Experience and Expertise – Heritage Restoration with  Balance Architecture 

Completed restoration in Williamstown

With the holiday period upon us now is a great time to assess or re-assess your property that may have a Heritage Listing or be covered by a Heritage Overlay.

In Metropolitan Melbourne, in major Regional cities such as Bendigo, Ballarat and Geelong and in many rural areas, heritage listed properties and residences covered and bound by Heritage Overlays sometimes provide property owners with major dilemmas. 

Externally the reasons for the original nomination for heritage status are obvious. Stunning designs and early constructions, many featuring a level of artisan craftsmanship seldom found in today’s modern constructions.  Therein lies the dilemma – how best can such properties be restored and then provide the level of liveability and comfort expected today? Can a home that promises so much visually truly provide for modern living and the lifestyle choices of today?

Completed restoration in Albert Park

Each individual building is different in the most critical of areas, structural integrity. Over the last 170 years all heritage buildings and properties have been maintained, renovated, refreshed, restored and denigrated, not necessarily in that order, by previous owners. 

Some buildings have been faithfully maintained from day one, but this is the exception rather than the rule. Most heritage listed residences have suffered the indignity of what, at the time, where considered appropriate alterations, additions or part demolitions. 

Add to this the complications of old and inefficient drainage systems, plumbing and electricals. It can be as simple as storm water drainage being neglected and water lying beneath the attractive and restored Baltic pine floor boards, causing rising damp and associated mould. 

Solid plaster walls with many layers of paint, original timber flooring replaced with plywood and carpeted, and ornate features removed – Victorian iron lacework on verandas, decorative Victorian tiling, stained glass features – the list goes on.

The solution lies in planning. The first requisite is a full Architectural Report completed by a competent and experienced Heritage Architect. A Report that is entirely focussed on your individual property with a demonstrable understanding of what is required and what is permitted within the Heritage Guidelines for your property.

Structural integrity is the very first requirement – a thorough analysis of the current state of your property’s building or buildings – foundation, walls, ceilings and roofing. 

The second component is to address what your individual requirements may be and to determine feasibility and ensure both planning and heritage compliance offering a practical renovation plan to achieve comfortable and attractive liveability. 

The third component of the plan should be a practical restoration, where possible, of the innate heritage features.

From a full Report to Architectural Planning and Design should be a seamless process. With Balance Architecture it’s a process backed by many years of experience and success in genuine heritage restorations

Andrew Fedorowicz, Principal Architect at Balance Architecture is a fellow of the Australian Institute of Architects. Over many years Andrew has worked on a broad range of projects, and he is passionate about heritage in all its forms from simple miners or workers cottages through to grand mansions of yesteryear. He continues to thrive on unique projects, such as his latest major works, the reconstruction of the original ornate timber fernery built in the late 19thCentury at the Ballarat Botanical Gardens. It’s his eye for detail and a unique understanding of historic design and construction that sets Andrew apart. 

Redeveloping the heritage aspects of your property can not only be immensely satisfying it can also add significant value to your property when executed with real knowledge and skill. Call Andrew Fedorowicz now on 0418 341 443 and arrange for an individual consultation at your convenience. If you prefer, you can leave your details here for a prompt reply. 

Heritage restoration can be a rewarding and profitable experience when undertaken with guidance and genuine expertise. It’s a chance to avoid pitfalls and unnecessary rectifications and to create a living, yet comfortable, heritage gem complementing your lifestyle and your ultimate vision for your residence.

Balance Architecture – luxury, design and comfort.

Heritage Architecture – At It’s Very Best in Every Detail. 

The Woodlands Estate – Adjacent to Tullamarine Airport. Living History

From December 2017 we re-publish this rather interesting vignette on the early history of the area now occupied by the Tullamarine Airport and the adjacent property – Woodlands Estate. 

In the 19th Century and earlier the great woodlands plain of redgum eucaplypt trees and grasslands stretched northwards to the Great Dividing Range.  Small sections of the great woodlands plain still exists .The last vestige of its city presence at the time was North Park now known as Napier Park, situated in Strathmore on the corner of Napier Street and Woodlands Street which has a rich history all of its own (a subject for another day).

 Read on and discover the hidden story of Woodlands Estate now the home of “Living Legends” – a retirement agistment home for champion thoroughbred racehorses.

Tullamarine Airport and the hidden history of its location

For many people visiting Tullamarine Airport there is little or no knowledge of its former life or past. Last week when a guest’s plane was delayed, there was time for me to do a little ‘exploring’. Just north of the Airport is a viewing area on the Bulla-Sunbury Road to watch the planes land. Turning right just a few hundred metres down Oaklands Road there are turns to the left – Bulla Cemetery, and to the right – Woodlands Estate, or as it is now known – Living Legends.

The Bulla Cemetery has graves dating back to the early 1830s. It is one of the first in the colony. Resting in eternal peace, its sleeping deceased denizens lie beneath grand masonry as befitted their station in life. The fact that this cemetery lies directly below the North-South flightpath of the Tullamarine Airport, with a jet every minute during peak periods passing overhead, may well not have been the future vision of ‘eternal peace’ envisaged by its early planners back then in the 1830s.

Turn right back onto Bulla Road and travel through to Bulla, turn right at the last roundabout. The sturdy Shire Offices of the original Bulla Shire, built of bluestone in 1832, still stand on the corner, now flanked to the west and north by the Alister Clark Memorial Rose Garden.

 A visual and sensual delight in both Spring and Autumn, the Rose Garden features all 70 roses bred and named by Clark. Alister Clark was the first Chairman of the Moonee Valley Racing Club. The Melbourne and Victorian Aristocracy were also very much into ‘the hunt’ and the most prestigious ‘hunting’ location (hounds, horns and horses) was the nearby Oaklands Hunt Club. Alister Clark was its master from 1901 to 1908.

Alister Clark’s ‘ancestral home’ was located on Deep Creek and named Glenara. Clark bred all of his roses here as well as daffodils, including reportedly the world’s first pink daffodil.

All of the Alister Clark roses are stunningly beautiful with many named after womenfolk from the landed gentry of the times. More than likely Alister Clark met them through the Hunt or at the Racetrack, with many of these ladies being keen gardeners in their own right.

Head back to Oaklands Road, turn right instead of left this time and you enter Woodlands Estate, now the home of Living Legends, a retirement home for racehorses. There are many well known horses agisted here now, but the place is worthy of a visit purely for its history and its buildings.

Here is the history as per the Living Legends website:

Woodlands Homestead History


Woodlands Homestead, located at Woodlands Historic Park, is a unique and treasured part of Victoria’s heritage.

The Foundation of Woodlands 1843–1866

William Pomeroy Greene was born in Ireland in 1797. While in the Navy, he contracted fever in India and was advised to emigrate for his health. Emigrating from Ireland to seek a healthier climate, William Greene and Anne Greene (nee Griffiths) arrived at Port Phillip in the barque Sarah on 5 December 1842 with the seven children, a governess, the family butler, a carpenter and his family, two grooms, a guardsman, a gardener and five domestic staff. They also brought two thoroughbred horses, stud Durham cattle and a prefabricated wooden bungalow manufactured in London by Peter Thompson.

William Pomeroy Greene
Anne Green

The Greenes lived at South Yarra while William looked for land on which they could settle. As a former Royal Navy officer, he was entitled to a grant of one square mile (640 acres or 256 ha.), little of the new colony’s land was surveyed and available for sale at the time, but a site near Bulla met the Greenes’ requirements.woodlands_homestead_early

Woodlands Homestead

Carpenters erected temporary buildings for the household staff while the homestead was being established. The family moved to Woodlands, the name they had given the property, on 9 June 1843; although the house was not finished, it was quite livable.

The climate was much cooler than the Greene’s had expected, so the house was lined internally with bricks and fireplace installed to make it more comfortable and permanent. Within a few months a large paddock with a stockyard was fenced in. Crops, vines and fruit trees were soon planted and wells were sunk.

At Woodlands the Greenes were soon self-sufficient. ‘We had flocks and herds, our poultry of all kinds, we baked our own bread, made our own butter and cheese and had melons and other fruits in abundance’. By the end of 1844 the property is reported to have carried 1200 sheep and 180 cattle, including 90 milking cows.

In February 1845 a stable block which was also to serve as a coach house and shearing shed, was built, and extra wings and a verandah were added to the house. French windows in the front rooms opened on to the verandah; doors in the internal corridors led to a courtyard and garden in which magnolias and pomegranates were planted.

Rolf Boldrewood (author of Robbery Under Arms) often visited Woodlands during the 1840’s. He described it as: “The country house par excellence of the period. Neither a farm nor yet a large estate, it was something between the two, while the household and the ménage generally were much more in accordance with the habitudes of the English country-house life than often obtains in Australia.”woodlands_homestead_1860

Woodlands from the west about 1860. L-R: Sir William Stawell, Maid, Rawdon Greene, Anne Catherine Stawell (aged 2), Mrs. Anna Greene, Smith (butler). (Courtesy Miss D. Browne.)

After William Greene died of a chill suddenly on 5 March 1845, his wife Anne Greene carried on ownership and management of Woodlands with the help of her second son Rawdon.

The family lived the life of transplanted Anglo-Irish gentry, mixing with the ‘gentle folk’ of Port Phillip. Visitors included Lieutenant-Governor Charles La Trobe, and the rising young Irish lawyers, William Stawell and Redmond Barry. Mary Greene, William and Anne’s only daughter, married William Stawell (later Sir William, Chief Justice of Victoria) at Woodlands Homestead in 1856. Mary Lady Stawell (1830–1921) published her memoirs as ‘My Recollections’ in 1911, and they are an invaluable source of information on the early history of Woodlands Homestead.

The property’s long association with horse racing began at the time. Rawdon Greene established private race meetings and steeple chasing. He was a founding member of the Port Phillip Agricultural Society and the Victoria Turf Club in 1848, and of the Victorian Industrial Society in 1851, which ran model farms and aimed to improve the livestock. He conducted model ploughing exhibitions on the property.

Mrs. Greene died early in 1865. Rawdon Greene inherited the property but sold it in August to 1866 to Andrew Sutherland.

Changing Ownership: 1866–1889

Woodlands Homestead then had a succession of affluent and eminent owners, many leading figures in the history of Victoria.

Andrew Sutherland

Andrew Sutherland purchased Woodlands Homestead from Rawdon Greene in 1866 and lived there for six years. Little is known about Andrew Sutherland, a merchant of St Kilda, or his use of Woodlands.

Charles Brown Fisher


Charles Brown Fisher (1818-1908)

In 1873, Charles Brown Fisher (1818–1908) took out four mortgages on the property, acquiring the adjacent Maribyrnong stud at the same time. Racehorse owner and prominent South Australian grazier, he was the largest pastoral holder in Australia and one of the richest men.

A noted sportsman, Fisher had ridden at the first race meeting in Adelaide in 1838 and helped to organize the first steeplechase over four miles (6.4 km) of stiff country. In the 1850s he imported several thoroughbreds and after he moved to Melbourne in 1865 bought most of his brother Hurtle’s Maribyrnong stud in April 1866 and made his début racing under his own colours at the spring meeting of the Victoria Racing Club. He retired from the turf as an owner and sold his stud but continued to import blood sires. Well known at Flemington for his courtly manner and English dress, he was vice-president of the V.R.C.

It seems likely that Fisher lived at Woodlands, or on the adjacent Cumberland property, which with the nearby Oaklands he acquired during the 1870s. However, Fisher’s interests were focused on the Northern Territory. By 1885, Fisher was under considerable financial pressure. Bad seasons, falling wool prices and over-capitalisation forced Fisher into bankruptcy in 1895. His fate was a common one for many pastoralists during the 1890s.

Benjamin Josman Fink


Benjamin Fink (1847-1909)

In 1886 Woodlands was sold to a five-man company of politicians, land speculators and money-lenders. The key figures were Benjamin Fink and the well known Sir Thomas Bent (Premier of Victoria from 1904 to 1909). Both men were obsessed with acquiring land for further speculation and may have seen Woodlands as a place for future suburban development.

Benjamin Josman Fink (1847–1909) was a businessman, politician, land speculator and property developer. Amongst other deals in Melbourne, he bought Cole’s Book Arcade, built ‘The Block’, Melbourne’s leading shopping arcade of the day, and took over and rebuilt Georges Ltd. Among the hotels he bought, leased or controlled were the Ballarat Star, Albion, Saracen’s Head, Governor Arthur and Rose and Crown. When he was declared insolvent in 1892, large assets were in the name of his wife.

Thomas Bent


Sir Thomas Bent (1838-1909)

Sir Thomas Bent (1836–1909) was a politician and land speculator. He was a member of both Brighton and Moorabbin town councils, was Mayor of Brighton nine times and a liberal member of the state parliament.

In the 1880s, Bent speculated in land companies all over Melbourne, expending public money to underwrite expansion. He developed the suburb of Bentleigh, named after himself. He was Commissioner for Works and Railways in Sir Bryan O’Loghlen’s government in 1881–1883, and used this position to extend the railway line from Caulfield to Cheltenham, thus enormously increasing the value of his own property developments. The exposure of Bent’s corrupt dealings led to the defeat of O’Loghlen’s government at the 1883 elections.

In the 1890s, when many of his colleagues became insolvent in the severe crash that followed the property boom, Bent was almost bankrupted. He had transferred many of his assets to his wife’s name and this saved him from bankruptcy. He kept afloat by taking up dairy farming at Port Fairy.

Despite his reputation, Bent was chosen as the new Liberal leader in Victoria when Irvine quit to go into federal politics in 1904, and thus he became the 22nd Premier of Victoria at the age of 66. Australian born, Bent was the first Victorian Premier with a strong Australian accent.

In 1887, the leading Melbourne lawyer, William Henry Croker, bought into the company, becoming sole proprietor two years later in 1889.

Horses and Hounds: the Croker Era 1889–1917


Opening meet of the Oaklands Hunt Club at Woodlands, 17 May 1890. (Looking north) (Courtesy Oaklands Hunt Club.)

Under William Croker, a prominent maritime solicitor, Woodlands became a centre for Melbourne’s hunting fraternity. Croker was the foundation President of the nearby Oaklands Hunt Club. Meets and steeplechases often crossed the Woodlands Property and Mr. and Mrs. Croker entertained Club members to dinner after the events. William Croker was also prominent in the horse racing world and was one of the best known Victoria Racing Club stewards of the day.


William Henry Croker (second on left), at a meeting of the Victorian Racing Club Committee, November 1901.

The Crokers used Woodlands as a country house rather than as a permanent residence. From 1896 William Croker owned only 120 acres around the homestead. Croker purchased the ‘Altona Homestead’ in 1905.

Ben Chaffey and Champion Race Horses, 1917–1937


Ben Chaffey (1876-1937)

Woodlands was sold in September 1917 to Cowra Chaffey, wife of Benjamin (Ben) Chaffey (1876–1937). Canadian born, Benjamin Chaffey was the son of George Chaffey, the co-founder of Mildura.

As a noted pastoralist, member of the principal horse racing clubs and supporter of the Oaklands Hunt Club, Benjamin Chaffey maintained the traditions founded for Woodlands by the Greene’s. Ben Chaffey built up a vast pastoral empire, developing and working large tracks of the West darling River country in NSW. His sheep stud at Moorna was famous, and his properties at Manfred and Kilfera were some of the best-watered and improved in the NSW outback.

Extensive alterations were made to the Woodland Homestead house by 1919. The rook gables were extended to cover the verandah and its new granite pillars, and a new front entry porch and projecting picture window on the southern side were added. A tiled pathway and an aviary were built in the central courtyard, and the gardens surrounding the house were redesigned and planted with exotic species, watered from Moonee Ponds Creek by a new irrigation and sprinkler system.


Opening meet of the Oaklands Hunt Club at Woodlands Homestead, 1919.

Chaffey’s interest in elaborate watering systems stemmed from the irrigation settlements pioneered by his father (George Chaffey) and uncle (William Benjamin Chaffey) in the Murray basin. Besides making extensive alterations to Woodlands Homestead, he brought water to the property from the Moonee Ponds Creek through a system of dams, holding tanks and underground pipes.

At Woodlands, Chaffey indulged in his hobby of breeding thoroughbreds. As a young man he’d developed a fondness for the thoroughbred race horse, and later he had a great deal of success on the Turf. He owned horses from 1890 onwards, but probably the first important race which he won was the Adelaide Grand National Hurdle with Stagefright in 1920.

He owned another useful jumper in Percolator, and raced Rawdon with success before selling him to the late Mr. A. Miller, for whom he won the Grand National Hurdle Race.



In 1922 Whittier, owned by Chaffey, ran second in the Caulfield Guineas, and he followed that performance by winning the Caulfield Cup a week later. Whittier repeated his Caulfied Cup victory in 1925, and Manfred was successful in 1926. Whittier and Manfred were Victoria Derby winners in 1922 and 1925 respectively.

The V.R.C. St. Leger was won by Chaffey with Caserta in 1923, and Accarak won the Australian Cup in 1924. Ninbela won the V.R.C. Oaks Stakes in 1927, and a year later Burnaby won the Adelaide St. Leger.

Ben Chaffey was keenly interested in the conduct of racing and was a member of the Australian Club, plus many racing clubs. On the retirement of James Grice in 1930, Chaffey was elected chairman of the Victoria Amateur Turf Club. In the last few years his health declined, and he was not able to maintain a full interest in his own horses. He was the owner, however, of Aldershot, a promising two-year-old.

Chaffey died on 3 March 1937, deeply in debt. A run of bad seasons, the Depression and his sometimes erratic business behaviour were to blame. He was buried in the Bulla cemetery. His estate was broken up and Woodlands was once again on the market.

Woodlands in Obscurity: 1937–1978

Few physical changes were made by subsequent owners to Woodlands Homestead, which remained a rural retreat on the edge of the metropolis of Melbourne.

Charles Brown Kellow


Charles Brown Kellow (right) at the races

After Ben Chaffey died in 1937, Woodlands Homestead was acquired by Charles Brown Kellow (1871–1943), known throughout Australia as a sportsman, pastoralist and motor car distributor. He lived at Woodlands with his daughters Winifred and Hope, and under Winifred’s care, the southern part of the garden was rejuvenated.

Kellow won the Austral Wheel Race (the ‘Melbourne Cup’ of cycling) in 1896. His interest in cycle racing saw him take over the management of Lewis and Kellow, cycle importers and manufacturers in Swanston Street. His interests switched to motorcars, and he secured the agency of De Dion Bouton cars. He was a founder of Kellow, Falkiner P/L, distributors of Rolls-Royce, Bentley, Packard and Wolseley cars. In July 1928, Kellow purchased two airplanes at the International Exhibition in London. “I consider that flying will soon become as popular as motoring,” he said. “I shall use the machines for both business and pleasure, mainly for flying from city to my station.”

Kellow had extensive pastoral interests and hunted with Oaklands Hounds for some years. In partnership with J.B. McArthur, he raced Forfano, who won several steeplechases. Kellow won many important races, but the win he cherished most was that of Earlborn in Prince of Wales Cup at Flemington.


Heroic – Australian Racing Hall of Fame 2003

Heroic was the best horse owned by him. When Heroric was offered as a 3-year old, Kellow, who was a plucky buyer, startled the racing world by giving a then record 16,000 guineas for him. Heroic won the Champagne Stakes, Ascot Vale Stakes, AJC Derby, Caulfield Guineas, Newmarket Handicap, W.S. Cox Plate, and many other races. Heroic’s great record as a racehorse with 51 starts, 21 wins, 11 seconds and 4 thirds, was matched by his prowess as a sire: seven successive years as Australia’s leading sire. During his seasons at stud, Heroic sired 29 stakes-winners that had 110 stakes-wins between them. (See the entry for Heroic on Wikipedia and also Heroic’s Australian Racing Museum and Hall of Fame webpage.)


Hall Mark, son of Heroic and 1933 Melbourne Cup winner.

Kellow kept a few mares at Tarwyn Park Stud, and from them bred Hall Mark and Nuffield, each of whom had successful careers. Hall Mark, the son of Heroic was a staying professional. At three years old he won the 1933 Melbourne Cup with a split hoof defeating a good field. From 52 starts, Hall Mark had 18 wins, 16 seconds and 9 thirds. His main wins were in the Doncaster Handicap, AJC Derby, VRC Derby, Caulfield Stakes, Underwood Stakes (twice), AJC Champagne Stakes, AJC Sires’ Produce Stakes, Melbourne Cup, VRC St. Leger Stakes, C.B. Fisher Plate and Memsie Stakes.

Kellow’s plans to establish a horse stud at Woodlands were thwarted by his ill-health, and he sold the property to Frank McClelland Mitchell in 1939. (See the entry for Charles Brown Kellow in the Australian Dictionary of Biography.)

Frank McClelland Mitchell


Frank McClelland Mitchell (1872-1947)

Frank McClelland Mitchell (1872–1947) served for 53 years with Broken Hill Proprietary Co Ltd and was Company Secretary until his death in 1947. Mitchell also rented the rest of the Woodlands original acreage and the neighbouring Cumberland property until 1945. In 1945 Mitchell purchased the bulk of the original Woodlands property, and also Cumberland, which had been sold by William Croker in 1906. This increase of 1896 acres transformed the property from the small “country house” allotment, to approximately the area of the present Woodlands Historic Park. Mitchell’s main aim for the enlarged property was to build up a flock of quality wool producing sheep. Sheep were grazed on the property and shorn at nearby Cumberland.

After Mitchell died in 1947, his wife Violet continued to live at Woodlands until her death in 1958. Thereafter, the house, it’s outbuildings and the gardens deteriorated. For some years the property was leased for grazing and agriculture.

A small portion of the land was acquired by the Commonwealth Government in 1961 as part of the approaches to the Tullamarine Airport. This included land between Moonee Ponds Creek, Bulla Road and the site of St Mary’s Church which was moved in 1973 to its present location in Bulla.

The rest of the property remained in the Mitchell family until 1978 when it was compulsorily acquired by the Victorian Government as part of Gellibrand Hill Park.



Sunset over the Cumberland homestead ruins, Woodlands Historic Park.
Photo by Andrew Haysom.

In the 1960s the Shire of Bulla committed itself to the reservation of the Woodlands and adjacent Gellibrand Hill, and in 1972 proposed to the state government that the sites be purchased and developed as a metropolitan parkland. The National Parks Service and organisations involved in planning for the area north-west of Melbourne joined forces; a plan of Management for the proposed park was published in 1974.

Funds for the acquisition were provided by the Commonwealth and State governments and by the Shire of Bulla. Following lengthy negotiations, Woodlands was reserved under the National Parks Act in 1981.

Restoration of the homestead in 1983 and 1984 was funded by the National Estate grants program, Employment Initiatives Program, the Community Employment Program and Victoria’s 150th Anniversary Board, through the Shire of Bulla.

Living Legends: 2006–Today

Living Legends opened in 2006 with a lease of the Woodlands Homestead and 170 acres of cleared farmland from Parks Victoria. Today visitors can mingle with retired champion racehorses, “smell the roses” in the heritage gardens, walk, run, bike or climb in the surrounding Woodlands Historic Park, or enjoy a Devonshire Tea in the Woodlands Homestead. Restoration and enhancement of the interpretation displays continue. As a not for profit organisation Living Legends relies on donations and bequests to achieve these goals. Please give generously.

Historic Research

Research into the history of Woodlands Homestead, Cumberland homestead, Dundonald homestead and Woodlands Historic Park continues. We are eager to learn more about the property, especially its history since 1900. If you have any information or photographs, please contact Living Legends CEO, Dr Andrew Clarke.

Source: livinglegends.org.au

The ownership, the buildings, the position of the property all give lie to a different Melbourne; a different Victoria in comparison to that extreme location, the Melbourne Airport – voluminous noise, traffic coming and going on a grand scale.

Just over the hill to the north-east of Woodlands Estate lies another cemetery. A quiet place known only to few. Entrance is via Gellibrand Park at the rear of the Woodlands Estate. Turn left from Mickleham Road into Providence Road. About a kilometre in you have arrived. Here is Melbourne’s Indigenous Cemetery. It’s open, peaceful and well maintained. In it sits the silence and the life of 40,000 years of uninterrupted habitation. Many buried here are young. Life during the late 20th Century and early 21st has not been kind to our original inhabitants. But one thing when standing there becomes crystal clear. This was and is and always will be the land of the Woiworung people.

Dundonald Ruins – Gellibrand Hill

Balance Architecture recognises the importance of the preservation of Historical Architecture. We specialise in the renovation and restoration of Heritage Buildings.

A Very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year to all our clients and friends – from Balance Architecture

This year has been challenging and it would be true to say that all of us have learnt to live a little differently under the spectre of the pandemic. Make the time to make this Christmas and New Year with family and friends a very special time.  Good food, good wine and real comfort – it’s a time of sharing, love and kindness.

We wish all our clients, friends and followers a very special Christmas and New Year. Enjoy! 

From Andrew and Amanda Fedorowicz – Balance Architecture 

Heritage The Battle Continues. A Victory For The People? Maybe

Melbourne House, Little Bourke Street, Melbourne.

The CBD has long been the epicentre of the Heritage battle of Melbourne. The City of Melbourne has recognised this and now has over 13,000 properties covered by Heritage Overlays. The Council’s recent crackdown on ‘facadism’ has seen some of the excesses of the past reduced. In this case described within the article below, the original building remains but it becomes part of a much larger building. There are many who believe that the Council’s determination doesn’t go far enough and treasured older buildings are still being removed or substantially re-developed in an inappropriate manner There doesn’t seem to be a sense of the ‘character’ of Melbourne that is being consistently adhered to. 

Here is the article from The Age newspaper examining this most recent ‘victory for the people’ for your consideration. The real question might be whether or not this just might be a clever version of ‘facadism’. 

Victory for people power’: CBD site saved from demolition as developer plans $34m ‘top-up’ tower

By Cara Waters

December 7, 2021 — 4.57pm

Outcry from residents and activists means plans to knock down a century-old building in the heart of Melbourne’s Hardware Lane district and replace it with a 23-storey hotel have been abandoned.

Melbourne House at 360 Little Bourke Street has been saved from demolition following a campaign over several years, but residents are concerned heritage protections in the CBD do not go far enough.

Resident Mark Baker in front of Melbourne House, which has been saved from demolition. CREDIT:SIMON SCHLUTER

In 2018 the City of Melbourne gave Singapore-based developer Roxy Pacific the green light to tear down the building, which did not have heritage protection, and replace it with a 308-room hotel.

However, Roxy Pacific has shelved those plans and will instead undertake a $34 million redevelopment and refurbishment of the building for retail and office use.

The development will retain Melbourne House’s six-storey facade and add an eight-storey extension on top, which will be set back from the street.

The City of Melbourne has approved the new plans, with construction expected to start in the next three years.

Images Source: Bates Smart

The Hoddle Grid Heritage Review in 2011 described Melbourne House, built in 1923, as a site of “aesthetic significance” and a “good example of boom-period capital-zone warehouse distinguished by its unusual and particularly flamboyant facade and its early use of the Queen Anne revival style”.

The reprieve for Melbourne House follows the bulldozing of the 1920s Melbourne Theosophical Society building on Russell Street earlier this year and the tearing down of the Tramways Board building and the former National Mutual building in the CBD.

Deputy lord mayor Nicholas Reece said the council was pleased Melbourne House could be saved.

“This is a win for people power and the inner-city locals who have campaigned for the retention of this building for many years,” he said.

“It was heartbreaking that it was scheduled to be demolished due to lack of protections. This new proposal will retain much of the interwar building with its Manhattan-style facade, which is a great contributor to the character and identity [of] the CBD.”

Rather than “facadism” – in which the building is gutted, leaving just the front like a stage set – the planned redevelopment is known as a “top-up”, retaining much of the original building and adding additional storeys.

Mark Baker has lived in the street for more than two decades and said the building and proposed development were significant for Melbourne.

“We are certainly pleased that Melbourne House is being saved, that it is not being demolished, that the facade will remain, because it is an important building,” he said. “It should always have been protected. There was a screw-up in the process around the heritage overlay for that area.” 

However, Mr Baker said residents and traders had been left in the dark about the amended plans, with council not consulting them.

“This is a disgraceful situation because there’s been no consultation, no notification of surrounding property owners, including our building,” he said. “Our owners’ corporation has not been advised of any decision or been given any opportunity to review or to respond at this point.”

Mr Baker said it was good news the building would not be demolished, “but it’s happened by accident, not by design”.

“Hardware Lane precinct is one of the most important historic heritage areas of the City of Melbourne and the planning decisions in relation to it have been an abomination over the years,” he said.

“The council rides on the back of the laneway culture of Melbourne but does nothing at the end of the day to really protect what is a priceless part of our city and the fabric of our city.”

Heritage Victoria executive director Steven Avery said the City of Melbourne had almost 13,000 properties on its heritage overlay requiring a planning permit from council to make a change.

“The City of Melbourne has been a diligent partner in protecting our state’s heritage,” he said. “Melbourne is one of the more proactive councils in protecting their local heritage – commissioning timely heritage reviews and keeping their heritage overlay up to date.”

For all enquiries regarding Heritage Architecture – submissions, planning, reports and residential design concepts please contact Andrew Fedorowicz (F.D.I.A.) on 0418 341 443 for a free no-obligation consultation or, alternatively, please leave your details here for a prompt reply. 

Purchasing Within a Heritage Overlay? What Are the Implications For You The Homeowner?

When the term ‘Heritage Overlay’ is mentioned pre-sale many prospective buyers turn away, some of the truly savvy investors however do not. There is real opportunity in such a purchase. To some extent the overlay area is protected from development and, as such, if you own a property within the overlay it generally only appreciates in value. Compound this with the chance to re-create a piece of living history and enjoy an amazing lifestyle for you and your family. 

Let’s take a look at some real life examples:

Recently in Bank Street, South Melbourne a Victorian terrace house built in 1858 was sold for a reputedly $2.7M. Until recently the occupant, an elderly widow, had lived there now for nearly sixty years. In the early 1970’s the property was purchased by her and her late husband and he proceeded to render it into a liveable state. Prior to their purchase the stately two storey terrace was uninhabitable and facing a possible demolition order. Peter Downey was an ex-Merchant Seaman from Scotland. He and his wife Maureen emigrated from the UK in the 1960’s as ‘ten pound poms’. The original building itself was structurally sound with a period style slate roof in poor repair, floor boards ripped up or rotting, an original staircase and a miniscule bathroom upstairs. 

With a young family, the Downey’s first consideration was to establish a liveable family home. During the 1970’s there were no Heritage guidelines so a section was constructed to the rear of the original building comprising of a kitchen, meals area, laundry and a small bathroom/toilet. Peter rebuilt the fences, constructed a garage at the rear and removed the old outdoor brick ‘dunny’. He repainted and replastered inside as he saw fit.

The family home is now covered by a Heritage overlay with relatively strict requirements the new owners will be required to abide by. Sensibly, the first action they have envisaged and planned is to commission a full Heritage Architectural Report. In doing so they will ensure for themselves an understanding of the mandatory requirements of the Heritage overlay and what exactly they can and cannot do. 

Two years ago just up the street from this home a beautiful two-storey bluestone property sold for about $2.3M. Smaller and more compact, this property had undergone a series of inappropriate renovations. When it was first built it the 1850’s it  was purposed with the buildings adjoining it as South Melbourne’s first ‘School for Young Ladies’. In 1921 a third of the original building was demolished and a small Victorian style single storey terrace was constructed in its place. The building being discussed features a regular and well cut blue stone frontage pointed in an early stretchy bond pattern. The side wall is more rustic and in need of attention. Internally since 1998 the property has endured three renovations by three separate owners. Unfortunately none of them were anything more than cosmetic. The result? The current owner has been forced to undertake very expensive repairs. Buildings constructed in the early 1850’s are not designed to accommodate under-funded cosmetic renovations. The bathroom leaked very badly, the carpets were poorly laid and had to be removed and there are structural issues yet to be addressed. The current owner stated that she wishes she had availed herself of a properly qualified Heritage Architect prior to purchasing the property or, at least immediately after.

So-called renovations can have multiple disastrous and expensive repercussions years down the track from when they were first carried out. It’s not only sensible from a design perspective, financially it is imperative to obtain expert advice from a qualified Heritage Architect. Builders will often attempt to carry out remedial works in many instances but with a Heritage overlay these works must first be approved at local council level on the basis of both Heritage requirements and structural integrity.

Chadwick House, Eaglemont – interior

Call Balance Architects on 0418 341 443 and speak with Principal Heritage Architect Andrew Fedorowicz with regard to your property and your plans. Arrange for a professional assessment and Heritage Report on your property with a view to creating a liveable, comfortable home yet ensuring the Heritage status of your property is both recognised, respected and restored.

Andrew is a Fellow of the Australian Institute of Architects with a genuine passion for Heritage preservation and refurbishment with many years’ experience. For a prompt response you can also leave your details here. Planning will ensure you are not confronted with major expense and insurmountable problems in the future. Owing a Heritage property in itself is a significant asset. Enhancing and restoring it can only add value to your investment. And the starting point is always a Heritage Report from a competent professional.

Heritage Architecture – The Pathway from The Past to a Better Future. 

Bulla’s hidden Secret – The Home of Alister Clark. The Rose Garden of Early Melbourne

To the north west of Melbourne lies our international airport – Tullamarine. A fairly innocuous place, it’s all bustle and movement – a far cry from its original settlement very early in the nineteenth century. We re-publish this lengthy article  originally posted on our News Site in December 2017. Glenara is off the beaten track but remains a total delight.

Glenara Estate – The Clark family’s home for over 100 years

To find Glenara Estate is no mean feat. It is now a private residence siting on a prominent escarpment overlooking Deep Creek just outside the small township of Bulla – about 10km past the Tullamarine Airport.

Glenara was the home of Walter Clarke, pastoralist, who built up his estate to be over 4079 acres by the time of his death in 1873.

Walter was passionate about gardening. Upon his death the property appears to have been sub-divided. Alister Clark the famous Rosarian (Rose breeder) and Thoroughbred Race Horse aficionado managed to purchase the original homestead block at Glenara in 1887 and moved there in 1892, remaining there for his entire life. When his father died Alister was but 9 years old so it was no mean feat for him to return and purchase the original property.

Here then is the Statement of Significance from the Victorian Heritage Register:

GLENARAVictorian Heritage Database Report


Statement of Significance

What is significant?

Glenara, Bulla was settled by pastoralist Walter Clark in 1857. Originally purchasing 485 acres to the north-west of Melbourne, Clark built his estate up to 4079 acres before his death in 1873. In 1887 the homestead block of about 830 acres was purchased by his son, Alister Clark, one of Australia’s best known horticulturalists and rosarians, and the garden became the site for the breeding of many plant species for more than sixty years. At his death in 1949 the estate covered 1035 acres.

Walter Clark arrived in Sydney from Scotland in 1837, and lived in the Riverina region of N.S.W. before purchasing a dramatic site on Deep Creek, near Melbourne, in 1857. He immediately planted vineyards on this new property, Glenara, and tenders were called by architects Purchas and Swyer for the construction of a house. Walter Clark’s interest in gardening saw the architects also supervising the design of the landscape surrounding the house. Early garden features included a terrace to the west of the homestead with stone steps and urns and a sundial. Extensive paths were constructed to the south of the house and pathways were formed amongst, and steps cut into, rocky outcrops.

The dramatic siting, on a high promontory above large, rocky outcrops along Deep Creek, and early plantings and landscape features, were recorded in a photograph by Nettleton in c 1864 and in a painting by Eugene von Guerard in 1867. By 1868 Glenara’s picturesque beauty was described as unsurpassed in Australia in the Guide for Excursionists from Melbourne.

In 1872 architect Evander McIver called tenders for the erection of a bluestone tower at Glenara, which was constructed on a hill to the south of the homestead. A rustic bridge leading to this tower was also constructed.Walter Clark died in 1873 and his son Alister, born in 1864, finally purchased the homestead block at Glenara in 1887. He settled there permanently in 1892. A series of managers and lessees had been responsible for the property, however the house and the form of the garden had been retained. A billiard room was added to the eastern end of the homestead in 1895 and Alister began to assemble an extensive range of plants in the garden. His greatest interest was the breeding of roses and daffodils and he introduced many species to the garden at Glenara before his death in 1949.

The Glenara homestead is a large single storey Italianate house of rendered stone and brick, with hipped slate roofs and eaves supported on paired brackets. An encircling verandah has open work timber posts and lintels. The west end features an Italianate terrace with classical balustrade and urns, flanked by staircases at either side leading to an elaborate path system. Double doors, which lead to this terrace from the polygonal bay of the drawing room, are framed by heavy cornices supported on large consoles. The 1895 billiard room, which is designed to match the earlier building, contains a large glass skylight with transfer design, timber dado and coved ceiling, stained glass windows and polygonal bay with French doors and stained glass toplights.The property contains a number of early buildings, including an octagonal, timber building, evident in von Guerard’s painting, and a gatekeeper’s lodge and winery of rendered brick and coursed rubble bluestone, possibly c1870s.

How is it significant?

Glenara, Bulla is of historical, architectural and aesthetic significance to the State of Victoria.

Glenara, Bulla is of historical significance for its long associations with the Clark family and the pastoral industry. It is of particular historical significance for its associations with Alister Clark, one of Australia’s best known horticulturalists and rosarians.

Glenara, Bulla is of architectural significance as a representative example of a substantially intact 1850s Italianate homestead. The surviving outbuildings on the property, including the pre-1867 octagonal building, the gatekeeper’s house and the winery are also of architectural significance.

Glenara, Bulla is of aesthetic significance for its rare picturesque qualities which result from the relationship between the homestead, garden and dramatic landscape setting. The retention of indigenous trees and exposed rocks contribute to this quality. The early recording of the property, by Eugene von Guerard in 1857-8, is also of note.

Glenara, Bulla is of aesthetic significance as one of the earliest surviving domestic gardens in Victoria. It conforms to its original pattern and retains an elaborate path system, Italianate terrace, sundial, gates, bridge and bluestone tower from the nineteenth century. The latter is of particular significance as a rare, true garden folly in Victoria. The garden retains trees and plantings from the mid-nineteenth to early twentieth century.

Glenara, Bulla is of aesthetic significance as one of the earliest surviving domestic gardens in Victoria. It conforms to its original pattern and retains an elaborate path system, Italianate terrace, sundial, gates, bridge and bluestone tower from the nineteenth century. The latter is of particular significance as a rare, true garden folly in Victoria. The garden retains trees and plantings from the mid-nineteenth to early twentieth century.

Glenara, Bulla is of scientific (horticultural) as the site of Alister Clark’s extensive plant breeding programmes in the early twentieth century. The garden retains a large number of his plants, including daffodils and mature specimens of many roses.

Source: heritagecouncil.vic.gov.au

Alister Clark was a prolific and successful breeder of roses and also Daffodils. What a delightful legacy to leave the world – a wealth of beautiful flowers and rich scents.

Balance Architecture – Specialists in Heritage Architecture.

Heritage – It Matters. Preserve It. 

A Heritage Home Deserves A Heritage Restoration. Call Balance Architecture Now For A Free No-Obligation Consultation At Your Convenience.Metro and Regional

With Real Estate sales booming in both Metropolitan Melbourne and regional Victoria many homes and properties that are either Heritage Listed or covered by Heritage Overlays are rapidly changing hands. To ensure you, as the property owner, is fully informed and well advised in terms of both restoration and adding additions or extensions to your new property it would be both prudent and wise to engage a qualified Heritage Architect. Andrew Fedorowicz of Balance Architecture is such a professional with many years’ experience and has a multitude of such residential Heritage Projects completed to the absolute satisfaction of the Home Owners involved. 

The Dilemma 

Inner Melbourne used to be considered a 10 kilometre radius from the CBD but more recently this has now expanded to include properties within a 25 kilometre radius. Sadly, the situation sees a competition between ‘Developers’ and those who genuinely appreciate the beauty of Heritage Architecture. 

Many of these older homes in median suburbs such as Camberwell, Kew, Malvern, Elsternwick, Brighton, Essendon, Moonee Ponds – the list goes on –  are well and truly under threat.  Larger blocks, older homes built from the turn of the 20th century until the 1930’s are now under threat. Developers see open space (front yards, back yards and gardens) as a premium construction opportunity. The very idea of preservation is counter productive to their interests. 

As a consequence, it’s not unusual to see delightful Edwardian residences, often with slate roofing and terracotta gargoyles left to the elements. A famous example is the property on the corner of Denmark Street and Barkers Road, Kew. A lovely old Edwardian, the slate roof is now holed and the place surrounded by security fencing. 

Restoration the Smarter Alternative

Think of what the alternative might be.  Restore the building to its original external structure.  The six sided box – walls, floors and ceilings.  Assess the foundations, the chimneys, verandas, windows and doors. Commission a proper Heritage Architectural Report. 

Considering land value is it not just as sensible to restore such a property to a comfortable living condition?  Add extensions and reconfigure the internal spaces, perhaps a pool and walled garden to the rear.

In ten year’s time the property value would be three to four times your initial investment – if you utilised a qualified Heritage Architect and plan an effective restoration and makeover.

Where a property is not Heritage Listed or part of a Heritage Overlay, neglect is the Developer’s friend “Oh it’s too far gone”.  This is where Councils, local governments, must lift their game. It’s time to allocate decent resources to ensuring Heritage Overlays are kept up to date and provide genuine protection for older, more gracious homes. 

The issue is that very liveable homes in good condition of up to 120 years in age are being demolished. Quite simply Real Estate Agents are pitching to Developers, not residential buyers “suitable for development”.  Why?  Money! It’s an easy sale and in many areas, land for development is currently at a premium – no matter what building may be standing on the property now. 

For a full Heritage Report followed by a complete Heritage Restoration and Design package, call now on 0418 341 443 to speak with Heritage Architect, Andrew Fedorowicz ( Fellow of the Australian Institute of Architects). Andrew offers experience, expertise and a passion for Heritage restoration.  Alternatively, leave your details here for a prompt reply. Consultations are obligation free with no initial fees being charged. 

It’s a gracious alternative, one that is slower to realise a profit, but one that offers dignity and an acknowledgement of beauty and craftsmanship of the past and a splendid place for you and your family to live and thrive. 

Balance Architecture – Specialists in Heritage Architecture.

Heritage – It Matters. Preserve It.  

Modernist Architecture Bayside

In Melbourne Beaumaris is recognised as the epicentre of Modernist Architecture with many homes built by the Modernist ‘School’ of Architects, both for themselves and their admiring clients. The modernist homes created and constructed were all about space, light and comfort – a major departure from the box like structures of pre-war Melbourne. Large, open span ceilings, courtyards and featured living areas make these properties as desirable today as they were back in the 1950s and 60s. 

This week we feature, courtesy of the Herald Sun Property Section, a wonderfully restored example of the genre with tasteful additions complementing the original construction:

Robin Boyd: Modernist dream home one of Beaumaris’ best

This restored Robin Boyd mid-century masterpiece has kept all its 1950s features, including what could be the famed architect’s first “window wall”.

Christina Karras

November 4, 2021 – 12:30PM Herald Sun

Awaiting its Third Owner

A fun orange door welcomes you to the home.

Modernist fans have the chance to become just the third custodian of one of the “most significant” mid-century masterpieces in Beaumaris.

Renowned architect Robin Boyd designed the 1950s Browne House. It has retained distinctive features, including what could be the first of Boyd’s famous “window walls”.

Hodges Beaumaris director Michael Cooney said he matched the vendors with the property when the original owners were looking for a buyer in 2007, ensuring it would not be demolished.

A sprawling open-plan living space.
The famous window wall.
The main bedroom occupies the old studio in the original part of the house.

There is a real movement to protect these sorts of homes in the area,” Mr Cooney said.

“I knew of the home so I helped (the vendors) into it, and they’ve completely restored it and renovated it.

“When they bought it, it was in fairly original condition, so they had to do a lot of repairs to update it. Painting, carpets, the kitchen and the boards have all been re-done but the actual structure has hardly changed.”

Modern bathroom.

Now, the four-bedroom pad at 86 Dalgetty Rd is on the market again with $2.3m-$2.5m price hopes.

Mr Cooney said the sellers had added a “very sympathetic extension” with two bedrooms and a bathroom hidden at the rear of the home. The family also installed an in-ground trampoline for their kids in the backyard.

Never be without natural light.
Primed for post-lockdown dinner parties.

A striking orange door awaits at the entrance, with the updated open-plan living, kitchen and meals area a few steps away, enhanced by the standout window wall.

Mr Cooney said the impressive facade made of windows was designed to bring in the sunshine all year ‘round.

“But in summer, you can open the windows and doors to the let sea breeze come through,” he said.

“There’s something for each season and also for your mood – there’s inside or outside, and formal or informal.” 

“Everyone who comes through the home says how relaxed you feel inside.”

Multiple living areas ensure everyone has their own space.

An in-ground trampoline adds to the family package.

The house features in the Beaumaris Modern: Modernist Homes in Beaumaris book, named as one of Boyd’s most iconic and significant designs.

“We opened it for the first time on Saturday and we had buyers coming and we had other admirers who have Boyd homes too,” Mr Cooney added.

A “peacefully positioned” main bedroom filled with natural light and a coveted location within the Beaumaris Secondary College zone are additional drawcards.

Warm up by the fire.

An in-ground trampoline adds to the family package.

The house features in the Beaumaris Modern: Modernist Homes in Beaumaris book, named as one of Boyd’s most iconic and significant designs.

“We opened it for the first time on Saturday and we had buyers coming and we had other admirers who have Boyd homes too,” Mr Cooney added.

A “peacefully positioned” main bedroom filled with natural light and a coveted location within the Beaumaris Secondary College zone are additional drawcards.

An in-ground trampoline adds to the family package.

It is a joy to just walk through such a property and admire the delightful use of space – light, airy and designed for living. In the Bayside area there are many of these gems and unfortunately, with large, expansive blocks, often with seaside vistas, they are coveted and targeted by developers.

Bayside Council has been very slow in offering any form of Heritage protection to these magnificent properties, with very few being submitted to the Council for Heritage Listing or consideration. 

For assistance with Heritage Status, restoration and achieving comfortable liveability with Modernist properties in the Bayside area, please contact Andrew Fedorowicz, Heritage Architect and Fellow of the Australian Institute of Architects for a free, no-obligation consultation on 0418 341 443, or alternatively, leave your details here for a prompt reply and scheduled meeting.

Balance Architecture, Heritage Architecture At Its Very Best. In Every Detail. 

Heritage – From Programmed Neglect to the Best House in the Street

There are some strange concepts floating around when it comes to property covered by a Heritage Listing or Overlay. Real Estate Agents are often touchy about such properties, only speaking of the limitations – a rather negative approach. Given the right planning, design and heritage restoration such properties can provide exceptional returns not to mention being a joy to live in.

The first step? Engage a qualified and experienced Architect. Principal Architect at Balance Architecture, Andrew Fedorowicz, is such an Architect, with a passion for heritage architecture and restoration. Andrew is a Fellow of the Australian Institute of Architects and has developed, managed and/or supervised a wide range of architectural projects over many years.

The key to restoration is to have a solid understanding of the original construction, the materials utilised and the design of the construction and its ultimate intent. For example, Victorian terraces often depend upon internal structural walls for the overall integrity of the building. In inner Melbourne many of the older terraces depend upon the adjoining building for structural strength. South of the Yarra River many of the older homes were constructed using blue stone lintels for foundations. Placed on sandy soils these often shift over time resulting in cracking and fissures. This is the base point of any renovation.

Then there are the cosmetic additions that provided character and beauty from ornate iron work, intricate patterned tiling, stainless glass feature windows, to tall masonry columns and pillars and wide verandas with curved iron roofing. Internally there were high ceilings with elaborate plaster mouldings, ornate light fittings and carved timber architraves and features. Gardens often had fountains with extensive beds of perennials in formal patterns with hedges and topiary. 

So what happened? Areas like South Melbourne, Albert Park, Carlton and Clifton Hill give up the story readily. Post-war migration saw Europeans from the Mediterranean settling in these areas, buying up what the ‘Australians’ of the time saw as slums. Of course, those buying often wanted to ‘modernise’ and often removed the features and artisanship of previous generations from terracotta tiling and verandahs to gargoyles and slate roofing to ornate iron work and Victorian tiling – down it came, ripped up and replaced with concrete and terrazzo. 

Over the last 40 years many of these gorgeous old homes have been restored. Look to St. Vincent’s Place in Albert Park or Drummond Street in Carlton. The result? Some of the highest priced real estate in Victoria. Now it is the homes further out that are at risk – not from under-capitalised migrants but from fully capitalised developers. Homes in Armidale, Hawthorn, Kew, Brighton and Essendon that would otherwise provide a pallet to create grand restorations are disappearing at a rate of knots under the developers’ wrecking ball. 

But what if you can invest capital in a full restoration with tasteful and acceptable extensions that complement heritage? Look to those suburbs such as Albert Park mentioned earlier. In an auction earlier this year a fully restored home in Albert Park sold for $9.9M on zoom! The developer’s story simply doesn’t always ring true. Living in a heritage home can be magnificent. High ceilings, light and airy – it really depends on just how you go about restoring. 

Start the process now – call Andrew Fedorowicz on 0418 341 443 and schedule a no-obligation, free consultation at your convenience. Or, if you prefer, simply leave your details here for a prompt reply. 

Make the very best of your superb home, your heritage property. It’s time that you transformed it into the ‘jewel in the crown’ of your street, your neighborhood. Return it to its former glory, yet enjoy the advantages of space and modern living. Best of all be sure of a genuine return on your investment. 

Balance Architecture, Heritage Architecture At Its Very Best. In Every Detail. 

Bendigo – the Beating Regional Heart of Heritage Victoria – Fortuna Villa

Balance Architecture has been accorded the undoubted pleasure of working on a number of Heritage projects in the Bendigo area. Located in Maldon, the Balance team have a strong affinity with and an understanding of the Bendigo region and its many magnificent Heritage listed buildings. This week for your reading and viewing pleasure we revisit one of the most interesting properties in the Bendigo region – Fortuna Villa. Gold built Bendigo and, to some extent, continues to do so. Gold most definitely built Fortuna Villa and its former owner, George Lansell, knew fabulous wealth because of it. Read on and enjoy our article from 2018: 

Gold – that beautiful precious metal – is what Bendigo is built upon. This week we look at one of Bendigo’s most famous Mansions – Fortuna Villa, a building of over 40 rooms. Its original owner was George Lansell, a very successful mining investor. George invested in deep mining of Quartz reefs. He went deeper than anyone had before him and his reward was fabulous wealth. His home was full of exotica from all over the planet – his garden too was filled with rare and exotic plants from mystical and secret places, most of which are now long gone.

George Lansell was born in 1823 in Kent, England. As a young man, George and his two brothers emigrated to Echunga in South Australia to ‘pan for Gold’. The Lansells were soap and candle makers by trade. By late in 1853 George Lansell and his brothers Wooten and William had moved to Bendigo and set up their business as butchers, soap and candle manufacturers. By 1855 Stockbrokers were visiting George and encouraging him to invest n deep shaft mining. By 1860 he had invested, lost and reinvested a number of times. He was learning what was required to be successful at this type of mining. By 1865 – a bad year for mining in Bendigo – Lansell took advantage of the tough times and bought up many shares in the Advance Mining Company and Cinderella Mine. He insisted that the miners go deeper than ever before and from then on he and his companies reaped massive rewards. By the 1870s he had accumulated a large fortune from the Garden Gully Mine and he then purchased the 180 mine. Although he was initially always on the edge of financial ruin, his methods paid off and he became a Millionaire, a philanthropist and returned to London. He was petitioned by the Bendigo Mining industry to return and in the late 1880s he did return. George continued to build onto the house Fortuna he purchased in 1871. He collected furniture, sculptures and art from around the globe. Outside he designed a spacious estate featuring walks, lakes and imported plants and flora. He died in 1906 with his second wife surviving him until 1933. His mansion was in fact directly opposite his prosperous Fortuna Mine.

His second wife Edith and their six children lived there, she remained there until her death. He commenced his lavish building program immediately after he purchased the property in 1871.

Generally described as ‘over the top’, it was opulent and went far beyond being utilitarian. Drapes covered faux windows, mantle pieces appeared from nowhere. The impression was one of immense wealth – and power.

George Lansell enjoyed the beauty of classical Europe and the Orient and the ‘villa’ very much reflected his personal style and tastes.

The house came close to being demolished after the death of his second wife Edith Lansell. Edith had continued to add to the house and its contents up until her death. One of the interlinked mining companies sold off the contents of the house with much of the collection saved. Many of the items have been displayed in the Post Office Gallery in Bendigo and the Bendigo Art Gallery.

By 1942 it had been acquired by the Federal Government Department of Defence and used as a Map Making facility during WWII and remained in the hands of the Defence Department until 2008.

It is now in the hands of a private owner who permits regular tours and public access after 65 years of being closed.

According to the Heritage Council of Victoria, Fortuna Villa’s description is as follows:

“The Villa is a rambling three storey asymmetrical rendered brick mansion, in a variety of styles , predominantly French Second Empire and Queen Anne”, reflecting the various periods of construction. Cast Iron Balconies decorate the North, East and West elevations. The original house, purchased in 1971, is encompassed in the centre of the present house and is much altered. Originally it was designed in 1857 and extended to the further designs of Bendigo Architects Vahland and Getzschmann, Emil Mauermann and William Beebe.

By the early Twentieth Century, Lansell had expanded the house to over 40 rooms, one of the largest in Victoria. Lansell transformed the industrial site of settling ponds and tailings dumps into spacious gardens and ornamental lakes, extravagant fountains and follies, with pathways and exotic plantings.

The estate is actually located atop of the rich New Chum reef.

The house has been stripped of its original furnishings but still retains magnificent lead light and etched glass windows, with plaster and pressed metal ceilings, parquet flooring, its two very unique bathrooms (c1904) and its outstanding conservatory (c1880) with French Ruby glass imported from Italy and floor to ceiling windows of etched glass depicting mining scenes, Australiana and Heraldic scenes. Then there is the Pompeii Fountain (c1879), a copy of the great fountain in Pompeii inspired by Lansell’s 1879 visit to Italy and Pompeii, and a further fountain and rockery in the South Garden, stables, a tailings dam converted to a brick Swimming Pool (called the Roman Bath), a coach house, a brick laundry, a former shade house South of the house and a garage North West of the house for Lansell’s Benz motor car, the first in Bendigo.

How is it significant?

Fortuna satisfies the following criterion for inclusion in the Victorian Heritage Register:

  • Criterion A Importance to the course, or pattern, of Victoria’s cultural history
  • Criterion B Possession of uncommon, rare or endangered aspects of Victoria’s cultural history
  • Criterion C Potential to yield information that will contribute to an understanding of Victoria’s cultural history
  • Criterion D Importance in demonstrating the principal characteristics of a class of cultural places and objects
  • Criterion E Importance in exhibiting particular aesthetic characteristics
  • Criterion H Special association with the life or works of a person, or group of persons, of importance in Victoria’s history.

Why is it significant?

Fortuna is significant at the State level for the following reasons:

Fortuna demonstrates key historic phases of Victoria’s history, notably the gold mining era, the development of the City of Bendigo and the history of defence in the state. The Fortuna cultural landscape is associated with the gold mining industry of Bendigo, particularly the extraction of gold from the richest quartz reef in the world in the nineteenth century, which had a significant influence on the settlement of Bendigo. (Criterion A)

Fortuna is an outstanding demonstration of the wealth and prosperity of Bendigo and Victoria during the gold rush period. The quartz-crushing works attached to the mansion represent a direct link between its owners’ wealth and its source. Fortuna is historically significant as the home of two of Australia’s wealthiest gold-mining families, Christopher and Theodore Ballerstedt, the earliest successful reef miners on the Bendigo goldfields. These men are often referred to as Australia’s first mining magnates, and George Lansell, known as the ‘Quartz King’, one of Australia’s most successful and adventurous nineteenth century mine owners. Although there were no mines on the Fortuna site, the estate was developed largely on the waste from Lansell’s 180 mine, north of Fortuna, which was one of the richest mines in Bendigo. The ore treatment site was gradually transformed into a picturesque landscape of lakes and gardens. Fortuna demonstrates the lavish lifestyle of the very wealthy families of Victoria’s gold-rush period. (Criterion A)


Fortuna is an example of the large private properties appropriated by the military during World War II, and has been in Defence control since 1942, when it was acquired as a base for mapping activities. It was the headquarters of the Survey Corps, later the Army Survey Regiment, until 1966 when it became the Defence Imagery and Geospatial Organisation (DIGO). The work of the regiment was highly important for the war effort, as preparing maps was a matter of urgency. New techniques based on American methods were developed at Fortuna, including innovations in aerial photographic surveys, and cartographic and lithographic techniques. (Criterion A)

Fortuna has a number of features which are rare in Victoria. It was rare for such a lavish house to be built so close to the industrial works that were source of the wealth that created it, in this case the crushing works for the ore from the Ballerstedt and later the Lansell gold mines. This reflects the need for security to protect the gold produced on the site. The survival of a nineteenth century villa estate, with a grand house surrounded by its original garden, is also unusual in an urban setting, and many of Fortuna’s garden structures, such as the iron fountain, rotunda and iron arbour are now relatively rare. Other rare features at Fortuna include the Pompeii fountain and the Roman bath, whose significance is increased by its origin as a tailings treatment pool built by the Ballerstedts in the 1860s. (Criterion B)


Fortuna has archaeological significance for its potential to contain historical archaeological features, deposits and objects associated with the establishment, development and use of the place. In particular the battery house is likely to contain archaeological features and relics associated with the operation of Lansell’s quartz crushing battery (and possibly remains of an earlier battery belonging to Ballerstedt), and other mining activities. 

The area in the direct vicinity of the house has the potential to contain historical archaeological features, deposits and objects associated with the construction and use of the place, including sub-floor deposits, refuse and garden or landscape features. (Criterion C)

Fortuna is an outstanding and relatively intact example of an extensive nineteenth century villa estate. The house, developed over several decades, is significant as one of the grandest residences built in Victoria in the nineteenth century. The villa is significant for its outstanding collection of stained and etched glass windows, for its ornate plaster and pressed metal ceilings and parquet floors, and for its now rare intact early bathrooms. The conservatory is significant for its outstanding glass workmanship, and is regarded as among the most important examples of its kind in Australia. The Pompeii fountain is unique in Victoria and indeed in Australia. The Roman bath is significant as a rare feature in a nineteenth century villa, and is the only known surviving private swimming pool from this period in Victoria. (Criterion D)

Fortuna is aesthetically significant for its decorative architecture, its remaining interiors and for its landscape setting and garden buildings and structures. The picturesque landscape extensively planted with trees, shrubs, garden beds and lawns is located on high ground that retains an undulating and modified land form of a former mining site with terracing, walls, steps, fences and gates, roads and paths and a lake, being a former settling pond. The contrasting and extensive plantings consisting of conifers, evergreen and deciduous trees, palms, shrubs, herbaceous plants, camellias and roses form a garden of aesthetic significance. Fortuna’s gardens, at their peak, were a marvel of aesthetic design, and many significant plantings remain. (Criterion E)

Fortuna is inextricably linked with George Lansell, the ‘Quartz King’, Australia’s first gold mining millionaire, who is credited with being the driving force behind much of Bendigo’s early prosperity. Lansell made a significant contribution to the mining industry in Bendigo and is credited with the introduction of technologies such as the diamond drill for quartz mining. Fortuna Villa and its grounds were Lansell’s passions and he decorated them extravagantly. (Criterion H)


Fortuna is also significant for the following reasons, but not at the State level:

Fortuna is of historical significance at a local level for its association with the history of Bendigo.

Fortuna is a historic landmark in Bendigo. It symbolises the founding of the town, and is important as a reference point in the community’s sense of identity. Many of the town’s citizens have worked on the site and several active community-based social groups have been formed to actively promote the history and importance of the site. The community, through the City of Greater Bendigo, has shown a profound interest in the future of the site.

Fortuna is significant for its association with one of Australia’s wealthiest gold magnates, Christopher Ballerstedt, who played an important role in the development of Bendigo’s gold mining industry. It is a demonstration of the work of the prominent Bendigo architects, Vahland & Getschmann, E Maurmann and W Beebe.

Source: vhd.heritagecouncil.vic.gov.au

All in all a rather significant building and a spectacular history, but there is a final chapter.

In 2017 the Fortuna Villa Estate was released for public sale. The masterplan offers modern housing – houses and townhouses positioned in a horseshoe configuration facing back at the Estate’s Lake and Historic Mansion.

According to the Estate’s website it consists of “79 contemporary architectural residences on one of Bendigo’s most renowned locations.”

You can view the development here

For us it certainly provides a major juxtaposition to the eccentricity and charm of the old estate. But you will experience “spectacular views of gardens, lake, historic villa and uninterrupted views over Bendigo”.

The last question is whether it resonates with the Heritage Listing and its reasons for protecting the original Fortuna Villa. We’ll let you be the judge of that.

Balance Architecture recognises the importance of the preservation of Historical Architecture. We specialise in the renovation and restoration of Heritage Buildings.