Built in 1891-92, whey were originally known as the Viaduct Buildings, and were built in conjunction with the tracks of the Flinders Street Viaduct that run overhead. The vaults were originally used by produce agents and fruiterers to store their wares before market. These buildings were neglected and disused for many years and subsequently developed a sinister reputation in the 1970s and '80's. The vaults were used by homeless persons as shelter from Melbourne’s cold nights, and numerous attacks and murders occurred here. The area has since been renovated, and is considered one of the sites ripe for development in the central business district.
The TV series Canal Road is set at the Banana Alley Vaults. Canal Road is the fictional name for Banana Alley, which contradictory to the show is inaccessible by cars. The fictional Canal Road Centre is located within a shop space of the Banana Alley Vaults.