Melbourne’s Lost Heritage – Mansions and Estates

Iconic heritage buildings were generally ornate, very substantial and designed for comfortable living, to the standards of the times. Many of the features of these incredible buildings were removed over time or worse still, the buildings were simply demolished. Here we look at three very famous, now demolished residential homes or ‘mansions’ as they came to be known.

Melbourne was founded on wealth from wealthy graziers, successful gold miners and those known as Squatters who, although not owning the lands they occupied, drew incredible wealth from those lands via Agriculture and grazing, mainly of sheep.

And when you are successful you build a magnificent home designed to last for generations. It will be surrounded by lush gardens, lawns, tennis courts, cricket and croquet pitches. There will be a ballroom and towers. And by the 1950s it will likely have simply ‘disappeared’, without a trace

Travancore Mansion

Travancore Mansion and Estate was such a building and prominent property. Known in its heyday as Flemington House, it was surrounded by 25 acres of gardens, orchards and plantations. It was situated on the Flemington Hill. At its Northern boundary was Boroda St. Its Western and Southern boundary was Mt Alexander Rd and the Eastern boundary was the Moonee Ponds Creek. The whole area must have been close to 200 acres minimum.

The original residence was built in 1852. This house was replaced by its new owner Hugh Glass. Fittings and furniture were selected and purchased in London and shipped to Melbourne for the grand new home. Mr Glass had just married and this was to become his ancestral estate.

The building featured two staircases, a gymnasium, sitting rooms, 24 fireplaces, two very substantial upstairs bathrooms, eight large family bedrooms, an extensive kitchen, very large dining room and a sewing room. The visage of the building featured a full balcony with over 72 pillars. The home also included a grand ballroom of mammoth proportions and a constructed artificial lake with white swans, ducks and cranes.

The site featured a gatehouse, boathouse, a summer house, stables and servants quarters. located in the grounds were aviaries and glasshouses. This was a grand home. The original owner Hugh Glass was a very wealthy man. He established the Tahbilk Vineyards at Nagambie in the 1860s. A Squatter, who became wealthy as a merchant, he was said to be worth over 800,000 Pounds or $2.5 billion in today’s Australian currency.


Mr Glass planted coffee, tea and rice on the grounds of his estate and was in essence the picture of the monied Victorian gentleman, follies and all.

The house was purchased by Sir Henry Madden in 1907. Over the years Sir Henry subdivided much of the estate retaining the stately home and a mere 60 acres.

It was further subdivided in the 1920s and when purchased by the Victorian Government in 1926, the house was vacant and the vast estate reduced to a mere 9 acres. Purchase price was 11,000 Pounds. It was then used as a residential school for intellectually disabled children. The building was demolished in the 1940s and all that remains are its ornate gates and entrance which now form the entrance to the Flemington Primary School.

Many homes constructed on the estate in the 1920s have a National Trust Heritage listing, and at Balance Architecture and Interior Design we have been involved in the restoration and fit-out of such homes on the estate, to meet heritage standards.


‘Chantrell’ was located at 36-38 Margaret St, Moonee Ponds. It was built on 1880 for Grazier Mr Francis Williams on a four and a half acre block.

A very grand home, the property featured five bedrooms, a large bathroom, a kitchen and scullery with pantry, a breakfast room, a large comfortable dining room, a library and a smoking room. The smoking room was originally located in the tower, a nice touch. Imagine surveying the surrounding lands with a port and cigar after a long, enjoyable dinner. The home featured an ornate courtyard, extensive gardens and a rather grand, ornate fountain.

The stately home had many owners, but from 1912 onwards it was used for the medical practice of Dr Septimus Strahan. Other prominent medicos followed in his footsteps up until 1953 when Dr Montague Kent-Hughes and his family made a real effort to restore this wonderful building to its former glory. At the time Dr Kent-Hughes added a ballroom to recapture the past affluence of the building and its beginnings.

It was torn down by ‘Developers’ in 1980 who paid the princely sum of $220,000. A year later they demolished it without a permit and received a $200 fine. Close to the Moonee Ponds Station, it was thought there may be a rezoning to commercial however it suffered the ignomous fate of having a plethora of units constructed on the site, and all remnants of this grand building have long since disappeared.

Ever wondered what stood upon the site now occupied by what was formerly the Hilton Hotel, now the Pullman Melbourne on the Park Hotel?

Cliveden Mansions

Cliveden Mansions was located on this location, the corner of Wellington Pde and Clarendon St. It was built in 1887 for Sir William Clarke, a baronet and wealthy pastoralist as his sumptuous and grand city home. His rural home, Rupertswood, located in Sunbury, a 50 room mansion and home of the famous Cricket ‘Ashes Urn’ was built between 1874 and 1876.

The Cliveden Mansions were designed in an Italianate Renaissance style by Architects William Wardell and W.L. Vernon. It included a ballroom said to hold up to 250 people.

The well known Melbourne family, the Baillieu’s, purchased the building in 1909 adding a fourth story. Eventually this grand home was converted into 48 lavish apartments. It boasted a shared kitchen as none of these apartments had their own kitchens. A dining room staffed with waiters and a French Chef catered for residents.

This exquisite building was torn down in 1968 to make way for the Hilton Hotel. Walk down Clarendon St and there is still a remnant of the old building remaining at the rear of the Hilton.

History of the Federation Square site

In Melbourne nothing stimulates discussion on the relative merit of the architecture of new landmark sites as does the mention of Federation Square or Southern Cross Station. People either love them or hate them.

In the case of Federation Square we are definitely admirers… Let me give you our reasons.

Over the last 200 years the site has had a range of somewhat unpleasant uses. It hosted the City Morgue and the trains that transported the dead to the Kew Cemetery, the original Fish Market, Corporate offices of the most unsightly building that ever graced Melbourne and massive Railway Yards, rolling stock and workshops, an atmosphere of dust, metal noise, smoke exhaust and oil.

With many planners keen to link the Melbourne CBD with its river the Yarra, these plans were always undermined by the conundrum of what to do with the then required extensive and extremely busy Railway yards and facilities.

Perhaps one of the biggest bug-bears was the ridiculous situation where the incredibly ugly Gas and Fuel Towers blocked the view of one of Melbourne’s most iconic and beautiful buildings – St Paul’s Cathedral.

The Gas and Fuel Corporation Towers were somewhat representative of the times in which their construction occurred – 1967. Brown brick, aluminium windows, a pale green and brown monstrosity, commissioned and built over what was originally the Princes Bridge Station and Rail Yards on the South side of Flinders St. What a contradiction it was to the surrounding cityscape.

St Paul’s, Flinders St Station, Young and Jacksons Hotel, the Forum Theatre – all delightful and interesting buildings, constructed to be somewhat timeless – and the Gas and Fuel Building – plonked like a huge hideous misshapen Lego block. When it was finally demolished in 1997 it was to make way for Federation Square and Birrarung Marr, an extensive, beautiful addition to Melbourne’s parkland.

The Railways had occupied the land since 1859, and over the years it became the driving hub for the Melbourne Electrified Railway System.

Prior to this for thousands of years the site had been the meeting place for indigenous tribes of the Kulin Confederacy. The Wathaurung, the Bunarong and the Woiworung peoples occupied the surrounding lands to the North, South and East with the swamps and salt marshes West to the Marybnong River and beyond being considered communal hunting grounds. Tribal people still camped on the Yarra banks, both sides, stretching from this area down to the MCG and Government House during the early years of European settlement.

Federation Square and its development leading up to the Centenary of Federation in 2001 gave rise to a perfect opportunity to celebrate the ideas of ‘identity’ and ‘place’ in providing a much needed civic and cultural space.

The Victorian Government had commissioned the architecture to Lab Architecture Studio, a firm based in London and Melbourne firm Bates Smart with whom they formed a partnership. Lab Architecture had originally been one of five finalists in the Victorian Government two stage design competition commenced in 1996. The partnership with Bates Smart, a premier Melbourne Architecture firm was required to proceed to the second stage and the consortium was awarded the contract for the design of the new area..

The Fractal Facade is an extraordinary feature. “Three cladding materials: sandstone, zinc (perforated and solid) and glass have been used in a circular pinwheel grid. This modular system uses five single triangles (all of the same size and proportion) to make up a larger triangular panel. Following the same geometrical logic, five panels are joined together to create a large triangular ‘mega panel’ which is then mounted onto the structural frame to form the visible facade.” [from]

For the public the controversy was fanned by ‘shock jock’ radio personalities and tabloid journalists who simply ‘didn’t get it’. The criticism went so far as to see the Glass Shards planned for the North Western corner removed from the plan and the finished result. It was claimed the Government did this to appease critics who believed it would again block the vista of St Paul’s Cathedral however many believe it was an unnecessary political intervention to ameliorate ongoing criticism from more conservative voices in the community.

It is now recognised as an extraordinary contemporary work lauded and praised internationally as changing the overall look of the Melbourne CBD and its entrance. The public have adopted it and its features with enthusiasm and it plays a huge role in Melbourne’s Cultural and Civic Events.

And everyday thousands of Melbournians commute on trains to and from the city beneath the structure. The cinemas, galleries, radio and television studios barely experience a vibration. It is in fact one of the largest expanses of railway decking ever built in Australia taking twelve months to complete.

Next week we continue our series on Melbourne Architecture as we move to the western end of Melbourne – Southern Cross Station and its adjoining Docklands precinct.

Controversial Developments in Melbourne

From the outset I should make clear one thing, I am the principal architect with Balance Architecture and Interior Design and I have achieved considerable success as a recognised Heritage Architect. In partnership with well known Interior Designer Amanda Richmond, at Balance we are capable of returning your period home faithfully to its former glory in every detail – yet ensure comfort, luxury and the space you require to enjoy modern living.

Controversy continually stalks new developments in Melbourne, and not without cause. Here are a few for you to ponder.

Collins Arch

Collins Arch is a project located on the old National Mutual site bounded by Collins St, Williams St, Market St and Flinders Lane in the south western corner of the Melbourne CBD.

An island site of 5926sqm, it was originally proposed by  Architects Woods Bagot that a singular 295m skyscraper would be constructed. This was rejected by planning Authorities as it was deemed far to high for the location. Woods Bagot and the New York Stop Architects group submitted an amended plan that featured two towers linked at their maximum height by a ‘skybridge’, joining the residential tower to the commercial tower.

The City of Melbourne approved of and applauded the project, however the Planning Authority of the Victorian State Government rejected the plan as well. This occurred on the basis that any building above 24 stories must have State Government approval as well as Council approval. The original reason for rejection was that the tower would cast a shadow over the Yarra River completely to the southern bank for most of the day throughout the full year except during the height of summer.

Wood Bagot reduced the height of the tower to appease this consideration and the project gained approval in April 2016.

The project will provide the city’s first real ‘mixed use precinct’ of residential and commercial usage. It will feature luxury apartments, a five star hotel, WELL (standard) rated offices and over 2000sqm of open public space. You may remember from previous blogs that this site was in fact the location of the ‘Western Markets’ for fruit and vegetables during the 19th and early 20th Centuries.

Construction of this project commenced in October 2016. This project is a perfect example of the dilemmas architects face in melding older existing buildings and features with a new cutting edge structure. And of course in the end it does come down to personal taste.

William Barak Building

The second project for your consideration is the new ‘William Barak’ building. You may recall the description of the Carlton and United Brewery located in Carlton. For a number of years it has stood as a huge vacant site. Its most recent prominence was connected to the tragic collapse due to high winds of the allotment fencing resulting in multiple fatalities.

The building planned for the site is a 32 storey residential apartment building that will feature a massive image of William Barak, an indigenous man from the Wurnundjeri/Woiwurrung people. William Barak was a well known indigenous activist, artist, a diplomat and an elder passing down oral knowledge from many generations. His closeup image will now bear witness on this huge building to what has become of the lands he and his ancestors have inhabited for thousands of years. Architects Ashton Raggat McDougall (ARM)have worked this incredible portrait into what would otherwise be a rather tall residential apartment building. It becomes a powerful site for reflection and memory.

Or is it? The struggle of indigenous people over many years, including Barak’s lifetime has been for landrights. It seems odd that his memory is lauded with a 32 storey luxury apartment building.

Barak witnessed in his lifetime the colonisation of Victoria with over 1.2 million people arriving in the new colony from the time of his birth in 1824 to his death in 1903. So in this instance I’ll defer to you the reader and suggest ‘you be the judge’.

In any case there are quite a few new buildings gaining approval for construction in Melbourne right now.

Next week will review Crown’s new building plans for a 90 storey Hotel, the new Victorian Police Tower planned near Southern Cross Station and some of the newer controversial constructions such as Southern Cross and – Federation Square.

The Majesty of Melbourne’s Architecture

Melbourne presents an eclectic mix of old and new architecture, but in essence the renewal of the last 30 years shows some excellent planning and demonstrable common sense in the preservation of the essential heart and soul of this great Southern City. With extensive heritage overlays and protections, the absolute carnage of the 1950s, ‘60s, ‘70s and ‘80s was halted. The ‘slums’ of Carlton, South Melbourne, Fitzroy and North Melbourne have now been protected from further assault. In reality these were not slums but areas full of classical Victorian buildings of great beauty.

Many beautiful buildings have been saved and what’s more any new construction around listed buildings is required to be sympathetic to the existing and original architecture.

The Royal Arcade

There are some significant examples of this. The Royal Arcade is a magnificent Victorian style feature running between the Bourke St Mall and Little Collins St. Originally constructed in 1869, the Arcade is famous for ‘Gaunt’s Clock’ where two giant statues of Gog and Magog have ‘struck’ the hour since 1892.


Charles Webb, Architect

The original architect was Charles Webb who was quite a well known and active architect in the late 19th century. His works included the iconic Windsor Hotel in Spring St, the South Melbourne Town Hall and the famous Tasma Terrace in Parliament Place East Melbourne. It is a testament to his work that each of these locations is still standing and intact as well as the exquisitely beautiful Royal Arcade. Much of the effort to preserve this valuable living history can be attributed to the National Trust and its tireless work in preserving the history of Melbourne and its gracious buildings.

Windsor Hotel

South Melbourne Town Hall

Tasma Terrace

The Block Arcade

The Block Arcade, at 282 Collins St, is another fantastic example of living history in a modern city. Built in 1892, Trip Advisor has listed the Arcade at number 4 in its ‘Australia’s Top Ten Landmarks’.


Galleria Vittorio Emanuele

The architect was David C Askew. His brief was to produce something similar to the ‘Galleria Vittorio Emanuele’ in Milan. Richly decorated with mosaic tile flooring, glass canopy, wrought iron and carved stone (masonry) finishes, it is an extraordinary building that has delighted generations of Melbournians who may have enjoyed morning or afternoon tea at the Hopetown tea rooms, an original feature of the Block Arcade. It was originally and formerly known as ‘Carpenters Lane’. Once completed the original shopkeepers petitioned to have the name changed to ‘The Block’ and it is still known as the ‘Block Arcade’ today.

Hopetown Tea Rooms

The Royal Exhibition Building

The Royal Exhibition Building is a World Heritage Site listed building located between Nicholson St (the entrance) and Rathdown St (the rear) in Melbourne’s Exhibition and Carlton Gardens.


Joseph Reed, Architect

The building’s Architect was Joseph Reed. Joseph Reed designed many of Melbourne’s famous landmarks. These included the State Library of Victoria, the Bank of New South Wales in Collins St, the Geelong Town Hall, the Melbourne Town Hall, Rippon Lea in Elsternwick. He also completed the work of Architect William Butterfield in the construction of St Paul’s Cathedral. As well he was responsible for the Independent Church in Collins St, Scots’ Church across the road and the Melbourne Trades Hall.

State Library of Victoria

The Bank of New South Wales

Geelong Town Hall

Melbourne Town Hall

Rippon Lea Estate

St Paul’s Cathedral

Independent Church, Collins St

Melbourne Trades Hall

His style was said to be ‘eclectic’ and included Italianate, Classic, Gothic and Scottish Baronial. His crowning achievement however would be acknowledged as being the Exhibition Buildings, completed in 1880 for the International Exposition. Add to this the now demolished Menzies Hotel and it is easy to see that Joseph Reed has had a massive influence on the ultimate look and feel of the City of Melbourne.

The Architectural style of the Exhibition Buildings is said to be ‘Rundbogenstil, Gothic Architecture’. It is meticulously restored with opulent interior, expansive galleries and a soaring dome. The Great Hall is extensively used for trade shows, cultural events and community events.

Museum of Victoria

And adjacent to the existing Exhibition Buildings is the new Museum of Victoria (Museum Victoria) at 11 Nicholson St. The Exhibition Buildings are now part of the Museum Victoria Campus. Here there is a wonderful example of melding the old and new together with a gracious complimentary style. The Melbourne Museum presents ongoing exhibitions and also houses Melbourne’s IMAX theatre.

In March the Museum and Sovereign Hill will be presenting ‘A Victorian Silhouette’ featuring 1850s Day Wear which may give even more insight into Melbourne’s past but on a personal and more human level.

We will continue with the theme of the past meeting the future next week. But it is plain to see that engaging an Architect with real vision can result in lasting beauty and enjoyment for generations. Balance Architecture and Interior Design salute our past Architectural Masters in Charles Webb, David C Askew and particularly Joseph Reed and his successive partners. All have left us with a lasting sense of the times they lived in and the magnificent vistas of Melbourne we still enjoy today.