Probably the most gracious and beautiful location in what was the Emerald Hills area is St Vincent’s Place and the St Vincent’s Place Gardens. Not only is it the crown in the architecture of the original estate, it represents probably the most beautiful of all preserved heritage areas in Melbourne not currently in the hands of the State. In 2014, the impeccably and faithfully restored mansion at No. 69 sold for a reputed $12 million. The home was originally built in 1873.
St Vincent’s Place, Albert Park’s ‘Millionaire’s Row’ hugs the St Vincent’s Gardens and curves around the gardens in both directions. The estate was based on London Town Planning with rows of single and double story terraces and detached properties overlooking the original layout of the Gardens. The Bowling Club and the Tennis Clubs remain, but unfortunately do not feature the original buildings. The Albert Park Bowling Club was established in 1873.
St Vincent’s Place is bounded by Park St, Cecil St, Bridport St, Cardigan Place and Nelson Rd. It is one of the few remaining examples of a Nineteenth Century residential development, designed around a large landscaped ‘square’ – the gardens – that is still intact today. And this is very much the result of the National Trust’s very effective Heritage overlay which includes the gardens and the surrounding estate.
Perhaps a little known fact is that prior to the establishment of the estate being developed in 1854 or 55, the area was used as a race track for thoroughbred horses.
The original layout and design was presumed to have been completed by Mr Andrew Clarke the then Surveyor-General of Victoria. The final lay-out and design as we know it was the work of Mr Clement Hodgkinson, the noted surveyor, engineer and topographer. Mr Hodgkinson made allowance for the inclusion of the intersection of the new St Kilda railway.
The original design extended from Howe Cresent in the east to Nelson Rd and Cardigan St in the west. This then gives sense to the name of the new gardens being named St Vincent’s Gardens as the whole estate ran to the boundary of the St Vincent’s Orphanage, now on Cecil St where the zenith of the estate on Howe Cres met with Cecil St – at the gates os St Vincent’s Orphanage.
All of the main streets were named after British Naval Heroes. Land sales commenced in 1860. High quality row and detached houses were constructed early on with Rochester Terrace being most notable.
According to the Victorian Heritage Register:
‘St Vincent’s Place is aesthetically important for the outstanding quality of its urban landscape. the major elements that reflect this importance are the gardens with their gardenesque style layout and fine collections of mature specimen trees, and the harmonious relationship with the residential buildings facing them around St Vincent’s Place. The St Vincent’s Place Precinct is historically important as the premier ‘square’ development in Victoria based on similar models in London. It was the largest development of this type in Victoria.’
Significant buildings No 5 and No 21 St Vincent’s Place South, Rochester Terrace, 51 St Vincent’s Place South (St Vincent’s Place Medical Centre), 57 St Vincent’s Place (The Richard Wagner Society Inc), 73 St Vincent’s Place South (The Loretto Province Centre), 30 St Vincent’s Place North – Rosebank, 44 St Vincent’s Place North – Hambleton House, 94 St Vincent’s Place North, 78 St Vincent’s Place North – John Danks’ Former home – John Danks was a well known industrialist. The companies he established still operate today. He chose French Romanesque for his pair of terraces as opposed to the more common Italianate style of the times (1875). It features a superb garden, well worth a visit during the Open Garden Scheme schedule.
So pack up a Sunday picnic, drive to the gardens and go for a stroll. All the buildings are within walking distance. There are richly detailed Victorian Terraces, Terraces featuring French style Mansard roofing towers, the imposing Rochester Terrace and of course the St Vincent’s Gardens with Parterre flower beds, rows of Algerian Oak trees and a wonderful fountain dedicated to Boer War heroes and veterans.
Look across at Rochester Terrace facing the park and think of London in the 19th Century. Imagine the street filled with grand horse-drawn carriages. Marvel as the light filters through the Oak tree canopy. It remains in pristine almost original external condition and is the epitome of the Victorian Terrace. on a good day look up – and you may see a Hot Air Balloon float on by journeying to Albert Park Lake Reserve – if you’re early enough.
Originally it was an investment property by Auctioneer, Land Speculator and Agent W.P. Buckhurst. An axially planned terrace with a dominant central block, flanking intermediate wings and strongly detailed end pavilions, it was designed in the classic revival style.
What a splendid investment it turned out to be, for you, for me and for future generations who can now re-live the past in such authenticity and beauty.