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In 1841 Frederic Unwin, a Sydney solicitor, bought 5,120 acres (20.7 km2) of land, including most of the present suburb of Doncaster, from the Crown for one pound an acre under the terms of the short-lived Special Survey regulations. The area was sometimes known as Unwin’s Special Survey.
The Doncaster region was settled in the 1860s and 1870s, predominantly by German settler orchardists. The German community was named Waldau, but the name Doncaster gradually became commonly accepted. A Lutheran church was the first one in Doncaster in 1858. A Lutheran school opened in 1860 and a denominational school in 1861.Doncaster Post Office opened on 17 May 1860.
Schramm’s Cottage, an historic stone cottage originally located in Doncaster Road (at the site of the fountain next to the Municipal Offices), was relocated to the site of the original Lutheran Church building in Victoria Street in the 1970s. The remains of the Waldau Cemetery, where approximately 150 burials took place between 1853 and 1888, are located in the grounds of Schramm’s Cottage.
In the 1880s an observation tower (285 ft high) was constructed on Doncaster Hill, which attracted day-trippers to (what was then) the countryside.
Doncaster was the location of the first electric tram to run in Melbourne in 1889. The tram started in Doncaster and ended in Box Hill (about 3.5 km away). Consequently, this was named “Tram Road”. However, the service did not earn any profit, so it ended in 1896 due to feuds with land holders and financial problems. The main road through the suburb, Doncaster Road, was formally named Main Street.
Doncaster remained an orchard area until the 1970s, with the majority of houses built from the 1950s to the 1980s.
Doncaster Hill is an ambitious project transforming Central Doncaster (Doncaster Hill) into an apartment and retail mecca. Being only 14 km from the city (17 km by road) and with fantastic views of the Melbourne CBD skyline, much time and investment has been placed by the City of Manningham. There have been several new developments with successful sales and a number of new projects are in progress as the suburb has experienced a boom in popularity mainly from Chinese buyers and investors including Indonesian based developers. While there is no rail service the suburb does have an extensive bus service and is located only a short distance to Box Hill railway station. Except for peak hour times, the Eastern Freeway makes it just a 12-minute drive to the CBD at most other times as well as easy access to the Mornington Peninsula via Eastlink in the other direction. A “Smartbus” from Mordialloc to Altona runs through the centre of Doncaster also and there are now several new bus routes to get to surrounding areas as well as the CBD and also has a “park and ride” at the Doncaster Rd. crossing of the Eastern Freeway.
Schools located in Doncaster are: