East Geelong is a residential suburb adjacent to Geelong’s central business area. It includes Eastern Park (about one-third of its area) on Limeburners Point, Corio Bay.
Limeburners Point was a source of building lime from as early as 1838 and, along with lime deposits on the Mornington Peninsula, were the major source for the Melbourne building trades for several decades. Production ceased in the 1880s, and there are heritage-listed kilns.
Eastern Park was unimproved open space until the late 1850s when the botanic gardens were first laid out on a few acres. To its south there was a cemetery (first burial 1839), put on a more organised footing when a cemetery trust was appointed in 1877. Along the beach there were a sea baths (1854), west of Limeburners Point, and east of the Point there was a rifle range.
Geelong East primary school in Boundary Road opened in 1857, set in the midst of a farming community. A local post office opened in 1871 and an Anglican church in 1890 in Fitzroy Street, not quite in East Geelong. In 1916 the building was moved to McKillop Street, and replaced in 1929.
Electric tram services began in Geelong in 1912, and in an easterly line to Garden Street began in 1915. Next year the Geelong high school opened at the corner of Garden Street and Ryrie Street, the south-west part of Eastern Park. From then it can be said that urban East Geelong began. Lines were extended along Ryrie Street and Ormond Road in 1924, ending respectively at Humble Street and Boundary Road. The Sands and McDougall directory (1924) recorded a new post office and shops east of Garden Avenue along Ormond Road and Myers and McKillop Streets were substantially built up as far as Meakin Street.
In 1923 the East Geelong Golf Club opened, between Eastern Park and the rifle range. (The shooting alignment was north-east, to Corio Bay.) Six years later work was begun on foreshore improvements, including the swimming enclosure. There were also mineral springs and the Parkside swimming pool.
During the early postwar years the State Housing Commission built an estate in East Geelong. The new suburb of Thomson was detached at about the year its post office opened (1950). A Catholic primary school opened the year before, on the border between the two suburbs. A technical school opened in 1958, later becoming a campus of the Gordon technical institute. (Both it and the primary school are in Boundary Road, Thomson.)
In place of the rifle range there is a CSIRO animal health laboratory. The botanic gardens have been upgraded since being enlarged in 1959; they have over 30 significant trees and an active Friends support group.
Residents have local shops at the Garden Street and Ormond Road intersection, and more diverse shopping is in central Geelong and the drive-in Bellarine Village shopping centre to the east.
East Geelong’s census populations have been:
One hundred and twenty five years 1857-1982: primary school No. 541 Geelong East, 1982
George Jones, Growing together: a gardening history of Geelong, Belmont, 1984