A significant victory has been achieved this week by Heritage supporters in the Melbourne suburb of Hawthorn. Currajong House, located on Auburn Rd in Hawthorn has been saved from demolition through the timely intervention of the Victorian Planning Minister, Mr Richard Wynne. In an odd set of circumstances Boroondara Council had approved a demolition permit on July 12th 2018.
However this same council had recommended the property for Heritage protection in its Hawthorn East Heritage Gap Study delivered April 12th this year, 2019. The report was designed to provide recommended amendments to the Boroondara Planning scheme (to apply permanent and interim heritage controls in line with the study to the planning scheme). Planning Minister Wynne approved the interim controls on April 12th.
It is becoming increasingly obvious that Melbourne’s fine heritage of Victorian era buildings is under real and continuing threat. Note that this intervention order from the Planning Minister is interim until the current interim heritage overlay is made permanent. Property owners with valid demolition orders could still demolish the said buildings if a pre-existing demolition permit existed predating the December 2018 Interim Heritage controls. This will now not occur, as the Minister Mr Wynne has intervened.
The Age article dated May 14th ‘Historic Hawthorn house saved from demolition after planning Minister steps in’ goes some way to explaining this rather unusual circumstance and sequence of events.
Historic Hawthorn house saved from demolition after planning minister steps in
Planning Minister Richard Wynne has intervened to save Currajong House in Hawthorn from demolition, accusing the local council of failing to protect the historic property.
More than 5000 people signed a change.org petition to save the 135-year-old home after Boroondara Council consented to its demolition in July last year.
“There has rightly been community concern about the demolition of this grand home, which we have listened to,” Mr Wynne said.
“We’ve stepped in to protect this historic property where the council has failed to – our heritage is our history and councils should protect it.”
Mr Wynne said the decision ensured Currajong House would not be demolished while Boroondara City Council undertook a further heritage assessment, which would then be reviewed by Heritage Victoria.
The council requested permanent and interim heritage controls for the Longford Estate Precinct, which includes Currajong House, last December.
Until Tuesday’s ministerial intervention, however, the owner of Currajong House at 337 Auburn Rd, Hawthorn, could have proceeded with the demolition because they had pre-existing approval to do so.
Mr Wynne’s decision – gazetted in the Victorian Government Gazette on May 14 – removes this exemption in the case of Currajong House.
The change.org petition asked for signatories to call on Mr Wynne to avoid the demolition of a stately home, which it said would be “replaced by more box like developments”.
It said the “heritage masterpiece” contained gracious period detail including “soaring ceilings, magnificent open fireplaces and superb return verandah”.
“Melbourne is home to some of Australia’s finest heritage architecture. Too much of this is being lost to developers,” the petition says.
“High-density living has its place and is being catered for in the inner regions already. This block does not need to be part of that.
The petition said limited car parking in this residential area was already an issue and likely to be worse with any development of this site other than as a single dwelling.
The proposal to introduce a permanent heritage overlay is on public exhibition. Submissions can be made until June 3.
There is no doubt this trend of developers targeting older inner-city properties on larger blocks will continue. Already we have seen the destruction of a number of older heritage period homes in both Kew and Armadale in the last year. It is worth noting that many current Heritage overlays were applied over 20 years ago (or more). This means many buildings of the late 19th Century and early 20th Century are now well over 100 years old, but are not protected. Realistically these properties are now most definitely worthy of Heritage consideration.
The Hawthorn property Currajong House was definitely saved by people effectively petitioning Government to effect change and update the Heritage listings of older properties on the Longford Estate precinct there. The reassessment must extend and become widespread through areas of the same vintage and era surrounding inner Melbourne.
Properties are constantly being listed that could be considered ‘at risk’. In Thursday’s Domain supplement, another Hawthorn property listed has been sold for over $3 million, the same price that Currajong House sold for several years ago. Currajong House however was intact with amenities, a beautiful home.
Zetland, described as an historic home and built in 1873 was in anything but good condition internally. Fortunately the young buyers here intend to restore the home. It however is part of a different ‘estate’ – the St James Park Estate.
Renovations will cost up to $7 million
Without the same interim heritage orders and perhaps with a different purchaser, the property could have easily been demolished.
Historic Hawthorn fixer upper sells for more than $3 million at private auction
It may be missing ceilings, skirting boards, cornices and other fixtures and fittings, but that didn’t put off the buyers of the historic Zetland mansion at 16 Yarra Street in Hawthorn.
The home, originally built in 1873, sold at a private auction on Tuesday night for an undisclosed amount somewhere between $3.4 million and $3.7 million.
Kay & Burton South Yarra selling agent Geoff Hall said four bidders fought it out for the home at the auction. The successful buyers were a young family who lived close by.
“They live around the corner,” Mr Hall said.
It was the first time the house had come onto the market in almost 20 years, with the home selling in 2001 for $1.22 million, public records show. The current owners decided to sell before major renovations were undertaken.
The buyers are planning to restore the home, which is listed on the heritage register, to its former glory. Estimates to fix the home have been given at somewhere about $1.5 million.
Zetland, a four-bedroom, two-bathroom home, has been a significant part of the Hawthorn landscape for almost 150 years.
The unique home on a 981-square-metre block was part of the originally larger St James Park Estate. It was designed by architect William J Ellis, who also responsible for the Fitzroy Town Hall.
It features original marble fireplaces, timber floors, stained glass in windows and door frames and even servant bells harking back to the stately manors of the late 1800s.
The home’s facade features a seven-arched, lacework front veranda, making it a significant example of Victorian architecture.
Before it went onto the market, the property had been styled using its “film noir”-like surrounds and artwork to set the scene.
Despite the historic home’s fixer-upper state, there had been a lot of interest in the lead-up to the auction.
“There was significant interest in it. We had 180 groups of people through before the auction,” Mr Hall said.
“We heard a lot of the same feedback and that was that the bones of the home are terrific but it needs a lot of work.”
It’s now appropriate to re-examine Heritage Listings and Heritage Overlays throughout inner Melbourne. It is effectively the province of the Victorian State Government’s Planning Department and its Minister to do so. Replacing graceful old homes on large inner suburban blocks with intensive townhouse and apartment developments is entirely inappropriate.
There should be no more 34 Armadale St or ‘Forres’ at 9-11 Edwards St Kew demolitions. Putting it in perspective, unscrupulous developers will purchase a property at $6.7 million, clear the block and offer the property at land value of $17.5 million – as was the case with Forres.
These beautiful buildings represent our history and our heritage. And as 5000 people who signed the Currajong petition agreed – it’s now time to fight for them. Once they’re gone, that’s it. And frankly our heritage is worth just a little more than another street full of crowded rental apartments. Let’s hope Currajong is just the first of many buildings to be saved and preserved for posterity. Melbourne deserves no less.