In the 19th century, swimming from the open beach was prohibited during daylight hours, so bathers were compelled to keep within the baths. In 1857 a railway line was built from Melbourne to St. Kilda as well as a connection loop between St. Kilda and Windsor. These railway lines brought increased patronage to the privately run sea baths, the jetty promenade and the St. Kilda Cup. Cricket and bowling clubs were formed in 1855 and 1865. By the mid 1860s St. Kilda had about fifteen hotels including the George, formerly the Seaview (1857). St. Kilda by then was a borough (1863), having been proclaimed a municipality separate from Melbourne city on 24 April, 1855.


St. Kilda's population more than doubled between 1870 and 1890 to about 19,000 persons. The opening of tram services to St. Kilda in 1888 and 1891 brought more pleasure seekers, somewhat lowering the tone and impelling the well-to-do towards South Yarra and Toorak. The 1890s depression caused several of the large mansions to be subdivided for apartment or boarding-house accommodation. "Oberwyl" was a spectacular example of a mansion built in 1856, whose owner failed in the 1870s, and the building became a school.


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