively large suburban blocks. While building followed on a limited scale, much of it was in the form of large and comfortable residences for affluent businessmen. Ravenswood, a two-storey mansion in Beauview Parade, was begun in 1891 for financier Robert William Kennedy.
The principal factor holding back further development was the unsatisfactory transport connection with Central Melbourne. Even when the Ivanhoe station on the Heidelberg-Melbourne railway was opened in 1888, the service was so poor it did little to encourage new residents. The opening of an improved railway service to Melbourne in 1901 facilitated a growth in comfortable Edwardian housing. Subdivision and development continued in the 1920s, and in the 1930s builder A.V. Jennings undertook major estates in Ivanhoe and East Ivanhoe.
In 1937 the Heidelberg Municipal Offices and Town Hall opened in new premises on Upper Heidelberg Road. This modern-style building was awarded the Royal Victorian Institute of Architects Street Architecture Medal in 1939. The spread of Melbourne after World War II saw the remaining parts of Ivanhoe transformed by suburbia. Housing Commission and lower socio-economic estates were opened in the north, but to the south, especially near the Yarra, development was more affluent, perpetuating Ivanhoe’s reputation as a suburb of comfortable housing, leafy streets, and private (independent) schools such as Ivanhoe Girls’ Grammar (1903) and Ivanhoe Boys’ Grammar (1915).