The suburb was proclaimed on 5 October 1896, and is named after the land surveyor, Edward Harker Vincent Melvill. In the public sale notice, the suburb was described as "picturesque and healthy spot in the vicinity of Johannesburg with a magnificent view of the wooded country to the north with the blue Pretoria ranges stretching like lines of steel against the horizon."
The area, along with Parkhurst and Greenside is one of the few areas of the Northern Suburbs to have cafes, restaurants and shops lining the streets rather than in enclosed shopping centres. The majority of the restaurants are located along 7th Street, although there are a few new restaurants and nightclubs on Main Street, most well known are probably Roxy's and Catz Pyjamas. There are over 30 guest houses in the vicinity, and is a popular stopover in Johannesburg for tourists. On 7th Street, there are numerous restaurants and bars and the Street is a popular hang-out for the cosmopolitan crowd.
The popular soap opera, 7de Laan, uses views of 7th Street, Melville in its opening visuals.