An 1886 Boom Time mansion in Hawthorn East is to auction late in September through Abercromby’s agents Jock Langley and Andrew Harlock with $5m+ expectations. The agents are flaunting its architectural pedigree saying that is “thought to be designed by John Edmund Burke”. However, the Radical Terrace found no such links between the home now listed and the Melbourne architect. The origin of that urban myth came from local historian Meredith Gould who theorized in her 1994 Conservation Study that the original owner of Rathgar - John Burke - may be the father of John Edmund Burke. While a John Burke was indeed the father of John Edmund Burke, the architect son was born in 1868 (meaning he would have only been 18 at the time of Rathgar’s construction) and did not begin his architectural practice until 1890, making it an improbable stretch that he was the architect of the home. Furthermore, Burke wasn’t a particularly distinguished architect in the first place to be worthy of such note.
Regardless, that historical flub doesn’t take away from the heritage significance of the home now listed for sale. ‘Rathgar’ is situated at the corner of the aptly named Grandview Grove (and the now well-trafficked Victoria Road), where a number of double storey Victorian brick villas were constructed in the boom years of the 1880s, taking advantage of its elevated location and views to the city skyline. The convenience of the recently opened railway stations at Auburn and Camberwell provided a direct link to the Melbourne CBD and added to the area’s desirability at the time of construction.
The home has been well-maintained, keeping its tennis court in the same position all these years, as is evidenced in the parcel map below. According to a 2007 City of Boroondara study of Grade B Heritage buildings, “Rathgar is a fine and relatively externally intact example of a substantial two-storey Italianate villa of the late 1880s. Constructed at the height of the boom, the house is an imposing, albeit conventional, example of a relatively common Boroondara typology. Later additions are generally to the rear of the house and do not detract from its presentation.” We couldn’t have said it better ourselves.
The five-bedroom home with pool and tennis court has beautiful grounds but a completely uninspiring interior. A number of trophy Hawthorn properties have sold this year with another round of listings on the market at present, meaning Rathgar’s listing is likely jumping on the back of Hawthorn’s recent popularity.
And for the record, Rathgar last sold for a whopping $1.37m in May 1993, a big price for the day. Grandview Grove is considered the second most prestigious street in Hawthorn East (after Harcourt Street) and has commanded prices as high as $4.84m (#14 in 2005). Victoria Road has also garnered some high prices, despite its more eclectic and crowded streetscape: 159 Victoria Road, a far smaller single story Victorian, sold for $3.46m in May 2010.
1895 site plan (above) and Google Maps aerial (below) reveal infill development and the addition of a pool, garaging, rear extension, and an expanding Victoria Road sidewalk.
Click below for more property images, listing information, and FLOOR PLAN!