The area was first settled in the late 1830s. The Boroondara Roads Board, the first municipal authority, was set up in the 1850s and covered a remarkably similar area to the present City of Boroondara. Boroondara is an aboriginal word reputed to mean place of shade. However, the Hawthorn Roads Board and the Kew Roads Board split from the rest of Boroondara in 1860. The HRB evolved into the Town of Hawthorn and the City of Hawthorn. The state government amalgamated the Cities of Camberwell, Hawthorn and Kew in 1994 to form the City of Boroondara.
Glenferrie Road, Hawthorn, is designated as one of 82 Major Activity Centres in the Melbourne 2030 Metropolitan Strategy. It's a major shopping strip, with two supermarkets, all major banks and many chain and specialty stores. There are also shopping centres at the corner of Burwood Road and Power Street, in Church Street, in Auburn Road (the western side of which is within the Hawthorn postcode, while the eastern side is in Hawthorn East), the corner of Glenferrie Road and Riversdale Road and the corner of Auburn Road and Riversdale Road.
Hawthorn is particularly noted for the number, range and quality of its restaurants, many of which reflect the strong ethnic diversity of the region. There are also many nightclubs and hotels in the suburb.
Although mainly noted as a residential region, there is some industry in the area, particularly in Burwood Road, between Power Street and Auburn Road.
Hawthorn is the home of Swinburne University of Technology, which offers university and TAFE courses.
The suburb is also the home of a number of private schools, such as Erasmus School of Primary Education, Saint Joseph's Primary School, Rossbourne School and Scotch College.
The area gives good geographical access to private schools in Camberwell, Malvern and Hawthorn East, including Alia College, De La Salle College and Bialik College, as well as those in Kew and Canterbury, such as Xavier College, Carey Baptist Grammar School, Methodist Ladies' College, Ruyton Girls' School, Genazzano FCJ College, Camberwell Grammar School, Camberwell Girls Grammar School and Trinity Grammar School.
The suburb also contains good state-run schools, such as Glenferrie Primary School, Hawthorn West Primary School and Auburn High School. The area also gives access to state schools in nearby Hawthorn East; Hawthorn Secondary College, Auburn Primary School and Auburn South Primary School. Just west of Hawthorn (in Richmond) is the Melbourne Girls' College.
Hawthorn is home to two gorgeous parks— Grace Park and Fairview park. The former is centrally located, and consists of a picture perfect oak-lined boulevard that runs through its centre. It also has a playground that your dogs will definitely delight in. Fairview park on the other hand, is a grassy space just off Riversdale Road. With its vast oval, this park is particularly popular with the four-legged community and you would be able to see balls being hurled across the field at any time of the day. It also consists of a river, making it the perfect spot for a casual stroll on a Sunday morning. Hawthorn, with its low crime rates, would also be ideal for people who often work late or prefer to take their dog for walks after sunset.
Hawthorn is serviced by three railway stations; Hawthorn, Glenferrie and Auburn. It is also served by tram routes 16, 48, 70, 72, 75 and 109.