Blackburn is a residential suburb 17 km east of central Melbourne, between Box Hill and Nunawading. About 400 metres south of the township is the Blackburn Creek, thought to have been named after an early settler or after James Blackburn, the designer of Melbourne's Yan Yean water supply. The first European settlement was along the creek and was called Blackburn Creek.
A hotel was built on the site of the present Blackburn Hotel in Whitehorse Road in 1861, serving travellers to Healesville and the Gippsland goldfields around Woods Point. Another was opened near the creek in 1865. A post office was opened in 1876 and the Box Hill to Lilydale railway in 1882. The 1880s saw a spate of development, partly induced by the railway and strongly promoted by subdividers. The most active was the Freehold Investment and Banking Company which acquired thirty small farms and laid out a model township distinguishable by the triangular street design south of the railway station. The company is credited with building the public hall (1888), and damming the creek to form the Blackburn Lake (1889). One of the company's officers, T. Morton, lived in Blackburn, was active in building the first Anglican Church (1890), and is commemorated by Morton Park. The Methodist Church was opened two years before, and the primary school in 1889. The main industries were a brickworks, orchards and other farming. Blackburn was described in the Australian handbook in 1903:
The 1890s Depression curtailed land development schemes. The Adult Deaf Society purchased land adjoining the lake in 1909 and built a large home. It also established a flower farm of about five ha and conducted a hostel for deaf people (1972-2002). Blackburn underwent steady growth between World Wars I and II. An open-air primary school for children in need of recuperation was opened in 1913 and another in Blackburn South in 1920. A cool store was opened in 1918 and the Blue Moon Fruit Co-operative built its fruit cannery in 1930. Fruit came from orchards in Doncaster, Donvale and Mitcham. Blackburn was described in the Victorian municipal directory in 1933:
By 1940 it was described by the directory as a residential fruit and vegetable growing district with cool stores and fruit-case factories. There were a private hospital, a baby health centre, soldiers’ memorial hall and a horticultural society:
During the early 1950s Blackburn's residential growth quickened. Its shopping centre attracted an aggressive price cutting grocer, Anstey's, whose self-service supermarket contributed to the end of retail price maintenance. He was situated in an area with increasing numbers of growing families who wanted food and groceries at discounted prices.
Ever since the early subdividers created the Blackburn Lake the community was conscious of its local bushland. In 1959 a tree-preservation society was formed, alarmed by the loss of tree cover in residential subdivisions and alongside roads. Their activities have probably encouraged tree planting by residents in their house allotments, as well as the more obvious plantings in public areas.
In 1956 a high school was opened (827 pupils, 2014) and four year later a technical school (Blackburn North). In the 1960s and beyond residential growth occurred in Blackburn North which extends from Springfield Road to Doncaster and in Blackburn South which extends from Canterbury Road to Burwood East. There is also a Catholic primary school (1952) and the Laburnum State primary school (1964) (786 pupils, 2014). In 2014 the Blackburn primary school had 467 pupils and the Blackburn Lake primary school 470 pupils.
The strip shopping centre near the railway line is moderately active, and about 600 metres north of the Maroondah Highway there is a drive-in shopping centre, North Blackburn Square. In addition to the natural landscape around the Blackburn Lake there is a linear park along the Blackburn Creek and Morton Park with an oval and other facilities near the shopping centre.
In 2014 the state government announced plans to remove the Blackburn level crossing by 2017.
Blackburn’s census populations have been:
Robin Da Costa, Blackburn: a picturesque history, Pioneer Design Studio, 1978
Blackburn North, Blackburn South and Laburnum entries