On Friday 7 August 1885 the Victoria Gardens were named and formally dedicated for public use by Lady Loch, wife of the Governor of Victoria. While the Mayor, George Taylor had led the campaign to provide public reserves, there was strong opposition to the scheme by several councillors. The City of Prahran had to take out a substantial loan of £12,500 for recreational use by its 30,000 inhabitants.
William Sangster, well-known gardener and nurseryman of the firm Taylor and Sangster was employed by the Council in 1885 to lay out Victoria Gardens. Sangster was once the gardener to John Brown of Como and was also responsible for landscaping works at Stonnington, Rippon Lea, Daylesford Botanic Gardens and Wombat Park.
Victoria Gardens is named after the Mayor George Taylor’s wife, Victoria. Ten days after Lady Loch dedicated the Gardens the Prahran Council meet to elect a new Mayor for the coming year. At the close of the meeting the ex-mayor announced that he would present a fountain to the City in commemoration of the opening of the Gardens. Three years later Taylor presented to the City a fountain, statue and vases in terracotta, a valuable gift imported at a cost of over £300. The statue of Victory is supposedly a copy of one erected in Berlin to commemorate the Battle of Waterloo.
The Telegraph reported on 11 August 1888 that the, “fountain and vases have been some weeks in position. The statue erected during the past week and the whole of the gifts will be formally presented by the donor next Monday afternoon at 3 o’clock when Mrs Taylor will turn on the fountain”.
Towards the end of the 1890s the Council proposed erecting a Bandstand in Victoria Gardens and William Calder, City Surveyor prepared a design. The bandstand was declared open by the Mayor on Saturday 12October 1901, after which the City of Prahran Brass Band played, “a choice selection of music during the course of the afternoon”. Calder resigned from Council in 1913 when he was appointed the first Chairman of the Country Roads Board. The Calder Highway is named after him.
Concerts were held in the Rotunda and while the Band played, moving pictures were shown on a screen depicting such scenes as, “the English, German, American and Melbourne methods of fighting fire. Open air concerts became a weekly event in summer and at the height of their popularity between 1905 and 1910, sometimes 4,000 people would attend on a Thursday night.