Grand Buildings of the Past Gone Forever

Melbourne has a vibrant and exciting history. Its heritage buildings generally reflect this. Again this week we talk of these buildings, estates and properties that have not survived the appetite of the property developers and investors over the last century. Architectural style, real elegance, breathtaking beauty – these heritage homes of the past certainly fulfilled all expectations.

Nareeb

Nareeb was located at 166 Kooyong Rd, Toorak. It was built in 1888. The Architect was William Salway who famously also designed the magnificent ‘Raheen’ in Studley Park Rd, Kew.

Nareeb was built for Piano Manufacturer Charles Beale. It would appear piano manufacturing was somewhat lucrative as you may recall last weeks story on Gotha in South Yarra. It was also commissioned, constructed and owned by another Piano Manufacturer, Hugo Wertheim. It probably makes a lot of sense. The Piano, located in the drawing room often provided the evening’s entertainment for Victorian era folk – there were no radios, no gramophones, no televisions and almost every family ensured their sons and daughters could play the piano or another instrument, amongst the wealthier and middle classes.

It was built in an Italianesque style featuring an ornate entrance hall, dining room, smoking room, drawing room, music room, sewing room, breakfast room, bedrooms (Beale had 13 children!). All in all there were 34 lavish and expansively decorated rooms with a first floor balcony and the main hall.

Over the years the house hosted some of Melbourne’s most popular, exciting and truly extravagant parties and balls. Marking events like the Spring Racing Carnival Key dates, birthdays and family milestones, the families who lived there and enjoyed its comforts certainly enjoyed life. Popular magazines and newspapers of the time would feature these stunning events in their social pages regularly.

It was auctioned off in 1965, still using a gas powered lighting system. The original furniture had virtually all been imported from England.

Upon the death of the last heir of Simmond’s family, the house was demolished in the late 1960s with the surrounding 5.5 acres and the house site being subdivided to become what is now known as Nareeb Court.

More than 1000 people viewed the house, its antique collections and the grounds prior to the auction on the day the property was sold in 1965.

The home’s original gates were donated to the Royal Botanical Gardens by the National Trust in 1967.

Armidale

The property, located at 416 St Kilda Rd was designed and built by Architects Crouch and Wilson in 1867. Its owner was Thomas Moubray, a draper, retailer and furniture merchant.

Mr Moubray was elected to the Melbourne City Council in 1865 and subsequently became Mayor in 1868.

He served as a Director and Chairman of the Commercial Bank of Australia and Deputy Chairman of the Melbourne Gas Company. He was a committee man on the board of the then Melbourne Hospital as well as the Mechanics Institute – a thoroughly successful chap!

He passed away in September 1891 leaving a valuable estate of 188,900 pounds. This was divided up between his wife and his nephews and nieces. This represented a considerable fortune in todays terms. The couple had no children of their own.

It was a two storey Mansion with 11 significant rooms. A genuine stately home with ornate stone/concrete masonry balconies, a central fountain and an ornate, formal grand entrance. It featured columns, high chimneys and elegant fireplaces.

It was demolished in 1976 to make way for a nondescript 27 storey office block.

Heathfield

Location St Kilda Rd, also known as Wombalano, the property was designed and built by Architects Richard Twentyman and David Askew Bruce in 1884, reputably at a cost of some 20,000 pounds. The Artist Robert Reid also assisted in its design.

The mansion was originally built for John Munro Bruce, a merchant and the father of future Prime Minister Stanley Bruce elected in 1923 to that position.

Consisting of 30 rooms, this was a project not at half measures. It was immense with over five acres of gardens and grounds. It featured a Tennis Court, Coach House, stables and a carriage drive to its entrance.

It was an imposing stone edifice and the mansion was said to enjoy ‘one of the finest panoramas of the neighbourhood’, somewhat unsurprisingly!

The Mansion also featured a large formal dining room, a library, a children’s schoolroom, a nursery, a billiards room, sitting rooms and a number of large, comfortable bedrooms.

Surrounded by the lawns, grass tennis court, flower and vegetable gardens, this was a veritable slice of paradise for its fortunate occupants.

With the unfortuitous crash of the 1890s, the property passed through several families until one of the Melbourne establishment’s most famous families purchased it in the person of Mrs Bertha Baillieu in 1911.

Rupert Murdoch’s dad Sir Keith Murdoch purchased the property in 1933 and no doubt young Rupert gamboled there amongst the flower beds.

It was occupied and used by the US Air Force during WWII.

After the war it was utilised first by the Salvation Army for the William Booth Home for Girls and then the Royal Children’s Hospital as accommodation for nurses.

It was demolished by a ubiquitous ‘developer’. It made way for the second stage of another featureless housing apartment complex known as Kenly Court.

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