This week we continue our review of Melbourne’s more famous mansions from the suburbs – the ones not there any more! See part one here
Heritage Architecture today is more than just acknowledging the age of a building, the style prevalent at the time of construction, measuring angles and trumping it with a ‘new elegant contemporary addition’. No, it’s about restoration and recognition of elements the architects and builders of the past really understood – space, light and beauty – real beauty with any additions to a building being placed not like decorations on a cake, but as pure functional beauty. These buildings were constructed entirely for the delight and enjoyment of their owners and occupants. Many were constructed pre-electricity, as we now know it, so natural light and the sensible usage of daylight hours was very important.
Kensington Road, South Yarra
This week we start with a very imposing building – Gotha.
Also known as Hadleigh Hall, this stately and gracious home stood in Kensington Road, South Yarra. It was commissioned for Mr Hugo Wertheim in 1886, Jeff Kennett’s (former Victorian Premier) Great Grandfather. Mr Wertheim was a well known importer of pianos from Germany. But where he really made his fortune was in importing sewing machines, also from Germany.
The architect for the house and property was Charles D’Ebro. The house consisted of 17 rooms with separate bathrooms for the family and servant’s quarters. This was most unusual as the building definitely predated the connection of Sewage to the Greater Melbourne System. At the time the estimated cost was 40,000 pounds or in today’s terms about $4.4M.
Hugo Wertheim died in 1919 and the house and contents were auctioned separately in 1923.
Advertised for sale in 1935, it described this magnificent property as follows:
A splendid two storied brick and cement residence with a frontage of 259ft (78.9m) to Kensington Road and 310ft (94.4m) to Como Ave with a depth of 350ft (106.6m).
The superb residence was built and decorated by the well known architect, the late Mr C D’Ebro and contains:
• Ground Floor – Large drawing room divided into rooms by sliding doors, a sitting room, dining room, opening onto a conservatory, beautiful billiard room, lavatory, butler’s pantry, storeroom, maids dining room, large kitchen and scullery, shed with white tiles, tiled larder and hot water service
• First Floor – Six large bedrooms and four bathrooms, large day nursery, sleep out, linen room, four maids bedrooms and adjoining bathroom.
• Brick and cement outbuildings with man’s bathroom, coal room, boot room, brick stable with room for two cars, hothouse, fowl house and tastefully laid out lawns and gardens. Excellent grass tennis court.
A report in the Argus on June 20th 1935 announced ‘the house was being turned over to the wreckers as few in these days (the depression) can afford to employ the large staff or servants necessary to maintain such a mansion’. And so it was – demolished. In the shadow of Como House, this wonderful property was obliterated and the land subdivided for four separate blocks of apartments.
Wertheim Piano Factory
Bendigo Street, Richmond
For interest sake, here’s a short description of the Wertheim Factory in Richmond:
The factory made pianos until 1935 when it closed and the building was sold to HJ Heinz, the food canning business. Prior to the Olympic Games in Melbourne, Heinz ceased production and sold the building to GTV9, the Melbourne television station that later became part of the National 9 Network.
Programs like ‘In Melbourne Tonight’ with Graham Kennedy, Bert Newton and Don Lane, ‘The Tommy Hanlon Jnr Show’ and ‘Hey, Hey it’s Saturday’ with Daryl Summers and Ozzie Ostrich, and ‘The Tarax Show’ with Happy Hammond, King Corky and Princess Panda were all produced and televised live form the Bendigo Street studios of GTV9 then Channel 9.
The building and its surrounds have now been turned over to modern apartments with the GTV9 facade and signage still remaining.
The Esplanade, Brighton
This 14 bedroom mansion was constructed and completed in 1891. It was designed by Melbourne Architect Philip Treeby for financier Mr Mark Moss and was situated on a two acre site.
In 1890 Mr Moss was fabulously wealthy with an estimated 500,000 pound fortune, worth between $62 and $65 million in todays terms.
With the massive crash of the 1890s it is reported Mr Moss died in 1901 with less than 20 pounds to his name.
In 1894 the Bank of Victoria foreclosed on Mr Moss and took possession of the property. It then sold it to a Mr Richard White.
Part of the newspaper advertisement in the Argus carried a description of its 35 panel, 3 section stained glass windows depicting Shakesperean characters and describing it as ‘the finest window in the Commonwealth’.
Norwood passed through several owners and eventually was demolished and subdivided into 12 blocks in 1955. Its gate house ‘Belle Vue’ was saved and relocated to Norwood Avenue, Brighton.
There had been offers to turn the property into a reception centre, but these were ignored by the final owners. Prior to its demolition over 7000 people viewed the property. It was described by the press at the time as ‘Castle-like’.
As a footnote, Harry Moss, Mark Moss’s son established a perpetual trust for the Royal Children’s Hospital that has distributed over $40 million to the hospital since Harry’s death in 1960.