Rocket Park: Countdown To Re-Opening
Officially listed as Hawthorn Central Gardens, generations of local kids have grown up knowing the 122-year old park by its more popular colloquialism, the Rocket Park. Its seven-metre high impressionist rocket ship, which has sat poised in ready-to-launch fashion for over 50-years, recently faced its final frontier as a local icon when plans to scrap it emerged.
Following an astronomical show of public support, however, Boroondara council revealed plans in June 2021 to reverse its decision to remove the aged rocket, and even expand planning of its refurbishment to incorporate a space exploration-themed playground. Credit for the rocket's rescue can be shared by the united efforts of the community including local residents Simon Gannon, Glenferrie Cr. Wes Gault, and and Liberal MP Tim Smith. Last year, they collaborated to raise awareness and ensure Hawthorn Gardens kept its iconic rocket for future generations of junior stargazers to enjoy.
Since March 2022, the rocket has been undergoing off-site restoration, while the grounds themselves, which are currently closed off for restoration, were expected to re-open In August. However, delays due to materials shortages and COVID-19 affecting the construction crew have pushed the re-launch back to September, according to the City of Boroondara website. Once the work is complete, the park is expected to offer children a more exciting play experience.
The historic rocket itself, which was built during the Space Age craze of the 1960s, is an example of increasingly rare Googie architecture. Googie, a part of the Futurist movement of the late '50s, briefly revitalised urban design but fell out of fashion by the 1970s. The rocket also shares its birthday with Apollo 11's moon landing and is in a small way, a monument to a time when humanity first stepped beyond our home world.
Hawthorn Central Gardens is set to commemorate the moon landing further with the recreation of Neil Armstrong's famed Luna footprint, as well as a Martian landscape play area to tie in with more up-to-date galactic endeavours. This will include 'craters', 'tunnels' and 'mounds' for added exploration potential. Visitors to the park will be able to marvel at the UFO shade canopy hovering over an interactive 'mission control' play centre, along with playground essentials, such as monkey bars and swings.
Given the rocket's age, a Boroondara council audit found several safety features that needed addressing before it could be reinstated. These included; new concrete footings, replacement of worn rubber surfaces, increased width of gaps between bars and a new ladder. Many of these Googie design playground rockets have been unceremoniously scrapped over the years with Hawthorn's being one of only three left in Victoria.