Thursday, July 26, 2012

Where I Work

(no, not here, this is an undemolished house around the corner from home) 

If had been sitting in my current office working away as a solicitor in 1935 (most unlikely given my gender) this is what my building would have looked like:

The National Trust has just released an app which tracks demolished buildings of Melbourne.  Like every city, there are many, although we demolished maybe more enthusiastically than others.  Save for the English of course.  Bill Bryson points out in his book At Home that literally thousands of magical country homes were demolished in the middle of the last century, a sad fact now the subject of a site which Lisa pointed me to in a recent post.

The building above was used by the US General Macarthur as his residence during WW2, and also played host to Mark Twain and Alexander Graham Bell.It was demolished and replaced with the current high rise. 

Almost too sad to think about, that such a building has gone for good.

There are plenty more where that came from.  Remember the 1950's? I don't but apparently old things were considered ugly and out of fashion, and people wanted new clean lines.   There were very limited heritage controls and so people could buy large blocks of land, demolish the inconvenient Italianate mansion located on it, and build a lovely orange brick block of flats.

Here are some no longer with us, just in my area:

(Alta Vista, South Yarra, 1859)

(Corrabert, Toorak) 

(Leura mid 1800s, Toorak)

(Norla, Irving Road Toorak)

So many memories and people laughing, all gone.

But fear not, there are many buildings which have survived.

(Ripponlea in the suburb of the same name)

and many more still in private hands:

(Coonac in Clendon Road Toorak)

(Miegunyah, Orrong Road Toorak) 

(Images via the Age, National Trust (thanks!)

I have a very personal reason for feeling sad about demolished houses.

I grew up in a pale pink 1920s house, which we sold when my parents divorced.  To me that house was happiness incarnate.  I still dream of it.

Eventually, it sold and then sold again.  A few years ago I happened to drive past, and the wreckers were there, busily pulling it down.   I pulled over, a stared in unbelieving horror.  The gingko tree we climbed on, the ancient pear trees, the morton bay fig, the terracotta roof, the slate verandah, all gone.   A little bit of me died that day, I tell you. 

And what is there now?  A large block of neo Georgian neo Tuscan neo Palladian apartments.     What can you say?

Happy post next time, I promise. 


A Farmer's Wife said...

I really struggle with the way old buildings are pulled down. Particularly because a lot of the newer stuff leaves me cold. You have some beautiful photos in this post. I am so glad some of those old houses have been maintained and are still homes.

We live in an area where there are lots of the old fashioned rambling homesteads - they are beautiful but I must admit cost an absolute fortune to maintain. Do you think that is why some of the buildings are knocked down? Or do you think it is simply because people can make more money on those big old blocks by putting up apartments etc.??

Take care.

Jane said...

Well I act for property developers and when it goes well it is very profitable. You are really maximising your land space by building apartments!! But you would need a full staff to maintain some of these houses.

A Farmer's Wife said...

Definitely need staff for those old houses!! Those old butler's pantries work much better when you have the butler to match.....

Young at Heart said...

utterly fabulous...!!

Jacqueline @ HOME said...

Hi Jane,
Well, I adore old houses and have always lived in them. Our house before this one was built in 1643 and the one that we live in now 1895. My stomach always turns over when I see one being demolished, usually to make way for a block of flats !
I can though, understand a little how buildings were pulled down to make way for what they thought were sleek modern ones. To have lived through those dark days of the war must have been awful and to have a new modern home must have been lovely. My Grandmother worked below stairs in the early 1900's and when she visited us in our Victorian home, she just couldn't understand how we could love the art nouveau fireplaces that we have.....she used to have to clean them !! So, although it is so sad when we lose part of our heritage, I do have a little understanding as to why we lost some in the years following the war. We have a system that lists buildings of historical interest ( ours have been listed) and, you are not alloweed to demoish any part of them or change them in anyway and always have to ask permission if you want to alter anything ( quite a pain in the neck sometimes as they can be extra finicky about anything that you do !!) Do you have listed buildings ? XXXX

brismod said...

Although I bang on about mid-century this and that, it saddens me to see the houses which were demolished to make way for them. It seems like a complete waste. Our history is so undervalued...
Some people have suggested we move our house off our double block and build two new homes. The thought of that just leaves me cold. Money is not everything.
Great post Jane xx

Jane said...

Wow Jackie - 1643 - to an Australian that is so old. My husband's family is English and his grandmother lived in a house in the shadow of Warwick Castle a little house dating from the 1500s. The older the house, the more ghosts I say.

Anita - imagine building two on your beautiful block. Perish the thought.

annie said...

A timely post. There was a lovely old farm cottage on a hill overlooking a lake near here. I used to take the boys there for picnics out the front when they were little. Today I drove Shorty up there and it has been subdivided and replaced by a security gated blank faced monster of a McMansion. Apparently the architect lived in the cottage for six months while the surrounding farm was carved up to get a "feel" for the land. Can you disbar an architect?

Emma said...

It breaks my heart to see old buildings torn down. I lived in the most beautiful building when I was at boarding school, formerly an old house and it has instilled in me a life long love for crumbling old homes and history. x

Faux Fuchsia said...

Sad post.

Terrible re pink house x

Jane said...

Another thoughtful and sensitive post, Jane. It is such a travesty. When we lived in Sydney, I was staggered to find how many gorgeous sandstone Georgian buildings had been demolished near Circular Quay to make way for the office blocks. Thankfully in Hobart we still have most of our heritage buildings. J x

posie blogs Jennie McClelland said...

Wow, such a shame what was once considered ugly!! There is still a General MacArthur set of (museum style) from his Brisbane base too during WWII, really want to see it, next trip up there. Love Posie

Slim Paley said...

SO many gorgeous, gorgeous homes in this post.
How sad that people tear them down and build hideous things in their place.
Our home was built in 1895 and we restored it with love almost 20 years ago.
Sorry about your pink house. :(

Unknown said...

I understand your pain, I am a historian. I am very interested in Leura. A woman I am researching came to Australia, to work as parlourmaid and worked for M T H Payne for nine months in 1928. Any help you can give me about the lives of people in the area at this time would help me. The woman concerned Elenor Woodward from Derbyshire. She became a Police woman in the Metropolitan Police in 1931. Love the Blog.

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