Rocket Park Re-launched
As the Luna race between NASA’s Artemis 1 and Elon Musk’s Space-X draws global attention, Hawthorn Central Gardens quietly witnessed ‘one small step’ for preservation of an icon from the original 1960s space race. Generations have known the 122 year-old garden by its sobriquet the ‘Rocket Park’ for its seven-metre high, Googie-design rocket set in the garden’s playground. The design itself is a relic from the Space Age, when mankind first embarked on a journey to our satellite. But space oriented designs, although once common and adored, have since fallen out of favour.
In fact, many of these once popular playground rockets have been unceremoniously scrapped over the years, with Hawthorn’s being one of only three left in Victoria. The Glenferrie Times reported in March 2021, that our local rocket was set for its final countdown due to age and changing safety standards. This news was met with an impassioned public outcry and the City of Boroondara revealed plans in June 2021 to reverse its decision to remove the beloved rocket.
However, for the rocket to remain, several safety features needed to be addressed. These included; new concrete footings, replacement of worn rubber surfaces, increased width of circular entry points and gaps between bars as well as a new ladder. The City of Boroondara asserted that these modifications would not affect the structure’s heritage value. In March 2022, the rocket was removed for its off-site restoration, while the playground was remodelled over the following months.
Children can now jump from planet to planet upon boulders painted to resemble our solar system, step into a recreation of Neil Armstrong’s famed Luna footprint and explore the ‘Martian landscape’, to tie in with more up-to-date galactic endeavours. Visitors to the park can also marvel at the new UFO shade canopy hovering over an interactive ‘mission control’ play centre along with playground essentials, such as a water play zone, monkey bars and swings.
But while celebrating the vintage rocket’s revitalisation, it is also worth acknowledging the gardens themselves as a living piece of Hawthorn heritage. As kids flock back to the rocket, they would little realise that many of the trees surrounding them have witnessed generation after generation excitedly play under their eternal canopies. Indeed examples of Henry Street resident green thumb, Charles Moline’s arboreal specimens still thrive today since first being donated to the grounds ahead of its 1900 opening.
Boroondara Council stated that they will be hosting an official launch celebration on Sunday 16 October, 11am-12pm. There will be a ribbon-cutting ceremony, face-painting and children are encouraged to dress up in a space theme.
For further information, check boroondara.vic.gov.au to follow any updates.