My heart skipped a beat last week when a friend who lives in Elwood told me he drove down Fitzroy Street in St Kilda and saw scaffolding surrounding the George Hotel.
Here it is.
Here is a view of the George across Fitzroy Street with peeling facade.
The George was built in the 1860s. It fulfills all my requirements for any building - circular tower, which is very rare (tick), located in the most vibrant and bohemian suburb in Melbourne (tick), high ceilings (tick), plaster white walls (tick) and an excellent restaurant on the ground floor (Melbourne Wine Room, where Karen Martini is the chef and owner).
This is one of Melbourne's oldest hotels. It was originally named the Terminus Hotel to reflect its location opposite the original 1957 St Kilda railway station (now a light rail route). In the early part of the 19th century St Kilda was a popular holiday destination (which seems strange now as it is such an inner Melbourne suburb). It was a place to 'take the waters' as opposed to the current beach activity which can include 'avoiding the syringes'.
Various parts have been demolished over the years (including a three storey original building which was demolished in 1975 to make way for a drive through bottle shop). Various additions were made in 1873, 1889 and 1924. At one point the hotel had more than 250 rooms.
Those people who were young and out and about in the 1980s will recall a nightclub called the Seaview Ballroom which operated in the back of the building. Yes I was there (without my parent's permission) with all the punks and New Romantics listening to Duran Duran.
In the 1990s visionary St Kilda developer Donlevy Fitzpatrick redeveloped the George into residences, ranging from little studios to quite large apartments.
Why do I care about all this? Because we lived there for 3 years, in a little penthouse carved out of the roof space. Our bathroom was accessed through a hidden door and its walls and floor were completely covered with pale acqua mosaic tiles. An artist used the tower for his painting. We were kept awake by the thump of music for the weddings and barmitzvahs held in the old Seaview Ballroom behind the building. An art gallery in the ground floor held champagne openings and charity auctions. We could see the sea, and smell the Ferraris each March when the Grand Prix was run. We could watch the Gay Pride parade down Fitzroy Street each February. We would see the backpackers hostel behind us and hear Swedish tourists playing guitar on hot nights. We had to walk quickly up Grey Street because if you lingered you could be (a) picked up by a stranger looking for company (b) robbed or (c) bumped into by a local who had just obtained their methodone dose from the Amcal chemist on the corner. We could pop down to the Melbourne Wine Room for a glass of wine and some olives whenever we wanted.
And, sadly, there was no agreement amongst the body corporate members on how to fix the facade. The options were all expensive. Some people had money to put to the cause. Others didn't. So ultimately nothing happened.
It was a sad day when we left our home here. As anyone who has lived in St Kilda will tell you, it is addictive and hard to get out of your system. I am so pleased that something is being done to repair this dowager by the sea.
Here is my pastel drawing of our view from the back balcony. Yes, yes, this is my Fauvist period. Well spotted!
Images: (1) Dean Melbourne at Flickr (2) (4) Walking Melbourne (3) Lonely Planet (5) Jane
Other sources: Walking Melbourne.com