Mt Macedon – an area rich in Heritage.

It’s the school holidays. What a perfect time for a visit to Mt Macedon located 64km North West of Melbourne. On a clear day when looking west from anywhere with sufficient elevation in greater Melbourne, Mt Macedon sits like a sentinel. It’s indigenous name is Geboor or Geburrh in the traditional language of the Wurundjeri people.

During the expansion of the British Empire in the late nineteenth century it was often the case than an area was selected for a ‘Hill Station’ or summer residence for the then Governors and their key staff. In Victoria, it was Mt Macedon that was selected. Named by explorer Major Thomas Mitchell in 1836 upon his ascension of the summit, he was actually renaming it. In 1824 the expedition of Hamilton Hume and William Hovell sighted the mountain and named it Mt Wentworth. Mitchell was passionate about ‘Ancient Macedonia’ and named the mountain after Phillip of Macedonia, based on his viewing of Port Phillip Bay from the mountain’s summit.


Mt Macedon

Mt Macedon stands at 1101 metres or 3,317ft in the imperial scale. Being at a higher elevation, it offered a cooler climate and was often covered in snow at its highest altitudes in winter.

This was very appealing to those who had emigrated from the cooler climates of the Northern Hemisphere.

The State Parliament in the late 1880s allocated 12,000 pounds to purchase the land near the summit to build the official summer residence of the Governor of Victoria. It was ‘fully renovated’ in 1892. A substantial building it became known as the ‘Government Cottage’.

Government Cottage, Mount Macedon, 1949 | Victorian Places

By 1934, it was described as ‘an estate of slightly more than 54 acres in ‘Upper Macedon’. It was a two storied wooden building of 31 rooms as well as four bathrooms, six storerooms, a further six rooms for servant quarters, an entrance lodge of four rooms with stabling and garage.’

In that same year (1934) it was sold for the princely sum of 5600 pounds via public auction to raise funds in the post-depression economy.

It was eventually converted to a Guest House and unfortunately suffered a devastating fire in July 1954 and was totally destroyed. Priceless antique furniture, paintings and a grand piano were lost.

As well much of its intriguing history was lost to time, but fear not, the hill station attracted many of society’s well heeled social circle to build similar properties in the late nineteenth century.

Braemar House, Woodend side of Mount Macedon, c1910

Braemar House, a Heritage listed substantial two storey mansion, built upon brick and stone foundations, featuring high pitched roofing, intricate gables and asymmetric features was constructed in 1889-90 to a design by Italian born architect Louis Blondini. It was to be the site of Clydes Girls Grammar School, a private Girls Boarding School that operated from 1918 til 1976. It was the inspiration for the Boarding School featured in Joan Lindsay’s novel, Picnic at Hanging Rock (circa 1967).


Braemar House

It is located at 1499 Mt Macedon Rd, Woodend.

From the Victorian Heritage Database:

Braemar House – Statement of Significance

What is significant?

Braemar House is a substantial two storey timber mansion on brick and stone foundations with high pitched roofs, intricate gables and asymmetric features, which was constructed in 1889-90 to a design by Italian-born architect Louis Boldini. Boldini spent some years in New Zealand, where he designed a number of notable buildings in Dunedin between 1880 and 1888. He migrated to Melbourne in 1888 and designed Karori, Mount Macedon a timber house for New Zealand broker, CW Chapman. The intricate timber infills to the gables of Braemar House show the influence of New Zealand domestic architecture on his work. A heavily decorated octagonal tower is on the south-west corner of the building.The house retains some intact internal decorative features, the grand entrance hall and staircase and the former (restored)dining room. The garden, originally designed by William Taylor of Taylor and Sangster, retains rows of mature oaks along the west and north fronts. Remnant early garden including rock walling survives on the south west side and landscaped slopes to the north west. A cottage constructed in 1890 is situated at a distance, to the rear of the main house.


Braemar House

Braemar House, Woodend was built as a guest house for affluent Melbourne residents by a consortium of Melbourne businessmen. The location of Braemar House in the Mount Macedon area which was noted for its bracing mountain air made it attractive to those who believed that city life was not conducive to good health and that regular vacations in a healthy environment would restore well being. Access to rail transport and proximity to recreational activities such as walking and climbing in picturesque locations such as nearby Hanging Rock made Woodend a suitable place for such a venture. The property had an electric generator and a telephone. The facilities included tennis courts and frequent dances and concerts were held to entertain the guests. The firm of Taylor and Sangster of Macedon and Toorak was employed to plan the gardens.


Braemar House

The group of businessmen included several directors of BHP Ltd, including William Knox, William McGregor, William Jamieson and Col Templeton as well as Dr Duncan Turner, a Melbourne physician who advocated the health benefits of the cooler altitudes of Mount Macedon. Their first plan was for a health spa or sanatorium but this later was changed to a guest house. Braemar House operated as a guest house from c1890 until at least 1908 and possibly until 1918. The timing of the venture on the eve of the economic depression of the 1890s meant that the Braemar Estate Company went into liquidation and ownership had passed to William Knox by about 1896-96. Improvements designed by Melbourne architect Sydney H Wilson were carried out c1898 and these included the addition of a billiard room and new kitchens. Knox died in 1912 when the property passed to his widow, Catherine.

In 1918 the property was bought by Isabel Henderson, principal of Clyde School in St Kilda. In 1919 Miss Henderson moved the school to Woodend. The school was from 1920 run by a company whose shareholders were past pupils and friends of the school. During the 1920s the school bought up land adjacent to Braemar House.

During Clyde’s occupancy, the detached cottage of four rooms at the rear, known as the Bachelors Quarters,was converted into classrooms. A hall and two further classrooms were built in 1935 (the architect was probably Phillip Hudson) , new music rooms in 1954 (architects AF & RA Egglestone) and a new boarding wing in 1957. A flat for the headmistress and art and dressmaking rooms were built c1960. In 1967 architects Mockridge, Stahle and Mitchell designed the new Science Block.

In 1976 Clyde School moved to become part of Geelong Grammar School and the place was bought for a non-denominational coeducational day school for the children of the district. This is known as Braemar College and is still in operation.

How is it significant?

Braemar House, Woodend is architecturally and historically important to the State of Victoria.


Braemar House

Why is it significant?

Braemar House, Woodend is architecturally significant as a rare example of the work of Italian-born architect Louis Boldini (1828-1908). Braemar House is architecturally significant as a rare example in Victoria of a substantial two-storey timber resort building, embellished with sophisticated classical elements and highly ornate fretwork in timber. It displays diverse architectural influences, including renaissance, classical, chalet style from northern Italy, and timberwork with New Zealand influences.


In contrast the summer retreat of Frederick McCubbin is not in good repair. The original building was constructed in Melbourne and moved to Macedon. It was purchased in 1901 as a home for McCubbin and his family. He named it after the forest near Paris where the Barbizan painters had worked. His family were resident for 5 years. McCubbin continued to spend weekends and holidays there over his lifetime.

McCubbin's retreat is crumbling 2.jpg


Statement of Significance – Fontainebleau

McCubbin was one of Australia’s most admired artists of the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. He was one of the founders of the Heidelberg school and was a major figure in the development of the Australian school of landscape and subject painting that emerged at the close of the nineteenth century. The garden and bush around Fontainebleau became one of McCubbin’s main painting grounds, and was to provide him with the inspiration for some of his most memorable and best-loved works, including the iconic painting The Pioneer (1904), which was painted in the bush near the house. Two years after McCubbin’s death the family moved back to Fontainebleau. His widow Annie planned to run it as a guest house, and in c1920 added two new accommodation wings. Although the venture was not successful it continued to be run as a guest house after Annie’s death c1930 until the 1960s. It is now a private residence.


Fontainebleau is a rambling asymmetrical two-storey timber and fibro building with a corrugated iron clad roof. The oldest part of the building is a weatherboard Gothic style house with a steeply-pitched gable roof and dormer windows, originally with three main rooms, the front one with a bay window, and a kitchen on the ground floor and three bedrooms upstairs. At the front, facing Hanging Rock, is a recessed verandah. As part of the c1920 conversion to a guest house, two two-storey fibro-clad gabled wings were added, one along the east side of the house and one along the rear. The side wing has a large lounge room with an open fireplace on the ground floor and bedrooms and a bathroom above. The rear wing has a kitchen, a laundry and the former dining room on the ground floor and bedrooms and bathrooms on the first floor. The house is set on a large steeply sloping block of land amidst gardens and bushland on the north side of Mt Macedon. Below the house is a level terrace, once used for games. This site is part of the traditional land of the Wurundjeri people.


How is it significant?

Fontainebleau is of historical and architectural significance to the state of Victoria.

Why is it significant?

Fontainebleau is of historical significance as the former home of Frederick McCubbin, a founder of the Heidelberg School, the first major local movement in the history of Australian art, and one of Australia’s best-loved artists. He was an important figure in the development of art in Australia, and his depictions of the Australian bush are among Australia’s most well-known and popular paintings. McCubbin was deeply attached to the bush close to Fontainebleau, which was a continuing inspiration for him. The works painted in the area during the last seventeen years of his life are considered to be amongst his most important.

McCubbin's retreat is crumbling.jpg

Fontainebleau is historically significant for its association with the development of the tourist industry in Victoria in the early twentieth century, which occurred then mainly due to the development of an effective and relatively cheap transport network and increasing levels of affluence and of leisure time. The 1920s was the heyday of the guest house, the main form of accommodation in the popular seaside and mountains resorts at the time.


Fontainebleau is of architectural significance as a rare and essentially intact example of a typical guest house of the 1920s. Guest houses at this time were often built from inexpensive materials such as timber, cement sheet and corrugated iron and were typically extended in a haphazard way around a former private residence.


The house has largely fallen into disrepair. Presently there are no funds to properly maintain it or restore it. This is a real shame considering the place Frederick McCubbin has in Australian Art History.


Derriweit Heights is the last place we will visit this time. Located on Douglas Rd Mt Macedon, it was constructed in or around 1874. Its original garden of 65 acres was designed by Baron Von Mueller, the well known botanist and designer of many of Victoria’s famous Botanical Gardens (including the Melbourne Botanical Gardens). the house was built by Mr Charles Ryan, with an intent to capture the views over Port Phillip Bay and create a world class garden. Destroyed by bushfires in 1983’s Ash Wednesday Fire, it was rebuilt in a French Colonial style, retaining the surviving original coachwing. It was purchased in 2016 by Dr Paul and Mrs Anne Mulkearns with a view to restoring the original gardens to their earlier splendour. The Mulkearns have adopted a 5 year plan to do so.

Mt Macedon is well worth the drive. Many of the gardens are open to the public as are a number of the more historic properties. The statement of significance on Braemar House was written in 2002. It demonstrates the need to better fund the Heritage Council and its activities. But right now there is much to see and enjoy. And when you visit heritage properties it gives you a much finer perspective on just what we are preserving.

Enjoy your visit to the ‘Hill Stations’ of Macedon. Take the airs. It’s part of your heritage as Victorians.

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

Mansions in Transition – Art at Burnham Beeches

Last week’s article provoked considerable discussion as to the financial viability of some of the stately old homes that to some extent have been permitted to become somewhat derelict and rundown. Abandoned as habitable homes, the effect of the elements and time take an exacting revenge on such buildings.

In comments last week we suggested that such buildings need ‘big ideas’ and well devised business plans and strategies. Without doubt, most would qualify for some form of assistance via the Heritage Fund, but equally it’s no point simply focussing on the restoration, without a sensible usage plan upon completion.

In England, many stately homes have been restored and have been ‘put to purpose’. Many become art galleries, five star hotels or are simply funded by the National Trust as unique heritage buildings maintained in working order.

In Australia we do not seem to apply the same values as universally to our historic buildings. It is often the individual vision and ability of the buildings owner/s that manage to save and re-purpose a site.

Burnham Beeches provided such a conundrum. Built in 1933 by Alfred Nicholas of the ‘Aspro’ Nicholas business empire, it has seen a series of iterations – from research facility, children’s hospital to luxury hotel. See previous blog on Burnham Beeches

More recently, street artist ‘Rone’ was approached by one of the current owners to consider an installation. Rone accepted and the results were simply stunning.

You can read more about it here and view some of the images…

Street artist Rone transforms Melbourne mansion Burnham Beeches in his installation Empire


Everything from the wallpaper to the dust has been brought in for the project

Surrounded by trees at the end of a windy, shaded drive, a long-abandoned Art Deco mansion has just undergone a makeover.
Rather than “a new lease on life”, however, this elegant dame has been brought down at the heel — deliberately, by Melbourne street artist Rone aka Tyrone Wright.

It’s not the first time Wright has taken over an abandoned site; he has become known for his murals of women’s faces in buildings marked for demolition.

Empire is the first time he’s been given a building in its prime — albeit for just six weeks.

Imagined decay

Burnham Beeches, built in 1933, is located in Sherbrooke, about an hour’s drive from Melbourne.

Originally the home of industrialist Alfred Nicholas and his family, it later served as a research facility, a children’s hospital, and a luxury hotel.

It hasn’t been open to the public for more than 20 years.

Wright first heard about it when one of the building’s owners (celebrity chef Shannon Bennett) suggested he use it as a canvas.

The artist was immediately drawn to the building’s atmosphere.

“It’s almost like a ship in the forest — the shapes of it are just beautiful.”


There are plans to turn the 1930s Art Deco mansion into a luxury hotel.

“I already kind of romanticised what it would look like on the inside, and when I came in I was almost disappointed that there was nothing here,” he recalls.

“It was totally stripped out and it was more of a construction site. There were old Herald Suns from like 1993 folded up … [it was] like a tradie hangout at the moment when they were just about to start a renovation.”

Treating the building like a “blank slate”, Wright set about recreating his imagined vision of its interiors.

The result is a haunting picture of abandoned opulence, housing “hundreds, if not thousands” of objects, from chandeliers and a grand piano to vintage shampoo bottles.


Objects like this tower of champagne glasses draw the viewer around the space.

Wright describes it as “a kind of open-house viewing” that gives you a glimpse of the life of an imagined family, and foments a sense of mystery around why they might have left.

“I didn’t want to try to tell a historical story of the space because I’m only going to get it wrong,” he explains.

“This is more a fantasy story than it is a documentary.”

An elaborate construction

Empire is Rone’s most ambitious project to date: a 12-month endeavour involving custom-made fittings, heritage consultants, creative collaborators — and a “monstrous” amount of paperwork.

The wallpaper has been custom-designed and printed, the ceilings have been transformed with a patina that looks like black mould, and even the “dust” (which is actually ash from the cafe on the property) has been artfully arranged. It almost looks too real — at first glance, it might even look au naturel.

But then you see the piece de resistance: the “library”. The most elaborate of the rooms in the project, this one has been flooded in a difficult operation that had to be done twice — because it leaked the first time.


The house’s “library” sits inside a glass case flooded with inky water.

Throughout the house, various objects distract and draw the eye thanks to interior stylist Carly Spooner.

The team spent days collecting greenery from Burnham Beeches’ gardens. Autumn leaves are piled up in corners, grass seems to sprout out of couch cushions, and in some rooms trees look to be springing out of the walls.

In the hallway, branches have been intertwined overhead to create a dark, atmospheric tunnel.

“It looks like nature is starting to come back and take over the building once again,” says the artist.

“Walking around this property and driving up here [you see] how important nature is to the area … you could see this place just being engulfed if it was left for another few decades.”


Rone says the beauty of his murals is enhanced by their crumbling surrounds.

Rone’s signature portraits of aloof women haunt the walls, besieged by peeling wallpaper.

The finishing touches are an evocative soundscape, by composer Nick Batterham, and a custom scent designed by Kat Snowden.

Visitors are given a map upon entry and encouraged to wander at will.

Fragile beauty

Wright hopes Empire’s impermanence will add to its appeal — much like street art.

“I think that’s something with street art and graffiti … you have to go see it now while it lasts because it could be gone tomorrow — and that’s what makes it exciting,” he says.

“I kinda hope this whole project has that same energy.”


Although Burnham Beeches will be stripped of Empire when the exhibition is over, Wright hopes the work will live on once plans to transform the building into a hotel (described on the website as “Australia’s first 6-star luxury retreat”) come to fruition.

“We’ve scanned the whole installation in 3D — it’s almost like a Google street view that we can integrate into an augmented reality,” he says.

“So in the future, I hope … you’ll be able to walk around the hotel and see [on your phone] what was once here.”

It’s a new way to experience his paintings, which he feels are enhanced by the ruins that surround them.

“There’s that fragileness of something that’s just about to fall apart that kind of makes it more beautiful.”


Part of gaining acceptance for any proposed renovation requires public awareness of the building and property as well as an understanding of what in fact makes it unique and worthy of preservation.

Exercises like Rone’s Installation profile what is a beautiful building and bring it into sharp focus. It raises awareness of the property and its unique heritage features.

For Governments this is a rather tricky proposition. Investing in our heritage can be confused with subsidising property developers.

It again comes down to a fresh appraisal of what our heritage values are, what we as a population are prepared to invest in and what such investments mean for the state.

Currently the Victorian State Government is heavily invested in PPP projects in the education arena. Many new schools are currently being built under what is known as the Public Private Partnerships model. There is no reason this scheme could not be expanded to include Heritage Preservation, Restoration and Re-purposing.

Current PPP projects also include the major infrastructure developments such as:

  • North East Link
  • Northern Roads Upgrade
  • South Eastern Roads Upgrade

These are currently under procurement.

Other contracted projects include

  • Ballarat North Water Reclamation
  • Barwon Water Biosolids Management Project
  • Bendigo Hospital
  • Royal Melbourne Showgrounds Redevelopment

There are another 27 projects currently utilising the scheme with an overall project value of $30.1 billion in capital investment.

It’s time to push the boat out on Heritage protection and restoration. The major advantage is that the larger projects will ultimately return a significant revenue to both the promoters and the State Government – the people of Victoria. It’s time to rethink, re-purpose and re-use.

Let’s foster and protect the character of our state through its many superb buildings and outstanding properties.

Heritage – it’s here to stay, if we choose. Time for some action, legislation and clever policy. It’s not too late.

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

The Dilemma – What can be done with previously abandoned Heritage locations like Mintaro Mansion?

There is a widespread recognition amongst savvy property investors that Heritage listed properties can offer excellent returns – given the right circumstances. At one stage investors would simply allow a property to further deteriorate then call the demolition team when the building became unsalvageable. The current Victorian Government introduced laws to prevent this practice. These days Heritage Victoria will serve a works order on the owner. If the works are not carried out within a certain time, then a further order for works will be contracted by Heritage Victoria and the owner must cover the cost.

It is a somewhat tricky proposition purchasing a run-down and dilapidated mansion. The asking price will be substantial. Let’s take a look at Mintaro, an Italianate mansion with intact outbuildings – stables, workshops, butchery, etc, but definitely a faded beauty. The asking price in 2012 was set at $3 million. Bids at Auction reached $2.85 million. It was soon sold privately for an undisclosed sum, and then… nothing. The new owners did nothing to repair or restore the mansion and its accompanying outbuildings. It was back on the market by 2015.

This is no ordinary building. It is a living rendition of the pastoral elegance of the times. As part of John Pascoe Faulkner’s original ‘run’, the land was subdivided and sold in 1860 to a Captain Robert Gardiner, who made his fortune through shipping, whaling, gold mining and grazing. Gardiner commissioned well-known Melbourne Architect James Gall to design a new residence fit for a man of his status.

In 1881 the grand mansion Mintaro was completed. The superb interiors were designed by a German artist MR W Brettschneider. Gardiner died in 1890 and the building was sold to the Methodist Church, but more about that later.


From the Victorian Heritage Register…


Description Summary

The Mintaro homestead is a two storey rendered brick Italianate building with a two-storey loggia running across the front and a part way along two sides. The entrance porch on the north side has free-standing Doric columns and is surmounted by an impressive three storey tower with a belvedere. The two storey service wing to the west is lower and simpler in form. The elaborate and remarkably intact interiors are notable for their variety of surviving original finishes, including hand painted and printed wall and ceiling papers, painted stencilling and wood graining. Elaborate plaster mouldings and ceiling roses are present in many rooms as are marble fireplaces, light fittings, venetians, curtain rails and door and window furniture. All the plasterwork and joinery is marbled, wood-grained, gilded, stencilled or hand-painted and these are integral elements of the overall decorative schemes. All the different elements have been very creatively combined into interior schemes, with each room presenting a unified, richly decorative whole. The spectacular entrance hall features fluted Scagliola columns and Minton encaustic tiles. Opening off the entrance hall are the former drawing room, dining room, morning room and library, all with marble fireplaces and elaborate and largely intact decorative schemes. Three of the four large bedrooms upstairs retain their original wallpapers, with beautifully matched schemes with botanical and classical themes. Other notable intact areas are an original bathroom and a butler’s pantry. Outbuildings comprise a small brick detached toilet, a brick stable and coachhouse, a woolshed and another shed which was once a working horse stable. The mansion is enclosed by a designed landscape providing a dense screen and windbreak on three sides. The original decorative gardens around the house have been largely lost, but the property retains a number of outstanding or rare species, including a very rare Ulmus ‘Viminalis’, Hesperocyparis benthamii, Hesparocyparis macnabiana, Pinus roxburghii, and six Juniperus virginiana, all only known in a few other locations.


This site is part of the traditional land of the Wurundjeri people.

How is it significant?

Mintaro 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 D Importance in demonstrating the principal characteristics of a class of cultural places and objects
  • Criterion E Importance in exhibiting particular aesthetic characteristics


Why is it significant?

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

Mintaro is an outstanding and largely intact example of the mansions constructed in Victoria in the 1880s during the colony’s Boom period. It reflects the prosperity of the colony at the time, and the money that wealthy individuals were prepared to spend to demonstrate their success. (Criterion A)


Mintaro is a rare and relatively intact surviving example of a Boom period mansion with an intact interior decorative scheme. Interiors at this time were extremely elaborate, but intact surviving examples are rare. Mintaro is one of the few houses where the original or early fabric of the decorative schemes for entire rooms survives and is still visible. Notable features include the variety of painted finishes such as stencilling, marbling and wood graining, intact wall and ceiling papers, original gas light fittings, door furniture, tiles and window dressings. The presence of intact cabinetry and decorative schemes for functional and servants’ areas such as the bathroom and butler’s panty is also rare. (Criterion B)


The Mintaro planting features several trees rarely cultivated in Victoria. The Ulmus ‘Viminalis’ which is unusually grafted at about 2m, is one of only four known examples in Victoria, the other three all being in the Benalla Botanical Gardens. The perimeter windbreak around the property includes the rarely grown Hesperocyparis benthamii, Hesparocyparis macnabiana, Pinus roxburghii, and six Juniperus virginiana, all only known in a few other locations. The large number of Juniperus is unknown in any other planting in Victoria. The variety, size and maturity of species of Quercus, Ulmus, Photinia, Morus, Crataegus, Laurus, Pinus, Cupressus and Hesperocyparis, Cedrus, Araucaria and Sequoiadendron are significant. (Criterion B)


Mintaro is an outstanding and intact example of a Boom period country mansion, and demonstrates the principal features of such houses, which were designed to demonstrate the status of their owners. They were typically were two-storeyed, in a Classical style, most often with a tower, had a picturesque form with asymmetric massing and planning, and elaborately decorated interiors. (Criterion D)

The intact decorative schemes are rare surviving and outstanding examples of the highest level of interior decoration available in Victoria in the 1880s. The designs, colour schemes and textures of the original materials and artwork provide a rare opportunity to experience the elaborate aesthetics of 1880s interiors. (Criterion E)


The Mintaro homestead complex sits within an outstanding designed landscape created from 1881 to the 1920s. The serpentine avenue of Monterey Pine along the driveway is entered through decorative gates and sweeps through an extensive parkland and dense perimeter planting. The perimeter planting is laid out to create an internal scalloped edge and includes a large variety of conifers and a few broadleaf and deciduous trees of contrasting foliage and colour. (Criterion E)


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

Mintaro is of local significance for its association with one of the prominent early landowners in the area, Captain Robert Gardiner, who owned Mintaro from 1860 until 1885 and with the architect James Gall. (Criterion H)



You can view the interior as it was photographed recently here…

The second purchase in 2015 has seen some progress. The new owners restored and replaced the majority of the sash windows, provided maintenance, painted internally to protect the building and its finish from further deterioration.


The old mansion has been used as a visual backdrop for TV series such as Dr Blake, The Broken Shore and Glitch.


Still unrestored, the old building was described in June 2019 as beautiful but derelict.


“A rendered brick Italianate building with a 2 storey loggia running across its front and partway along two sides. The entrance porch on the north side has free standing Doric columns and is surmounted by an impressive 3 storey tower with a belvedere. It still retains its landscaped grounds which are considered outstanding, with very rare trees still in place.”

Mintaro ‘hit the skids’ from 1903 when purchased by the Methodist Church as a Reformatory Home for Girls. It operated as such from 1903 until 1912. Very little was remodelled or changed by the Church. It was again purchased by a Dr Crivelli as a family home. Sold again to the Rea Family in 1934, it remained in their hands until 2012.

And there it sits, waiting for a new suitor. 2012 until now, very little has been done.

In England, the key Heritage organisation runs a lottery. It uses the profits to purchase and restore Heritage buildings such as Mintaro. This historic building is in dire need of attention. Let’s just hope it soon receives it. In our view, buildings like Mintaro require significant investment upon purchase. Perhaps as a pre-requirement to purchase, buyers should be required to provide a strategic restoration plan.

What do you think? Should the State Government invest in preserving Heritage properties like Mintaro? We’d like to think so – til next week.

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

Legal Process halves Corkman Cowboys Fines on appeal.

The developers who demolished the Corkman Irish Pub in Carlton have now had their Magistrates Court fines for both the demolition (brought by the City of Melbourne and State Government in Melbourne Magistrates Court), and the dumping of asbestos in a paddock in Cairnlea (brought by the EPA in Sunshine Magistrates Court) halved.


Let’s not gloss over the gravity of these actions. First, the demolition of one of Carlton’s oldest remaining heritage listed buildings under the noses of Council inspectors demanding the process cease, then the dumping of dangerous waste in a highly populated suburban neighbourhood, are both heinous transgressions of our accepted laws.


The historic pub, in the inner-Melbourne suburb of Carlton, was knocked down in October 2016


The Corkman developers were represented by a very well known SC (Barrister) who is a leading legal advisor to many developers. The County Court Judge can only be guided by the letter of the law, not emotion. As such considering all factors, he has halved the fine.

This case demonstrates dramatically it is now time for a complete restructuring and for newer more appropriate regulations to be enacted and scheduled to protect Heritage buildings and overlays.

It is also time for Government to intervene in this case. It is high time that an appropriate precedent was set to ensure such vandalism never happens again without major punitive consequences. It would be appropriate in this case for the Government to enforce a compulsory acquisition of the property, preferably at Market Value pre demolition, deducting all fines and costs from the sale price. Alternatively, purchase the vacant land at land value as of the time of demolition, deduct all fines and costs from the sale price then build a memorial park to remind all that such travesties will not ever be tolerated again.

The next move on the part of Minister Wynne and the Planning Department will be immensely important. The Corkman Developers are significantly ‘cashed up’ and demonstrate a propensity to utilise legal subterfuge to slow down and subvert any punitive actions. If the Government can make amendments to its planning schedule and strategy to suit locations such as Booroondara, what’s to stop them putting a similar amendment through on this issue? – The ‘Corkman Amendment’.

Whatever happens, it’s imperative that these Developers are significantly financially disadvantaged by any sanctions applied by Government. It is ‘the’ test case as to the credibility of Richard Wynne as a Minister and the ability of his planning Department to control rampant uncontrolled development that is entirely at the expense of our Heritage.

Here is the article from Friday’s Age…

Fines cut in half for developers who demolished Corkman pub

The developers who illegally knocked down Carlton’s Corkman hotel have had their penalties for the demolition cut in half by the County Court from almost $2 million to $1.1 million.

The state opposition has demanded the Andrews government compulsorily acquire the site and also appeal Friday’s decision. Planning spokesman Tim Smith said the decision let “these cowboy developers get away with the heist of the century”.

Raman Shaqiri and Stefce Kutlesovski in October 2016 bowled over the historic Corkman Irish Pub without planning or building permission.

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Developer Raman Shaqiri whose Shaq Demolitions razed the historic hotel

The pair bought the pub for $4.7 million in 2015. Savills state director Clinton Baxter said the empty site was now worth between $8 million and $10 million.

Having knocked down 80 per cent of the 159-year-old pub on a Saturday in October 2016, they were ordered to cease demolition that night by Melbourne City Council. They ignored the orders and finished off demolition works on Sunday.

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Stefce Kutlesovski, one of two developers who had his fine for demolishing the Corkman Hotel cut in half.

“The community was outraged by the audacious manner in which the hotel was demolished,” Judge Trevor Wraight said in his ruling on Friday morning.

“They made a commercial calculation,” Judge Wraight said, which would allow them to build a 12-storey tower on the site once the historic pub was gone.

“They weighed up the potential penalties … with the potential profit that would result from development of the site, before going ahead,” he said.

“Indeed, despite the litigation, delay, and any loss of reputation, ultimately, the development will go ahead.”

He found the men had displayed no remorse for the loss of heritage on Carlton.

The pair were appealing fines levelled against them by the magistrates in Sunshine and Melbourne courts; they said the amounts they had been fined were too severe.

Judge Wraight agreed that the fines against the men by the Sunshine Magistrates Court, over charges brought by the Environment Protection Authority on asbestos dumping, had been “excessive”. So too were fines levelled against the men over charges brought against them by the Victorian Building Authority and Melbourne City Council on the illegal demolition.

He reduced the financial penalties from just under $2 million to $1.1 million.

The Environment Protection Authority, the Victorian Building Authority and Melbourne City Council – which had separately brought prosecutions against the two developers and their company – all said they were extremely disappointed by the decision.

Opposition planning spokesman Tim Smith called on the Andrews government to “appeal this decision which sends entirely the wrong message to the industry”.

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The rubble of the Corkman Irish Pub the day after it was illegally demolished.

He said Planning Minister Richard Wynne must also respond to calls from the Opposition and Melbourne University urban geographer Dr Kate Shaw to compulsorily acquire the Corkman site.

Mr Smith said this would mean “these cowboys do not profit from their unlawful behaviour”.

Mr Wynne has previously said compulsory acquisition would require the government to buy the site “at the market rate for its highest and best use” – which would see “taxpayer’s money to pay top dollar directly to these developers, which is hardly a just outcome”.

Both Dr Shaw and Mr Smith question whether this is in fact true.

Two weeks after the Corkman was demolished, Mr Wynne launched legal proceedings to force Shaqiri and Kutlesovski to “replicate the site immediately prior to demolition” if they wanted to redevelop.

“Any application for a permit for buildings and works on the site will require the restoration and reconstruction of the [pub] in its entirety in the form it was in prior to demolition,” he said.

But in May this year, Mr Wynne backed down and allowed the site to be developed with a tower on it up to 12 levels high, in return for the remaining wreckage there being cleared and turned temporarily into a park.

On Friday, Mr Wynne labelled Shaqiri and Kutlesovski “cowboy developers” and said the demolition had been “unforgivable and the community has a right to be outraged by it”.

He said the government would review the court decision and look “at what options are available to government”.

He said the government would not compulsorily acquire the site because it “would mean using taxpayer’s money to pay top dollar directly to the developers, which is hardly a just outcome”.

In 2017 in direct response to the Corkman demolition, Mr Wynne brought in tough new laws ramping up penalties for anyone who demolishes a heritage property.

Shaqiri, 37, was not in court on Friday; he did not attend last month’s court hearing because he was in Spain getting married. Kutlesovski, 43, declined to comment after the court case finished.


From the ABC…

During sentencing, Judge Wraight acknowledged the public anger the demolition had caused, but said it was up to Parliament to increase the penalties available.

“The community was outraged at the audacious manner in which the hotel was demolished by the owners without any consultation with the community,” Judge Wraight told the court.


Raman Shaqiri (pictured) and Stefce Kutlesovski organised to have the pub hastily demolished on a weekend.

“It may be that the community — and possibly the sentencing magistrates in this instance — regard the available maximum penalties in relation to this conduct as inadequate.

“However, unless and until Parliament increases the penalties available, courts are bound by the prescribed penalty and must sentence in accordance with the proper sentencing principle.”
Developers made ‘commercial calculation’

Judge Wraight said he found there was little evidence of genuine remorse on behalf of Mr Shaqiri and Mr Kutlesovski.

“It was their decision alone to demolish the hotel,” Judge Wraight said.

“They made a commercial calculation and weighed up the potential penalties that they would face as a result of the deliberate breach of the law, with the potential profit that would result from development of the site, before going ahead.

“They clearly made that decision with forethought and planning as they needed to organise large machinery and employees to hastily bring down the hotel over the weekend.”

The chief executive of the Victorian Building Authority, Sue Eddy, said the authority was extremely disappointed in the outcome and the decision did not lessen the developers’ guilt.

“[The developers] did not have a building permit, had not applied for a building permit, and took it upon themselves to carry out dangerous demolition work without any regard to the state and local laws,” she said.

“With the building industry currently under intense scrutiny, it is vitally important to send a clear signal to all builders and developers that the VBA — and the community — will not tolerate illegal building work of any kind.”

“The VBA is concerned that today’s outcome promotes non-compliance as an optional cost of doing business for those who flout the rules.”


The pub was known as the Carlton Inn Hotel in 1957

The Environment Protection Authority (EPA) fined the developers $7,500 in 2016, after it discovered some of the rubble had been found at a construction site at Cairnlea, in Melbourne’s north-west.

The developers were told they could not remove the debris because it contained asbestos and were ordered to cover it.

The chief executive of the EPA, Cathy Wilkinson, said she was disappointed with the reduced penalty.

“We believed this was a clear-cut case that showed blatant disregard for the environment and the community and deserved a substantial penalty,” she said in a statement.

“As the Judge found, this was a case where experienced developers knew better and showed little remorse for their actions and the community are right to feel aggrieved.”


Planning Minister Richard Wynne has said the Andrews Government would be reviewing the court decision and would consider changes to the law.

“Let’s make no mistake here, what these cowboy developers did is unforgivable and the community is outraged by it. If the current legislation does not meet community expectations we will strengthen it.”

Amen to that. Don’t leave it too long!

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

Heritage Listed Home Demolished in Hawthorn

Unfortunately, this is getting to be a recurring theme. The current legislation permits builders and developers holding an existing building permit to demolish properties with interim Heritage orders. The legislation being utilised is a State Government amendment to its planning scheme specific to Booroondara – Amendment C299.

Booroondara provides the setting for the perfect storm. Large blocks, older homes and developers with deep pockets. The situation is simple, Booroondara Council’s Planning Department has previously issued Demolition permits on older homes – all over 100 years old – in particular this one at 368 Auburn Rd which was 130 years old. The home demolished is directly opposite Currajong House, which was saved by Government intervention by Minister Wynne in May this year. Currajong House is 135 years old. Booroondara applied a Heritage Overlay application to stall demolition but in reality unless it can rescind its demolition permits (which without great expense it can’t), then the only avenue to protect such homes now covered by interim Heritage protection was for the Minister and his department to intervene.

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Currajong House

From the outside, there would appear to be some shortfalls in action by the Booroondara Council. Surely being aware of the demolition permits issued against Heritage properties with interim protection, there needs to be a co-operative response with both Council and the State Government Planning Department, the Minister and the full Council Chamber or Booroondara working together to protect these beautiful and historic homes.

Tim Smith the Member for Kew is the Shadow Minister for Planning. Booroondara is in fact located within very safe Liberal Party seats, and the Council is very much cast in the same mould. Time to stop politicking and get down to preserving the rich heritage of the area. These homes are irreplaceable and form a very rich and visible link to our past. It is a tragedy to see them being demolished to build nondescript blocks of apartments.

As we have stated here over and over, it is high time that the State Government, Local Government, the Victorian Heritage Council, the National Trust and other legitimately qualified parties get together and create a Heritage plan based on today’s values, not those of the 1970s, ‘80s or ‘90s. So much is now gone. Let’s protect what remains for posterity and the fabric of our city and State.

Here is a report from the Age dated September 1st 2019…

‘Irrevocably wrecked’: Fury as another old house razed

A “bizarre’’ loophole created by the state government in a local council’s planning scheme is being blamed for the demolition of a Victorian-era house in Hawthorn.

The 130-year-old brick house was razed last week to make way for 14 apartments, despite being the subject of an interim heritage order.

The City of Boroondara, the National Trust and locals now say they fear the destruction of other heritage buildings under an amendment introduced by the state in 2018.

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A bulldozer moves in on 368 Auburn Road, Hawthorn, on Friday

Amendment C299 allows property owners with an existing building permit to demolish buildings, despite interim heritage orders.

The City of Boroondara says it is the only council to have the amendment.

The controversial amendment is now at the centre of a stoush over who is responsible for reducing a building of heritage value to a pile of rubble.

Opponents say the state’s amendment – and its subsequent failure to intervene in the demolition – enabled the destruction of the double-fronted brick house at 368 Auburn Road.

But the state government argued that councils were responsible for heritage and it was the City of Boroondara that issued the home’s owner with a demolition permit in July 2018.

The state claims that following local outcry, the council then put a heritage overlay on the property in April this year, knowing that it would be trumped by the demolition permit.

“If the council was serious about protecting this house, it would not have issued a demolition permit to knock it down last year,” Planning Minister Richard Wynne said.

The National Trust called on the state government to close what it termed a “bizarre’’ loophole in the Boroondara planning scheme that it said allowed protected places to be demolished.

National Trust CEO Simon Ambrose said homes granted interim heritage protection, which meant they were being considered for permanent protection, could be bulldozed if a demolition permit had been obtained before temporary protection was granted.

“Unless this loophole is closed, more houses will be lost,”’ he said.

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No. 368 shortly before its demolition.

The City of Boroondara said that due to the amendment, its hands were tied to prevent the demolition.

The council said in a statement that it also meant other houses in the precinct were at risk.

It said it was disappointed with the minister’s “lack of action to preserve heritage in the City of Boroondara”.

“The impact of this exemption cannot be understated as evidenced by [Friday’s] destruction of an identified heritage home,” it said.

In May, Mr Wynne intervened to stop demolition of 135-year-old Currajong House, across the road from 368 Auburn Road.

The state government said the council didn’t inform it about number 368’s impending demolition until bulldozers were moving on the house on Friday.

“The council has had ample opportunity to request state intervention, but instead has sat on its hands until bulldozers are out the front,” Mr Wynne said.

The council said the demolition order had been issued by a private building surveyor and it had campaigned for months to have the amendment removed.

Before the exemption, when an interim heritage overlay was introduced a planning permit would be required for demolition works.

Resident Christopher Blanden said he sent an email in February to the Planning Department, Mr Wynne and local MP John Kennedy, warning that the owner of the 1890s Victorian house had obtained a permit to demolish the building.

The letter called on the state government to revoke its amendment so that the owner couldn’t demolish the house without applying for a council planning permit.

Mr Blanden’s wife, Rose, said she feared “many, many beautiful houses across the whole of Boroondara can be demolished’’ under the amendment.

Mrs Blanden said it was vandalism that the “beautiful’’ house with established trees would be replaced by units she believed would be more suited to the Gold Coast.

Tim Smith, the member for Kew and the shadow minister for planning, said he was appalled as he witnessed the demolition.

“We can’t keep letting houses like that get destroyed, otherwise Melbourne will be irrevocably wrecked forever,” he said.

Mr Smith believes similar demolitions are inevitable “unless the planning amendment C299 is revoked” due to land values in Boroondara “and this government’s bizarre priorities when it comes to heritage”.

“They want to list the Eastern Freeway [for heritage protection], but they wouldn’t give a toss about a 130-year-old property in Hawthorn,” he said.


For opponents to such Heritage Overlays and Listings, they point out that they ‘own the property’ and ‘it’s their right to do what they please’. Under current legislation without a valid Heritage Listing or at least a valid interim Heritage protection order that trumps any demolition permit, they’re correct and there is not a thing anyone can do about it.

The contentious amendment C299 must be revisited to ensure Heritage protection is guaranteed whether in Booroondara or any other municipality. It is a deficiency in both planning policy, State legislation and Local Government building regulations.

Armidale, Kew, Hawthorn, Malvern, Black Rock, Beaumaris, Moonee Ponds, Toorak, Caulfield – the list continues to grow. It’s getting to a critical situation. Demolitions are occurring weekly.

[In the next week we will post Heritage Listing application forms on our website. It does require a good understanding of what is possible, but there are recent cases that demonstrate Community action can be successful, example the Albert Park campaign for No. 1 Victoria Ave.]


1 Victoria Avenue

Time for change. Time for both sides of politics to co-operate and look at the long term future and viability of Heritage Overlays, Listings and values within this State.

Heritage protection is for all now, but where it should really resonate is with future generations – they will surely thank us for our actions now if we can prevail upon the powers that be to act decisively.

“Heritage – protecting the past to enhance the future.”

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