One of the most powerful things about historic buildings is the sense of time passing, lives lived and the many incarnations they can take on over time.
It's certainly the case for St Kilda's much-loved George Ballroom, which has, since its beginnings in 1857 as part of the Terminus Hotel, functioned as everything from a tearoom, wedding venue and dining space, to punk-gig mecca (called the Crystal Ballroom in the late ’70s, it hosted everyone from Nick Cave to The Cure and Hunters and Collectors).
But the iconic venue has lain dormant for nine years, with crumbling ceilings, peeling plaster, and, quite literally, rubble on the floor.
That's where Georgina Damm, of Melbourne events and catering company Damm Fine Food, comes in.
"The George Ballroom is a place people talk about with such fondness and passion, a bit like the Flinders Street Ballroom," she says.
"I was trying to work out how to get the keys to the door, so to speak. I sent some emails to the private investor who owned it; as it turned out, they had already undertaken some extensive restoration work and were open to the idea of re-opening it as an events space."
Damm has her own personal connection to the place. She snuck in as a teenager to see Nick Cave (there's even a Facebook page called I Got Drunk At The Crystal Ballroom).
"Back then it was pretty grungy: faded red velvet curtains and beer on the floor," Damm says, chuckling. "But when it first opened, it was very much a 'society' hangout, where wealthy people could go to dine and fashionable ladies to get married."
Damm and her team have restored the space to its former glory, retaining many of its famous features – ornate ceiling rosettes and stained-glass windows included.
It will now serve as a premium wedding, dining and event space, just as it did in its 1930s heyday.
"I'm a Melbourne girl and I love St Kilda," Damm says. "I think this ballroom reopening will bring new life back into the area. So many people have been to weddings, parties, or gigs here." During the restoration process, painters and plasterers were literally stripping back more than a century's worth of paint layers, a symbol of the venue's many lives.
"I guess that's the thing about the ballroom – that sense of history, " Damm says. "There's no view, as such; the room itself is the view."