This story begins with three
Brooklawns: two houses in St Kilda and the tiny
village in Ireland
after which they were named; and the mother and daughter who owned them and
lived in them.
In March 1875, the Victorian colonial
government confirmed the, until then uncertain, dimensions of the Albert Park
reservation in the St Kilda Advertiser, (48). But then it made
the bombshell announcement that it would sell the St Kilda Road
frontage for house lots. This then unprecedented appropriation of parkland is a
tactic that continues today, as Albert Park and RoyalPark
residents are well aware. The central block of three between Union Street,
and Queens Terrace (now Queens Road)
and Queens Lane
was granted to G. Godfrey in November1875. In 1879 it was re-sold to Isabella
Isabella (d.1906) was the wife of George
Williamson Bruce (1841-1903) who was born in the tiny village
in County Leitrim,
Bruce arrived in Melbourne
in 1861, to join his elder brother John Munro Bruce in the
softgoods firm Laing and Webster. John
already had seven years business in Ireland
before arriving here three years earlier. In 1893 he became father to Stanley
Melbourne Bruce, prime minister of Australia
1923-29. In 1869, George began his own business in Kyneton. Meanwhile John
began his own soft-goods import firm with a former workmate as Patterson,
Laing and Bruce in 1879. Next year George left
Kyneton to join the firm, who then added an extra storey to their building at
264 Flinders Lane,
which was designed by the architect Charles Webb, reputedly making it the
largest warehouse in Victoria.
Later George became a partner in the Denton Mills Hats, Braeside Shirts and
chairman of the commissioners of the (State) Savings Bank.
George, (who continued to be described as a
warehouseman) and Isabella, their three sons and daughter were living at
11 Dundas Place,
Emerald Hill (South Melbourne).
About 1880-82, Bruce built a ten room house with stables at his wife’s property
at 82 Queens
Terrace. He called it Brooklawn after the village
where he was born. The architect may have been Edward
Twentyman who designed Wombaleno, John’s home
in Kooyong Road, Toorak a few years later, and whose partner (after 1832), David
Askew designed another warehouse in Flinders Lane for Paterson,
Laing and Bruce in 1899.
Twentyman and Askew were the architects of Block Arcade (1891 & 93) and
offices, flour mills and houses around Melbourne.
Another contender for the designer of this Brooklawn
is the distinguished architect Charles Webb, who designed most of the Flinders Lane
commercial accommodation for Paterson Laing and
Bruce in the 1880s. It could even be a work of W.H.
Ellerker & Co who tendered one house in St Kilda in 1880.
In 1893-94 till 1895-96, the dark Depression
years, George Bruce was forced to let Brooklawn, to
Laurence Benjamin, financier and gentleman. This was clearly whilst he awaited
completion (unusually, during the Depression) of his larger mansion, Clarence
(now The Mansion), next door at 83. The Queens Road
Brooklawn continued to be let until at least 1905. The next year,
Isabella died and the title passed to her husband. In 1908 he died also and,
curiously for the time, the title by-passed the sons to their sister, Edith
Loudon Bruce who continued to live there. But in 1913, she sold
Brooklawn to Dr Marcel Crivelli,
a founder of the Alliance Française established at
17 Robe Street,
St Kilda. Edith moved to 91-97 Fitzroy Street,
which she re-named Brooklawn, and operated as a
As for the Queens Road
Brooklawn, Dr Crivelli leased it to a series
of qualified nurses who operated it as Lister PrivateHospital.
There were additions and alterations, particularly in 1927 by eminent architects
Blackett and Forster. The 14-bed hospital lasted for 62 years. In 1932 if
briefly became the Chinese consulate, subsequently a brothel, recently an
office, then vacant, merely a car park. In 2001, both the Queens Road
Brooklawn and The Mansion
were demolished, to be replaced by a nondescript high-rise block of flats.
77-95 Fitzroy Street,
showing names of current shopfronts in front of the
Brooklawn et al buildings, 2004
At 91-97 Fitzroy Street,
Brooklawn had more luck. It is the most impressive
of four grand Boom houses in this group. It was built on land bought in 1846 by
Samuel Jackson (23) facing Albert Park. The designers of the other
houses are not known.
In July 1880, architects Smith & Johnson
called tenders for the owner Ruben Barnard, most probably for 91-97. It was
constructed by 1882 when its rates were first paid. Six years earlier, Smith
and Johnson had been architects for the Esplanade Hotel (14).
The other three houses: Strathmore,
89 Fitzroy Street;
the Villa, 85-87 Fitzroy Street
and 83 Fitzroy Street were built around 1881-82:
their façades all align. All have elaborate Boom period façades, influenced by
the Baroque architectural style. Each was set back behind lawns and pleasure
gardens. As has frequently occurred in St Kilda, by 1914, the other houses were
also boarding and vacation houses, part of the eleven houses in Fitzroy Street
which comprised Irvine’s
Residential Establishments. Then, Brooklawn was
occupied by a Miss Lilly. Edith Bruce’s whereabouts are unknown.
It was probably in the1950s that the (now
nine) shops were cheaply built in the front gardens of the mansions, which in
their time deteriorated. Brooklawn’s shop at no 91
had by 1995 already closed and been secured by shutters. It had purveyed
sex-mags and sex-toys. Brooklawn is said to have
been used as both the French Consulate and a brothel, but at different times.
Later in the 1990s, the shops were
reconstructed as more desirable and fashionable bars and cafés, and no. 90 (at
Brooklawn) has become
Chronicles bookshop. This was designed by architect Grant
Amon referencing appropriately nautical images. In September 1994,
Donleavy Fitzpatrick (7) was behind the
Brooklawn redevelopment, but he withdrew. In April
1995, the million dollar redevelopment project proceeded, also designed by Grant
Amon. By March 1996, desirable apartments in the
new ‘Brooklawn Mansions’ were being advertised for
City of St Kilda.Ratebooks.1856-57 to 1950.
Times.12 April 1995,
Timothy & Judoka, Petri.Report on Brooklawn.1989.
Nigel Lewis and
Kilda Study.Area One.South Yarra
Richard. 82 Queens Road,
St Kilda.Conservation Report.30 November
. ‘The Alienation of Melbourne’s Parks’.Victorian Historical Magazine.Vol.XIV, No 4. December
St Kilda by the
Sea Annual, 1914.
p48. Clear illustration of Brooklawn
prior to shops.
Sunday Age.10 March 1996.
The Argus.31 July 1880.
Gillian. The George.
Life and Times.VenusBay