Beyond the St Kilda Hill, travelling south on
the Arthur’s Seat Road, as the track to Point Nepean was then known, the next
rising ground around the bay is Elwood. From the 1840s, Brighton Road
kept to this high ground east of the Elwood swamp, rather than follow the
coast. Glen Huntly Road
formed the southern municipal boundary of St Kilda. Coaching inns were
dispersed along the Brighton Road
and two survive: the Grosvenor at 10 Brighton Road
opened in part of its present building in 1860, the other is the Elsternwick.
Elsternwick Hotel, the earliest (central) part
likely to have been built in 1854 or 1855, is one of the earliest in suburban
The oldest hotel continuously operating in its original building in Victoria
is the Old England in Heidelberg,
the earliest part of which was built in 1848 and also formerly a coaching inn.
It is thought that the designer of the
earliest section of Elsternwick Hotel was Robert Russell (1808-1900). Certainly
a copy of a design drawing of this hotel by Russell done in
1875, is held by the hotel. In Russell’s drawing, the hotel stands
isolated in remnant bush with a swampy foreground. It is two-storied with three
bays and a hipped roof in a Colonial Regency manner and interesting to compare
to the earliest section of the Grosvenor (two-storied, four bays and a splayed
corner, with cornice and parapet) which is slightly grander for its later late.
Melbourne’s other earliest architects with
Russell, were Samuel Jackson (1807-76) whose own house, Wattle House, (1850,
23) survives in Jackson Street, St Kilda and John Gill (c1797-1866) whose
Barham House is concealed within Eildon (24).
Russell’s firm Russell, Watts and
Pritchard, were architects of Elwood House, 28, 30 & 30A Vautier
Street, Elwood (40)
in the same year as the hotel, 1854. Russell is a puzzle for historians.
Before arriving in Sydney
in 1833 at the age of 25, Russell had worked in three important architectural
offices in Britain
including that of John Nash who was architect to George IV, working on BuckinghamPalace
(1832-33). Russell also brought experience in surveying, gained in Ireland
in 1835. He moved to Melbourne
on 29 September 1836
only a year after Jackson.
Russell was posted here as senior Assistant
Surveyor. He carried out a topographic survey of the site of Melbourne
and its existing buildings with two assistants. It is unclear if he actually
drew the plan, but the detailed layout was designed by Robert
Hoddle, the more senior surveyor who succeeded him
in March 1837, when Governor Bourke arrived and found him ‘dilatory’.
Architectural historian, George Tibbits considers
Russell casual and a failure as a surveyor and he returned to Sydney.
He was dismissed in June 1837. But he returned as Clerk of Works in March 1838
only to be dismissed again in June 1839. Hoddle
died worth £500,000.00: Russell died on a government pension.
In private practice, Russell surveyed Port
Albert and Wilson’s
Promontory, (1843) designed the first Bank of Australasia in Melbourne
(1840-41) and his best known building, St James Old Cathedral, 419-435 King Street
(1839-41) the earliest Anglican Church in Victoria.
The design is influenced by the work of Francis Greenway in Sydney.
Here Russell was succeeded (failed again?) by Charles Laing
(1841), as he and Jackson were again for their design of the first PrincesBridge
(1844). The partnership of Russell and Thomas designed 45 buildings over
1849-52, Russell & Wills (1853-54), Russell Wills & Pritchard (1854-55)
including Elwood House. Between 1852 and 1888 Russell designed 41 houses,
churches and commercial buildings alone. As a member of polite society, he was a
foundation member of the Melbourne Club in 1838.
In 1856, Russell and his family returned to
for four years. His watercolour views leave the clearest indication of what
was like. He wrote poetry and a novel. The RHSV holds a photograph of him (c.
1855) when he was completing the Elsternwick Hotel. It shows
an intense, drawn 47 year old, with high brow and cheekbones and sensitive
features. He died just before Queen Victoria,
at the age of 92.
journalist, merchant and politician and Robert Keys were granted the land on
which the Elsternwick Hotel was built in July 1854, for £346. 1854 is on the
parapet over the corner. McCombie wrote the ‘now
forgotten’ novel Arabin, the first to
describe the settlement at Port Phillip, in 1845. He owned the Port Phillip
Gazette newspaper, Melbourne’s
first newspaper, founded by John Pascoe Fawkner.
His observations of Melbourne
society and the squatters’ life are astute and a frequent source for Paul de
Serville’s seminal Port Philip Gentlemen and Good
Society in Melbourne
before the Gold Rushes.
John Fleming was McCombie
and Keys’ first licensee. In 1858, McCombie bought
Key’s share when the second licensee became Henry Figsby
Young (Senior) (9). Young, was the father of (and of the same name as)
Henry Figsby Young, Junior who was the Young of
Young and Jackson’s
Hotel on the corner of Swanston and Flinders Street.
In 1866, the Elsternwick was known, rather literally, as the Beer House Hotel.
In 1869 McCombie
died and it is mischievous to speculate that Young may have relaxed his
management practices: in 1871 he was fine 40 shillings for Sunday trading,
during the Christmas rush, it was reported in the
Argus newspaper. This did not deter Young from buying the hotel from Mc
Combie’s estate in 1872, three years before his son
took on the licence for Young & Jackson’s, and held it at least until the mid
1890s. In 1878, he installed Chas Beasely as
licensee and in rapid succession, A.G.M. Burden (1882), Charles Cannon
(1883-89), Andrew Oastler (1890-91) and L.
In 1881, Young added six rooms to the
Elsternwick and in 1890-91 he built the elaborate Boom style corner section,
probably also the rear single-storied billiards room, with its splendid
timber-framed roof and the arcaded facade to the earliest section. The
architects for these late nineteenth century works are not known. In 1926,
Chris A. Cowper, Murphy & Applesford were architects
for major internal alterations and in 1930, P.J. O’Connor designed further
works. In 1934, the billiard room was extended northwards in historicist style,
as a bottle shop on Brighton Road.
In 1938, Robert H. McIntyre, prolific hotel
architect, designed alterations and additions to the hotel. McIntyre was the
father of Peter McIntyre, Emeritus Professor of Architecture at the
an important and innovative Modernist architect from the mid-1950s. Robert had
just completed rebuilding the Prince of Wales Hotel at 29 Fitzroy Street
(16), the year before, in a stylish Streamlined
Moderne manner. Presumably his work at the Elsternwick may have been
similar, but none is visible now. In 1972, the hotel was again extensively
renovated and extended: Carlton & United Breweries had bought the hotel.
Neither the National Trust, nor Heritage
hold files on this building. It is not classified, nor registered.
City of St
Building Permit Records: No 6558, 8 September
Includes Chris A. Cowper, Murphy &
Appleford working drawing.
City of St
Building Permit Records: No 7833, 29 October 1930.
Includes P.J. O’Connor working drawing.
deServille, Paul. Port Phillip Gentleman and Good
MelbourneBefore the Gold Rushes. OxfordUniversity
1980. pp.15, 18, 21, 24, 31, 37, 39, 59, 60, 64, 65, 77, 90, 92,
94-97, 135, 156, 160 & 194.
Farrow, Fergus.‘Thomas McCombie (1819-1869)’;
in Douglas Pike (Ed).Australian Dictionary of
1966. Vol.5. pp 132 & 133.
1999. pp 14, 15, 17, 237 & 261. (pp 14 & 15 are by
Suburban Backlash. The Battle for the
World’sMost Liveable City. Bloomings Books Hawthorn,
p62. Note: Tibbits gives Russell’s arrival date as
September 1835 with colonial government’s survey team and Lewis gives it as
October 1836 with Captain Lonsdale’s party. Titbits and Kronfeld give 29 September