village will not much longer be without a hotel and one that will not disgrace
the beauty and pleasantness of its situation,’ bragged Joseph Howard when he
bought this site in June 1846. As Miles Lewis astutely
noted, its location at and facing the beachfront rather than Fitzroy Street
indicated its resort, rather than commercial market.
Under James Mooney from 1853, the Royal was the centre of St Kilda. A prominent
three-storied Mannerist addition, turning the corner of Robe Street,
next to the stables, was added in 1862. A beautiful hotel gas-lamp graced the
Royal Hotel, corner
and the Esplanade, 1864
Mooney died in 1869, but his family operated
the Royal Hotel for the rest of the nineteenth century. They offered dancing,
minstrels and singing. George Watson’s holiday-makers and longer-term guests
co-existed together. It was the most popular mid-nineteenth century hotel in St
Kilda. And it had established the ingredients of future successful hotels in St
Kilda: accommodation for holiday-makers and longer-term guests, slightly raffish
style, plenty of drinking and diverse entertainment.
22 The Esplanade, corner
By 1929 it had been entirely swept away to
make way for the construction of the Belvedere flats, in a style direct from
Westwood, Los Angeles.
The architect was William H. Merritt. He is said to have designed ‘numerous
flats in St Kilda and Elwood’. Of these, five have been identified: Sur-la-Mer,
25 The Esplanade in a vaguely Old English manner, Valma
at 17 Victoria Street, St Kilda (both 1936) and Lockerbie
Court (cnrOrrong Road),
St Kilda East (1938) and San Diego, 9A Princes Street (late 1930s) all in a bold
plain Moderne style and the Modernist façade of
367-368 Beaconsfield Parade (1941). Beyond St Kilda, other Merritt flats are in
Wellington Parade (cnr
Garden Avenue), East Melbourne
(1938), 263 Orrong Road,
East St Kilda (extent?),
and Toorak Road,
The building permit for Belvedere was issued
on 18 December 1928.
The builders were the well- known firm, J.R & E. Secull,
still active today (as E. Secull).
The developer was McAlpin Bros.
Belvedere is a three-storied block of thirteen
flats. Nine of them have two bedrooms; four only have one bedroom. Those
facing The Esplanade have a dining room separate from the living room. This is
octagonal, under the belvedere, which is such a landmark. At the entrance is a
cantilevered canopy, another American touch. Over the entrance is a
cantilevered Juliet balcony, ‘supported’ on elaborate wrought iron brackets.
There are also wrought iron window grilles.
Belvedere is a St Kilda landmark and reflects
similar domical elements on the Sea Baths, Palais Theatre and at LunaPark.
It is clad with Cordoba
tiles with splendidly decorative curlicue wrought iron brackets and bellied
wrought iron balustrades. Parapets are capped with Cordoba
tiles and decorative rafters project from walls. All of these are
characteristics of the Spanish Mission style.
The design is similar to apartment blocks
being built in the 1920s on the West Coast of the United States,
but also in New York,
such as Del Mar Towers, Brooklyn
Bathrooms at Belvederare
theatrically extravagant, with barley sugar collonettes
supporting the over-bath cupboard, sea-green ceramic wall-tiles and even a
sunken bath - a Hollywood dream come true.
Belvedere marks the arrival in St Kilda of the
extravagant domestic exotic in flat design. Preceding it chronologically are
Summerland Mansions, (1920, 15), in a restrained Classical, English
Arts-and-Crafts and Mediterranean manner. Kings Grove, at 44 Fitzroy Street,
is also well-mannered stripped Classical.
The earliest Spanish Mission flats in
Melbourne, Aston Court, 43 Acland Street, St Kilda (1919) by architects Edwin
J. and C.L. Ruck, subsumes a Victorian house with a very house-trained design;
although there are earlier Spanish Mission maisonettes from 1925, by Marcus
Martin in Domain Road (cnr Caroline Street), South
Yarra. After Belvedere, comes Baymor (1930) at
6 Victoria Street,
which developed the Spanish Mission manner further in a more domestic way, set
about a private cortile space. The architects there were Sydney Smith,
Ogg and Serpell.
The Spanish Mission domestic style developed
over 1891-1915, following the restoration of the Franciscan missions and the
founding of the historic preservation movement with the California Landmarks
Club in 1894. The icon ode to the Mission
style was the Californian building at the 1893 World Exposition at Chicago.
The style quickly caught on, particularly in Hollywood
and Westwood and in the homes of the stars. In 1920s California
there was a separate craze for Moorish details in the Spanish Colonial Revival,
not so noticeable in Australia.
Here, Spanish Mission means textured light coloured render parapets, and Cordoba
tiles, Baroque decorative details and forms, arcades, with barley-sugar columns,
wrought iron grilles, balustrades and lamps with curlicues and adobe references,
such as projecting joists.
Towers had previously been incorporated into
design of the Canterbury
(21) and I.G.Anderson’s Avenue Court in
Albert Park, to take advantage of bay views and as a formal compositional
element, marking the corner. Another corner tower is at Bradoc
Parade, East Melbourne
where it was floodlit at night. Other architects to use corner towers in the
1930s to mark the staircase included Gawler and Drummond, Stuart Hill and A.W.
Plaisted. Robert Hamilton’s Kings Lynn in Toorak is
there are some architect-designed Spanish Mission houses before the Great War,
but the trend did not catch until the mid 1920s. The greatest Australian
example is the house Boomerang in ElizabethBay,
by Neville Hampson (1926), for music publisher,
Frank Albert, now the most expensive house in Australia.
large Spanish Mission houses by architects Leighton Irwin and Marcus Martin were
publicised. By the late 1920s there were many examples of the style, from the
restrained Querida, 48 Victoria Street,
(Irwin and Stephenson, 1926) to the exuberant Kellow
Faulkner Motors (Harry Norris1928-29), now the RoyceHotel,
St Kilda Road,
It is said that Kylie
Minogue, a performer, may have purchased (in November 2000) a flat in
The roof garden of 22A, next door to the
south, has been made televisually famous around the
globe as the set for the ‘soap’, The Secret Life of Us. Other St Kilda
buildings prominent in the series include the Vineyard Restaurant, 71a
and the interiors of Inverleith apartments, corner
and Church Square,
St Kilda. My friends in Norway
refuse to miss an episode, helpfully subtitled in Norwegian, so familiar are
they now with the street life of St Kilda, Australia.
David & Wilson Sayer Core Pty.Ltd.St Kilda Conservation Study.Area 2.(Undated ).
David & Winter, Robert. Los Angeles.
1999. pp 109 and 116. Goad gives
date as 1919: the Heritage Study states 1926.