Heritage and Restoration – How it can be done

This week we feature a more positive review. We start to look at some of the more interesting restorations and Heritage renovations in and around Melbourne and we take a quick peek at one of the hidden remnants of Old Melbourne’s past – smack in the middle of Port Phillip Bay.

Metropolitan Meat Market

In recent years a number of relatively non-descript older buildings in Melbourne have been restored and featured as modern venues, suitable for events, dinners and other similar purposes.

The first such venue is the old Melbourne Meat Market. Originally built by the ‘Victorian Meat Market Company’ in 1870 it defined the new boom times in its grand edifices and halls.

Melbourne Architect George R Johnson prepared sketches suitable for the changing face of the trade. It was commissioned for construction by Mr William Reginalds, coincidentally the Mayor of Hotham (North Melbourne, a successful and notable figure in the meat trade of the times).

The building was used continually as a Meat Market up until 1974 when it was acknowledged that the grand building no longer served its purpose of servicing the meat and butchery trade. With no space for extra and required refrigeration, the stall holders began to move on to more purpose built premises.

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Arts Victoria purchased the building in 1979. In 1985 the building was renamed ‘Meat Market Craft Centre’. This changed in 1998 when the venue was again renamed. It now became the ‘Metro Craft Centre’. At the time it began to be used a a Performing Arts Venue.

The building was substantially renovated in 2002-03. At the time it was over a century old. After the renovation it was for the main part managed by the City of Melbourne. The Council’s ‘Art House’ brand managed the venue. The buildings were presented as creative development and presentation space.

As of 2015 the Meat Market became a venue in its own rite. Over 30 art businesses operate from the venue to this day.

As a venue for a variety of event style functions the Meat Market can seat 600 people for a formal dinner. Dine in a first grade heritage listed building restored and fully maintained to feature its 19th Century grandeur. The cobblestone floor and barrel vault ceiling leave you with a sense that the next sound you may hear is the clip-clop of horses hooves and carts – pass the shiraz please.

It is a perfect illustration of how to retain heritage buildings that have been degraded over time.

Given what has happened recently, this iconic building could easily have ended up another pile of ‘Corkman’ style rubble without sensible intervention – from the City of Melbourne and originally Arts Victoria. It demonstrates that in many cases, it is imperative that Government intervenes.

The second venue is less spectacular externally but demonstrates a clever use of a large unused space in an intelligent creative manner. Located at 135-157 Racecourse Rd Kensington just prior to the on ramp to Citylink heading west its an unobtrusive brick building constructed post World War II in 1945-46. It was an armaments factory owned by Barge Bros. The building was designed by C.T. Gilbertson. It has been a spring factory, a foundry and then housed the complete wardrobe and props for the ‘Pharlap’ movie filmed nearby at Flemington Racecourse.

This is a unique building. Outside is rectilinear, Art Deco reminiscent of the Dutch Modernist William Dudok. However inside the factory features an immense curved roof with arches spanning 30 meters. The arches are glue-laminated Coachwood, 29 sections creating an open column-free area. This is of significant heritage value from a scientific and architectural viewpoint for Victoria, being the first time such a method was used to create open space..

And the venue now known as the Pavilion takes full advantage of this unique feature, seating 200-600 people for a unique sit-down dining experience in open style.

Finally for this bulletin we take a boat trip to the mouth of Port Phillip Bay. Here we find some of the ‘forgotten’ history of Victoria and its capital Melbourne. Man made islands for fortifications to repel invaders still stand guard. There were two forts. One is known as the Pope’s Eye. It is now protected in a Marine Reserve. It was constructed in the 1880s by Sir William Jervios. The island was formed by dumping bluestone boulders on a submerged sand bar in 12 meters of water.

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It was never completed as naval advances in weaponry meant hostile ships could now be bombarded from the gunneries on Swan Island and on nearby Fort Queenscliff. It’s an interesting location with remnants of gun positions and living quarters still intact. Take a boat out on the weekend and sample the rather eerie feeling of stepping foot into the past directly.

 

It was complimented by a second man-made island – the South Channel Fort. Between 1890 and 1916 over 100 officers and men lived on the island. It was abandoned for the same reason. 14,000 tonnes of bluestone boulders, concrete and sand were used in its construction. There are strong remnants of its military past there with ‘disappearing’ gun mechanisms still in situation.

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There was an underground living area called a ‘keep’ with a labyrinth of passages, small lobbies, magazines and a fully functional kitchen. From this island fortress the mines for the minefield in the South West Channel were stored and tested. Minefield?? Can you believe it?

Both locations were established to ward off ‘the enemy’. In those days Victoria had a navy. And Russia and France were our enemies. Rule Brittania! Oh and we also welcomed the US Confederate Navy at the time.

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US Confederate Navy ship Shenandoah docked in Melbourne in 1865

All of this lends to our colourful historic past. We are fortunate in that many historic homes and buildings, indeed locations, have been preserved for posterity. We feature a number of these today photographically in this blog, and if you choose to, you can read about nearly all of them in previous blogs we have published.

This isn’t the time to back down and permit the destruction of our heritage and history. There are no good reasons to demolish buildings so rich in history, beauty and a timeless sense of being. At Balance we say protect and preserve our past. And if anyone does transgress the law, then let them be forced to restore the damage they cause. No more Corkmans, no more cultural vandalism – heritage is owned by all of us.

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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.

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The Developers ruse – “Knock ‘em down”

The Corkman Irish Pub demolition (formerly the Carlton Inn) represents a rather unsavoury tactic of Developers. It’s certainly not new, but it surely was and is the most blatant example of the tactic in question, or is it? This week we look at sanctioned demolitions in St Kilda – The Greyhound Hotel, and a magnificent Residential home of grand proportions in Kew.

The tactic is to skin a property back to bare bones – land freehold. Before any further action can be taken, the ‘Developers’ must remove the existing building and structures. For those with no sense of history, heritage or beauty this makes perfect sense. It enables a clean palette from which a simple land sale through to a multi storied tower or multiple dwellings can then proceed.

Older Heritage style buildings are expensive to maintain. They are often in need of drastic repairs and maintenance. Quite often developers will let a building deteriorate to the point it simply cannot be repaired or restored, thus justifying its demolition. Buildings left derelict are pilfered for copper, lead and other materials sourced from plumbing, electricals and even decorative features.

The Larundel Asylum building in Bundoora has suffered this fate. Basically it would be very difficult to restore. [URL previous]

Look at the result in St Kilda where the Greyhound Hotel, a building 160 years old, was destroyed by the wreckers hammer, and excavators tearing down the historic hotel opposite the St Kilda Town Hall in May this year.

The Port Phillip Council (who operate from the St Kilda Town Hall) requested the Victorian Planning Minister Mr Richard Wynne to add the building to the Heritage list of Victoria. He refused. It is interesting to note that this is in fact the same Planning Minister who has orchestrated $1 million in fines against the rogue Corkman developers.

So what was different? The company that owned the Greyhound HAD a planning permit to demolish the building and erect an eight storey apartment block.

It’s a similar scenario with the destruction of the historical London Hotel in Port Melbourne demolished in April this year.

Quite simply, the local Council had waited until after permits for demolition and building were granted before applying for Heritage Listings. This is simply shutting the gate after the horse has bolted.

The Heritage Policy is unclear and easily manipulated by those with a profit motive. Compare the situation to Amsterdam where owners of historic buildings can apply for substantial grants to restore, maintain, or in character redevelop such a building.

The answer is that in Melbourne, there is a clear disconnect between valuing heritage and actually funding heritage. No one wants to accept the financial responsibility.

As well it sometimes takes public action to push Local Government into acting. This happened with both the Greyhound Hotel and the London Hotel – but too late.

“The Council’s position is that the State Government planning and heritage policies has too little regard for ‘socially significant’ buildings like the Greyhound Hotel”

The Age – May 11th

The Greyhound Hotel was originally built in 1853 and in 1938 was remodelled in an Art Deco style. This undermined its claim to be considered an ‘historical building’. Originally as its name suggests a ‘sporting’ pub for workers, the first Licensee, a MR John Broad was an eager promoter of holiday race meetings for Greyhounds. The ‘sport’ involved ‘coursing’ where greyhounds would hunt down an ill fated rabbit, the winner being the dog that killed the unfortunate bunny. Different times!

It had a number of Famous local (and infamous) licensees from 1865 to 1886.

During its time of renovation (1938) many hotels Australia-wide were renovated, the renovations dating from the 1920s through to the 1940s. In the 1980s the hotel became the focal point of Melbourne’s ‘Drag’ subculture. It was a popular music venue with weekly ‘drag’ revues until its final demise in January 2017.

But look! No apartments! The developers did not proceed with the ‘Eight Storey Tower’. Instead the block is for Sale, priced at $7 million! Now that’s quite a clever gamble on the $2 million paid in 2006 for the high profile drag venue and gay bar! All legal mind you, all legal. It should be said there was considerable opposition from Council to extend the hotel’s hours, based on residents objections.

The same type of ‘renovation’ applied to the Greyhound occurred at the London Hotel in the 1930s, debarring it well from Heritage Listing.

Finally we look at what can only be described as a tragedy in Kew.

Two Chinese investors purchased the home of former Hawthorn Football Club (AFL) President – Andrew Newbold – for a cool $9.16 million. They had a grand plan – bulldoze the home and offer it as a ‘clean block’ for $17.5 million, its current listing.

What drove the action was the State Government’s ‘Plan Melbourne’ Blueprint which has removed the cap on how many dwellings can be built on a block, replacing it with mandatory garden space ‘requirements’. With Council approval, the site can now be developed into multiple dwellings and advertised as such.

The original home was a stunning, authentic and restored Federation house located on one of Melbourne’s most valuable streets.

Council (Baroondara) had campaigned heavily against the now legislated changes, alas unsuccessfully. The demolished home was fully renovated by its interior designer part owner – Mrs Newbold. This included many of its period features as well as its stately facade.

There is a lot of blame and fingerpointing currently occurring between the various City Councils and the State Government. In a nutshell its time for it to stop, for a cooperative and collaborative approach to be devised with the State Government, Local Councils, the National Trust and other relevant bodies forming a commission and conferencing to establish workable Heritage laws that not only consider the building elements but also the social and historical implications.

Enough is enough.

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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.

The Illegal Destruction of One of Carlton’s Oldest Buildings – The Corkman Hotel (formerly the Carlton Inn), circa 1856

The Corkman Irish Pub was demolished illegally without planning or heritage approval on the weekend of the 15th and 16th of October, 2016. Formerly known as the ‘Carlton Inn’ it was, prior to demolition, one of the oldest buildings in Carlton, having been built in 1856. Originally a quarter acre allotment on the corner of Leicester and Pelham Streets, a Mr R Hepburn purchased it in 1853 and then subsequently subdivided the crown allotment into smaller 70ft x 70ft allotments. Construction of the hotel commenced in 1856 with the hotel trading in 1857 licensed to a Mr George Edmonds.

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The Carlton Inn Hotel, 1957

The City of Melbourne Heritage Overlay described the building as follows –

Historically significant as one of the earliest extant buildings in this part of Carlton, which has undergone substantial change since the time of its original construction in 1857. The Carlton Inn is of historical significance as a good example of the Victorian Period. The facade is relatively plain and generally indicative of the early to mid Victorian period, though the parapet may date to the later Victorian period. The facade has a stucco finish but the original corner section may be partly stone.

Property Developers Stefce Kutlesovski, Raman Shaqiri and their company 160 Leicester Pty Ltd face 16 charges laid by the Victorian Building Authority and the Melbourne City Council.

Council has accused the parties of demolishing a building without a permit, ignoring a stop work order, and carry out demolition whilst unregistered and in breach of planning laws.

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Penalties for the offences range from $3000 to $388,000, with Planning Minister Richard Wynne stating the developers could face fines of more than $1 million in total, at the time of the demolition.

Builders rubble containing Asbestos from the site was found dumped in the open by the EPA at Cairnlea in Melbourne’s western suburbs, uncovered and unprotected. The EPA fined the developers $7500. As of January 2017, the EPA has issued a total of $31,000 in fines for non-compliance against the Developers. At the time the developer owners informed the Victorian Government they would rebuild the pub. That was then.

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The building was destroyed by Shaq Demolitions and Excavations. The business is half owned by Raman Shaqiri. In essence the company that paid $4.76 million for the pub in August 2014 half owned the demolition company.

Raman Shaqiri holds both a valid demolition license and a current building license, issued by the Victorian Building Authority. One could possibly deduce that Mr Shaquiri essentially thumbed his nose at the authority and its regulations.

The Union Movement through the Trades Hall Council and the CMFEU have imposed Green Bans on the site of the demolished building, the first such bans in over a decade.

The Developers have ‘dug in’ hiring top ‘Silk’ Stuart Morris QC, a top planning barrister, to represent them.

Corkman

Initially the Developers had sent a letter to Planning Minister Richard Wynne conceding their fault, saying they had ‘breached faith with the community and made very serious errors of judgement’. They undertook to immediately restore the building at their expense. But they didn’t.

In June 2017 the Developers commenced action in the Supreme Court, suing the Planning Minister Richard Wynne, in a further bid to build a high rise construction on the site. Success would see the land purchased for $4.76 Million in 2014 ($1.56 Million above its reserve) revalued at $10 Million; Not hard to see the driving force here.

Mr Wynne will appear and defend the Supreme Court action. In his statements Mr Wynne has reiterated the Government’s requirement for a rebuild and compliance with the requirements of the Victorian Building Authority, the City of Melbourne and the Environmental Protection Authority. The order stipulates that as much of the original materials as is possible should be used in the rebuild.

For their part Mr Shaqiri and Mr Kutlesovski now seek the overturning of Planning Minister Wynne’s rulings – based on the fact the demolition ‘received extensive media coverage’. They argue Mr Wynne acted with ‘ulterior purpose’ of seeking to punish them – the implication being he did so for political purposes and gain.

Further they say Mr Wynne ‘failed to give them adequate opportunity to be heard’ or ‘to observe the rules of natural justice’.

If successful, the pair can expect the 40m height limit to be restored to the site, allowing for a 13 storey building on the site. Interestingly, preliminary drawings by CHT Architects have emerged of a 12 storey building the developers were planning for the Corkman site.

The Age, July 20th 2017

In VCAT a separate case brought by the Planning Minister Mr Wynne seeks an order forcing the pair to rebuild. Again they are resisting even after previously promising to rebuild.

“The orders sought are vague, imprecise and incapable of being complied with”

Such an order would be ‘oppressive’ their lawyer said.

And so on, the lawyers seek damages, costs and so forth.

The Corkman Pub, formerly the Carlton Inn, survived 159 years. It was a favoured ‘watering hole’ for generations of Melbourne University students. Owned continuously for over a century by one family, the Nobles, as in any working pub it saw changes over the years. In 1939 Architects Thomas Watts and Sons designed a new rear addition including kitchen, and provided alterations to the front bar. A two storey section was built on the eastern boundary in 1936. J.A. Trencher was the architect, with the new addition again seeing the kitchen moved and additional bed rooms added. Further alterations in 1954 by Architect Harry D Little saw the addition of single storey sections for laundry, toilets, a garage and fuel store, all replacing former outbuildings.

It’s obvious that the works were carried out with care, skill and expertise.

The recent works carried out by Shaq Demolitions utilised a Komatsu excavator, large tippers and sledge hammers, was perhaps less subtle.

It is the view of Balance Architecture that the ‘Developers’ should be hit with the full force of the law and be fined at the level that simply makes the projected plan uneconomical and unfundable. Never again should such appalling corporate behaviour be tolerated in the building industry.

And, brick by brick, bluestone block by bluestone block, vintage doors, vintage windows, floorboard by floorboard, Mr Raman Shaqiri and his partner Mr Stefce Kutlesovski must be forced to rebuild, restore and pay all costs on rebuilding the Corkman Hotel to its original state pre-demolition.

Melbourne’s heritage is precious, its time to make a stand.

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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.

The Palace Theatre in Bourke St – What’s your decision?

The Palace Theatre Melbourne – perhaps you remember it as the Metro Nightclub. Demolition of this well known Melbourne icon was approved in 2016 at VCAT. The interior was illegally demolished without permits in 2014. It is now owned by the Jinshan Investment Group. The group planned to build a 30 storey W Hotel on the site but are now restricted to a 7 storey site after the intervention of the City of Melbourne. Located at 20-30 Bourke St, the venue has a long history in the Entertainment Industry. As it stands, it is slated for demolition at any time.

The Palace Theatre is somewhat of an enigma. Its scenario is not that dissimilar to the Corkman Hotel of Carlton illegally destroyed by developers recently. The building is in fact a large, high roofed theatre. What was significant about it were its internal fittings. In 2014 a contracted demolition company removed the ornate plaster features, facades and balcony decorations, rendering the interior somewhat featureless and undermining any claims of heritage value. One could consider it a ‘tactic’ to enable a party to proceed with a demolition that might otherwise be opposed.

It this case, the venue represents a very valid principle in both planning and preservation. In the view of many – including the City of Melbourne’s representatives, it should be incumbent on the properties owners – Jinshan Investment Group – to restore the interior to its previous state.

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Originally the site was occupied from the late 1850s by the Excelsior Hotel. Hotels at the time were close relations to the Theatre and Theatre companies of the time. The Excelsior had a ‘hall’ attached known as ‘Queen’s Hall’. Vaudeville, boxing and wrestling events were staged there regularly. Name changes occurred in 1875 (Stutt’s Hotel) and 1900 (Hotel Douglas). The hotel was destroyed by fire in 1911 and the land was sold for 32,000 pounds.

In 1911, a new theatre was commissioned by the new owners, to occupy the site. Queensland Architects Eaton and Bates in association with Melbourne Architect Naham Barnet were tasked with designing the new theatre. It featured seating on 3 levels with a large proscenium and very grand ‘curtains of gold’. The theatre incorporated a hotel, the Pastorial, with bedrooms on the first floor.

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The theatre was modified in 1916 with a complete refitting of the lobby and auditorium under the instruction of Architect Henry E White. This involved the addition of ornate plaster mouldings decorating the theatre in a style recognised as ‘Louis Seize’.

Further additions to the decorative style occurred in 1923 when the theatre auditorium was extensively remodelled , retaining the Louis Seize style yet overlaying it with a further Adamesque decoration. Upon completion it reopened as the ‘New Palace’.

In 1934 a further new renovation occurred and the theatre became known as the Apollo. It was renamed again in 1940 – The St James Theatre. 1951 saw it renamed ‘The St James Theatre and Metro’. Now an MGM theatre it became a cinema and showed films exclusively from that studio.

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The street frontage and facade was remodelled in an Art Deco style – designed by a H Vivian Taylor, and to this day the design remains. The Proscenium and side boxes were removed to allow for the installation of a ‘CinemaScope’ screen.

In 1971 it reverted to live theatre with the production ‘Hair’ running for 39 weeks. By 1974 it had reverted to its original name and was a working Cinema – again. 1980-1987 saw it as a Christian Revival Centre run by the Pentecostal Church.

A major refurbishment was undertaken in 1987 by Melbourne Architects ‘Biltmoderne’. From then on it was known as the Metro Nightclub. The Nightclub was sold in 2007. The new owners were the former owners of the Palace live music venue in St Kilda.

They renamed the venue ‘The Palace’. Holding 1850 people, the venue hosted many well known touring groups and musicians over the next 7 years. It was sold to the Chinese Development Group Jinshan in late 2012.

In 2016 opponents to the demolition of the venue finally lost the fight and VCAT ruled that the Demolition should proceed and the redevelopment works go ahead.

Excerpts from Wikipedia

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This is a rather interesting case study. From an architectural viewpoint, much of the original charm of the foyer and auditorium were removed over the years but the very ornate plasterwork remained up until 2014. Additions made in 1987 including stainless steel staircases and galleries could easily have been reverted.

Its claim for heritage value was not on architectural grounds but on cultural grounds. The Bourke St Precinct has strict heritage overlays yet the Developer was prepared to challenge these, even in view of the Windsor result and the location of the Victorian Parliament, with a 30 storey tower – until challenged by Council as to its height.

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According to Professor Graeme Davidson, the Heritage listing (not ratified) for cultural importance was and is well justified.

“This is likely the last surviving expressly built Vaudeville Theatre (Variety Show) in Melbourne.”

The destruction is breathtaking when considering the ‘before’ and ‘after’ shots. In our view this is a glaring example of manipulation of regulations by third parties to gain an outcome that provides little recognition of heritage values. Under the Bourke Hill precinct overlay, the theatre’s internal fitout was protected as was the building’s facade. When the theatre was gutted and the interior demolished – no authority intervened.

Heritage is often more than just the value of the individual aspects of a building. It is the sum total of the history, the usage, the architecture and the decorations of a building. And as with the Corkman in Carlton and the Greyhound Hotel in St Kilda, this time VCAT, you got it wrong.

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What’s your opinion? Should the developers be forced to restore unauthorised demolitions? As it stands we have precious little left to preserve.

Its time Council started to respond and intervene when required. Our city has great character and we must do whatever it takes to retain what is quintessentially Melbourne.

Or are we satisfied with a 7 storey hotel with 143 rooms, a gym, swimming pool and a restaurant? You be the judge.

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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.

History? Sentiment? Safety? One of our oldest buildings under threat.

On the corner of King St and Latrobe St (South East corner) is situated one of Melbourne’s oldest buildings. A shop and dwelling, it is owned by George Dixon and his wife Lola Russell. It was built in 1850, but the building today faces serious structural problems. The Latrobe St Wall has now been braced. M/s Russell has lived there since the 1920s. Both George and Lola are aged in their nineties. Lola was one month old when she arrived at the King St address.

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Lola Russell’s grandfather purchased the building in 1899, setting up a News Agency and a General Store. Today it is known as ‘Russell’s Old Corner Shop’. Both M/s Russell and Mr Dixon still serve tea, coffee and snacks for the occasional customers. The shop is a living time warp – full of interesting curiosities. Both Lola and George are professional actors who will occasionally put on a performance for some lucky visitors.

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A photo taken from Flagstaff Gardens in 1867. The Russell Corner Shop is clearly visible near the exact centre of the image.

The problems faced in rectifying the structural issues of the property are substantial but not insurmountable. Consider that in 1850 building methods were so very different to today. Foundations were often bluestone lintels laid directly on earth with a very low grade mortar holding them in place. This was built as a residential home and shopfront, not a public building. As such it was never intended to be standing 167 years later, at least not in its original conformation. This is one of Melbourne’s busiest intersections. And this old house and shop have done extremely well to be still standing. Look around it – nearly all modern buildings, bitumen and concrete roads, gas and electricity services – it is indeed a small miracle that this tiny building has survived.

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The Melbourne City Council has indicated it will ‘assist’ the couple with their required rectification works. It has not however specified how.

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Shaynna Blaze

TV personality Shaynna Blaze (The Block, Selling Houses Australia, etc) has set up a crowd funding campaign to save the couple’s home aiming at collecting the $30,000 price tag on repairing the home currently quoted by contractors. The City of Melbourne has taken emergency action to prop up the leaning Latrobe St Wall on the Heritage listed building in the last few weeks and is monitoring the site.

Lord Mayor Robert Doyle told Mr Dixon, who was attending a Council meeting to put he and his wife’s case for assistance, that “Council was very aware of this property. We are very proud that it has been maintained by you and yours for the longest period of time – it is an absolute landmark”.

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St Francis Church, Lonsdale St (1841)

There are very few buildings of this vintage still standing in Melbourne. St Francis Church in Lonsdale St was built in 1841 and has stood the test of time. There are 5 other buildings of this vintage still standing in the Melbourne CBD. These are:

  • 1845 – The Baptist Church – Collins St Melbourne
  • 1848 – 300 Queen St Melbourne
  • 1848-49 – 58-60 Bourke St Melbourne (Jobs Warehouse)
  • 1849 – Oddfellows (former Hotel) 33 Lonsdale St Melbourne
  • 1849 – Black Eagle (former Hotel) 44 Lonsdale St Melbourne

At Balance, it is our opinion that it matters little who lives at such a property such as that currently owned by Lola Russell and George Dixon. This is an amazing vignette of Melbourne’s colonial history and provides a staggering contrast to the extraordinary development agenda of the last 100 years in our CBD.

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Basic human dignity and social responsibility says that the City of Melbourne should provide some duty of care for the elderly couple living in the dwelling. And it should not be lost on Council to accept that the property at this time would be worth a staggering amount of money, so any costs can surely be recovered in the future.

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One hopes the building can be preserved for posterity, that George Dixon and Lola Russell get to live their days out in their home of – in Lola’s case – over 97 years.

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And it would appear that common sense will prevail. Let’s hope we can pop in for a cuppa, a piece of cake and a little bit of showmanship for a few more years yet. Good luck to Lola and George, and on with the show!

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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.

Secret Mansions of Victoria

This time we visit two exciting properties. In Central Victoria at Murchison we visit Noorilim Estate, an extraordinary property established by William Irving Winter in 1879. The Winter family built many grand homesteads on the Goulbourn River and its Valley, including the 68 room Dhurringile, Curop, Caragarac, Toolamba, Colbinabbin and Stanhope. The other property we visit is the 44 room Barwon Park Mansion built by Thomas Austin who famously introduced the English Rabbit to Australia.

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Noorilim

Noorilim was constructed using ‘imported Italian craftsmen’ and ultimately cost 72,000 pounds to complete, a small fortune in those times. Featuring a prominent tower Noorilim is one of a very few substantial nineteenth century residences in rural Victoria. The winding road leading to the formal driveway is flanked by large Eucalypts and the extensive botanical gardens of the estate.

Vineyards now sit adjacent to either side of the entrance and its parklands. Abundant birdlife and peacocks provide insight into how abundant the wildlife is on the estate.

The building itself is an Italianate mansion. Its tower is reminiscent of Werribee Park and the Victorian Parliament. It is considered the finest work of Architect James Gall who also designed Mintaro at Monegeeta and Frognell in Canterbury.

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Here is a description from ‘Domain’, circa 1910

Wandering its spectacular botanical gardens and touring its exquisite interiors is a rare pleasure, easily prolonged.

Noorilim is owned by cleaning business tycoon and controversial art auctioneer Rod Menzies. He says it’s the atmosphere that is the defining glory. “It’s like stime stands still,” he says.

True enough, and thanks to Mr Menzies’ and past owners’ loving and thoughtful care, Noorilim shines still, despite its 130 years.

Designed by James Gall for former member of parliament William Winter-Irving in 1879 and set on 65 verdant hectares, the house is a most elegant study in ornate Italianate style and, while its looks are storybook gorgeous, a robust Australian aesthetic can be found here as well.

The colonnaded southern side is the natural face of the structure built on this orientation to make the most of the prevailing south winds to flow through the great arches in this often searingly hot part of central Victoria.

Those arches, or loggia, rise up to the first level, providing a beautiful coherence of form, while performing a vital cooling function.

The main entrance is on the eastern side, where the tower rises central to the facade.

A stunning broad reception area is enough to make you weep over the splendour — the ceilings rise to five metres and the deep cornices look as edible as delicate frosting; even the skirting boards are grand.

Corinthian columns also dominate the space as if their graceful heft holds fast the beauty all around. The great hall they frame boasts luminous Minton tiles laid by Italian artisans brought out specifically for the task.

Beyond here, the split stair conjures images of great soirees and period intrigue and leads to the minstrel gallery where Nellie Melba once sang.

Estate manager John McMaster’s wealth of knowledge, affably conveyed, helps to interpret the singular floorplan, explaining that the right wing of the house was the more utilitarian section.

“The hallway is behind a dividing wall so that on this side of the grand hall, the servants could get along the passage to the kitchen, laundry and to their upstairs quarters,” Mr McMaster says.

On the left, opening off the foyer, three exquisite formal rooms with floor-to-ceiling panes, marble fireplaces and access to the loggia provide a window into what it might have been like to live in the time of ballrooms and formality.

The property has 10 bedrooms in all and upstairs are some of the most beautiful you’re ever likely to see with adjacent dressing rooms that are larger than most modern standard bedrooms.

A great billiards hall, stairways to the tower, views to the Strathbogie Ranges and all that mesmerising Victorian-era space complete a breathtaking first level. Underground is a network of cellars.

The majestic grounds are a pure joy. A lily-covered ornamental lake with boat house, formal Italian and rose gardens and lush, rolling lawns, where peacocks and all manner of birdlife roam with a fabulous insouciance, are all part of the bounteous prize here.

Further afield, 30 hectares of vines produce red-wine varietals.

The Goulburn River runs silkily by, time stands still and life, like Noorilim, is very grand indeed.

Noorilim

  • $10 million-plus hopes
  • 205 Wahring Murchison East Road
  • 2-hour drive from Melbourne
  • One of Australia’s most significant private estates
  • Beautifully restored by several owners over the years
  • Named after the local Aboriginal tribe, the Nkurekban (formerly Ngoordaialum)
  • Classified by the National Trust and featured on the Historic Buildings Register
  • 500 metre Goulburn River frontage
  • 80 acres of income producing vines including Shiraz, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Viognier are partly leased.
  • 10 bedrooms
  • 15 fireplaces
  • 7 staircases

History of a treasure

  • 1850s: Varying reports of Andrew Sinclair and Frederick Manton squatting on the land then known as the Noorilim run.
  • The estate was later taken up by Mr. William Drayton Taylor
  • 1870: At Taylor’s death it became the property of the Winter-Irving family
  • 1879: Noorilim house designed by James Gall and built for William Winter-Irving.
  • Later bought by Mr. Samuel Finlay.
  • 1927: Mr Norman Falkiner bought the estate from Finlay.
  • 1930: £40,000 (approximately) sale price to Mr James Tweedle for the house and 2,357 acres freehold, and 80 acres lease-hold from Mr Falkiner’s estate.
  • 1950s: Rumor of planned demolition, but apparently the demolition company gave such an exorbitant quote, its then-owner replaced the roof instead of the whole building.
  • 1975: Bryan and Loel Thomson bought the property and spent 24 years on restoration of the home and garden.
  • 1999: $3.325 million paid by Mr Rod Menzies
  • 2010: $10 million plus sale hopes

Noorilim Estate is a true reflection of the Golden Age of Australia and the riches wrought from the Golden Fleece – fine merino wool.

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Barwon Park Mansion

Another property of some note is Barwon Park Mansion. This imposing bluestone mansion was built in the 1860s for Thomas Austin and completed in 1871. It now holds a State Classification with the National Trust of Australia (Victoria) Register.

In all there are 42 rooms. Thomas Austin, a pastoralist, built it to accommodate a visit from the Duke of Edinburgh in the future as he felt his existing homestead, where he hosted the Duke had been manifestly inadequate, causing him great embarrassment.

Once one of Australia’s grandest mansions, it was designed by Architects Davidson and Henderson. It has a most striking staircase and is noted for its early use of Australian Cedar. It features staind glass windows, intricate, delicate ironwork over the entrance and around the verandahs with magnificent interior arches throughout.

The new mansion consisted of 42 rooms but unfortunately for Thomas Austin he had little time to enjoy it. He died six months after its completion. His wife Elizabeth Austin continued to live there for many years and became a noted philanthropist. The Austin Hospital in Heidelberg is named after her.

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Unfortunately for Thomas, he is best remembered for introducing the English rabbit, hares, blackbirds, thrushes and partridge to Victoria (and Australia). He was a member of what was known as the ‘Acclimatisation Society of Victoria’ . He started our ‘rabbit plague’ with 24 breeding pairs. Poor fellow! But he built a beautiful home and left a fine legacy. At the time he was praised for his efforts with rabbits!

Barwon Park is open for visitors twice a week. It remains relatively untouched and is well worth a visit. Details can be accessed on the National Trust Site. It provides a stunning vision of the past with great authenticity.

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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.

Congratulations Andrew Fedorowicz, Fellow of the Royal Australian Institute of Architects

Congratulations to our principal Architect Andrew Fedorowicz on achieving Fellowship of the Royal Australian Institute of Architects.

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The honour acknowledges both Andrew’s skill and understanding in delivering professional excellence in his chosen field as well as the time and effort he has devoted to community work for the benefit of others.

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In the past, apart from a range of highly awarded and significant residential projects Andrew has developed The Legends Club facility at Mooney Valley, overlooking the famous Race Course in Mooney Ponds, and the Cragieburn Sports Club, its bistro, gaming and golf facilities. Interestingly, the Legends Club at Mooney Valley is one of the few buildings that will remain upon the Race Course redevelopment.

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Large scale institutional buildings, gymnasiums, clubs and hotels, Andrew has designed all in his busy and awarded career over 35 years.

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Spending his time flitting between the country and city, Andrew recently completed a project to redesign the Ballarat Botanical Gardens Gatekeepers House for its return to the Botanical Gardens recently.

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So consider these factors when selecting an Architect for your project.

With property booming in Melbourne many older heritage style buildings are now changing hands. Younger families with different needs are purchasing property in hot locations like Kensington, South Melbourne, Brunswick, Albert Park, Clifton Hill, Essendon, Kew and other older areas.

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Many of these homes purchased are well over a hundred years old and are often protected by heritage overlays. Not only that in the last 60 years quite often heritage features have been removed in the quest for modernity. Many homes in areas like Northcote, Brunswick and Footscray bear testament to this.

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Younger more sophisticated buyers or Baby Boomers making that final purchase are looking for complete authenticity in any restoration work embarked upon, yet at the same time, there is the requirements of modern living – space, light, vibrancy.

We recommend you contact Andrew on 8696 9700 or leave a message on his website contact form here.

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Andrew is passionate regarding Heritage Buildings yet can and will provide practical and effective strategies and plans to provide owner occupiers with a comfortable, spacious and modern living situation.

Andrew is a most experienced Heritage Architect, understands the requirements of various period homes in terms of adornments, structure, facade and practical limitations. More importantly Andrew can offer advice of great value to his clients in how they should approach their renovation and renewal projects or in fact confront the rather difficult problems often presented when dealing with housing stock of over a hundred years in age or close to it, yet end up with spacious, light filled living areas.

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With real experience in many areas of Architecture, Andrew’s overall abiding passion is still Heritage architecture. This is evidenced in the popular weekly posts on social media with associated blogs on Melbourne’s rich history of historical and heritage buildings, estates and the families who have built and maintained them – and lost them.

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In any case sincere congratulations to Andrew, we are really proud of you. Next week we will resume our stories on both modern and heritage buildings and precincts.

balance logo 20150209a

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