Zetland is a largely industrial suburb with medium to high density residential areas. Zetland is part of the Green Square district which is currently undergoing gentrification. This involves an urban renewal project that is constructing modern retail, business and residential developments.
Zetland was named for Thomas Dundas, 2nd Earl of Zetland, who was a friend of Governor Sir Hercules Robinson. Zetland is an archaic spelling of Shetland.
Zetland originally featured a lagoon and swamp which was drained in the early 1900s to create the Victoria Park racecourse. It was bordered by O?Dea Avenue, South Dowling Street, Epsom Road and Joynton Avenue. The privately owned racecourse was closed after World War II and the land bought by the British Motor Corporation for a car plant. In 1974, Leyland Australia closed the car plant and the site was acquired by the Commonwealth of Australia for a Naval Stores depot which operated until the mid 1990s. The site was redeveloped into high density housing.
From 1902 a tram service operated through Zetland. The line initially ran via Chalmers and Redfern Streets and south along Elizabeth Street to Zetland via Elizabeth Street. In 1924, the line was extended to Epsom Road in Rosebery. In 1948, to facilitate construction of the Eastern Suburbs Railway, a new line was constructed down Elizabeth Street between Devonshire Street and Redfern Street and the route was deviated to run down this new section. The line was electrified double track throughout. The line was closed in 1957.