The leafy suburb that is Melbourne's answer to the Rorschach blot

Hawthorn is Melbourne's answer to the Rorschach blot. For some people, it evokes the Australian Rules football club and its Glenferrie Oval home ground.

For others, it's indelibly associated with Melbourne's private school belt. And in the minds of many, it stands for the heroic Victorian architecture that helps make it a member of Melbourne's two million dollar club.

Hawthorn was first gazetted in 1840, although back then it was spelled with a final "e". The name is believed to have one of two origins: either a remark from then-superintendent Charles LaTrobe that the native shrubs resembled flowering hawthorn bushes, or in honour of a Lieutenant Hawthorne of the Frigate Phantom or the Frigate Electra, which visited the port between 1852 and 1854.

The nomenclature remains shrouded in mystery but it's never been much of a secret that Hawthorn is a place where money puts down its roots. The gold rush of the 1880s saw the first expansion, when the exclusive St James precinct around Shakespeare Grove was developed.

Later came exclusive subdivisions such as the Grace Park Estate, based around Chrystobel and Linda crescents, where 33 homes were built in the ornate Queen Anne style (with turrets and Tudor-style woodwork) between 1908 and 1912. These days they command prices upwards of $3 million.

Like the Hawthorn Football Club, which won its most recent premiership in 2015 (let's not talk about its twelfth placing in the 2017 season), the wider suburb is going through a renaissance.

Once the home of glorious real estate but little to do after dark, the student culture of Swinburne University has helped quicken Hawthorn's pulse. So, too, have the industrial areas alongside the railway line which have become sought after spots for in-fill development.

High-spec apartments are attracting young adults who grew up in the area in those two-million-plus houses and are loath to leave in their pursuit of a place to call home.

It's very much a best-of-both-worlds scenario in an area where heritage values are keenly protected by Boroondara council.

Wander down Glenferrie and Burwood Roads on any weekend to hail the new Hawthorn: crowds spilling out of Axil Coffee Roasters, slurping ramen at trendy Hakata Gensuke and grabbing craft brews and burgers at Beer De Luxe.

The icing on the Hawthorn cake is the art house Lido Cinema, which opened two years ago in a building dating from the 1880s, complete with eight screens, a rooftop bar and choc tops from local artisan gelato maker Piccolina Gelateria.

This story The leafy suburb that is Melbourne's answer to the Rorschach blot first appeared on The Sydney Morning Herald.