(1820-1902) was born in Hanover
(now in Germany).
The Kingdom of Hanover, restored under the Treaty of Vienna after the
catastrophic defeat of Napoleon in Russia, was still ruled ‘in personal union’
by George III of Great Britain, in much the same way as Her Majesty Queen
Elizabeth II is Queen of Australia, as well as of Britain. It was relevant to
his future that life began in this anglicised environment. His parents, though
struggling financially, sent Moritz to private school in Hanover
and on to study medicine.
When money ran out, he
did an apprenticeship, then worked for a Cologne
linen merchant and was soon manager. Young Moritz then went to Manchester
to join his brother in the soft-goods business of Sampson and
Leppoc. The business prospered, and Moritz was
rapidly promoted, but the heavily polluted air of industrial Manchester
affected Moritz’s health. Newly married, he leapt at the opportunity to
establish a branch of the business in the wealthy fledgling colony of Victoria.
On 15 April 1853,
he arrived at Melbourne,
first class from Liverpool
on the Falcon, in 33 days, with his young wife, Rahel
and a friend, Adolphus Boyd. Gold had been
discovered and separation from New South Wales
achieved, only two years earlier. Lodging in Collins Street,
near Spring Street, Michaelis established the firm’s soft-goods business in a
building on the corner of Elizabeth and Flinders Streets, the present site of
Hosie’s Hotel, and later in Richmond.
In 1855, he and Boyd broke with Sampson and Leppoc
and so established Michaelis and Boyd. In 1867, with three
Hallenstein nephews, he established the Michaelis
Hallenstein (later Michaelis Bayley) tannery
and leather-goods plant in Footscray, on the bank of the MaribyrnongRiver.
Hallenstein & Co. grew rapidly; in 1876, a branch
opened in New Zealand.
The firm pioneered the glue industry in Australia
and first processed gelatine. So in 1884, Moritz could take time off to take his
family to England
for a two year visit. The firm was strong enough to weather the 1890s financial
crash. From Collins Street,
the Michaelis family moved to East Melbourne,
and then settled in St Kilda. At first, they rented Marli
(Place) at 3-7 The Esplanade.
had been built before 1855, for J S Johnston. It consists of three narrow
terraced houses. The two outer houses were enlarged before 1873, possibly after
the Michaelis’ left, but equally possibly to suit their needs. It was converted
to flats around 1900, using external stairs.
In 1870, as business was
expanding so rapidly, Moritz commissioned the prolific, if undistinguished
architect A F Kürsteiner to design a two-storied, 18
roomed mansion for his family. Kürsteiner practised
over 40 years (1853-93), firstly as Bagge and
Kürsteiner, then Bagge,
Spurer & Kürsteiner
(1854-59), then on his own, responsible for some 124 buildings in Melbourne.
He designed one remarkable complex of speculative workers’ housing in Fitzroy (1-30
310-313 Fitzroy Street
and 12 & 14 Mahoney Street)
in 1871-74, immediately after completing Linden.
Moritz then commissioned the celebrated curator of the Royal Botanic Gardens,
William Guilfoyle to design an extensive garden
setting for his house.
In German, ‘Linden’
means lime tree. It was one of several distinguished mansions built in St Kilda
from c1855-85, when it was a salubrious, elevated and accessible resort of a
suburb. These include Oberwyl, 33 Burnett Street
(1856 & 78, 27) for merchant John Gomes De Silva; Berkley Hall, 11 Princes Street
(1854 & 1910, 26) designed by Albert Purchas for
Henry Field Gurner. All evoke the ambience of
gracious suburban living.
is a symmetrical, rendered Italianate house, with canted bay windows, surrounded
on three sides by a double-storied cast-iron verandah with column-pairs and
balustrade. In 1876, Melbourne
architects, Crouch and Wilson
(44), had called tenders for ‘repairs’ to Linden
and again in 1892. It was being well maintained.
Though he never ran for
public office, Moritz supported liberal reform. For years, he was acting
Prussian Consul in Melbourne.
Fascinated by mechanical inventions, he financed several. He also enjoyed music
and theatre. He achieved renown as a Melbourne
entrepreneur and philanthropist.
Born Orthodox Jewish, he
became treasurer of the Melbourne and East Melbourne Hebrew congregations and he
founded the St Kilda congregation in 1871, the year he completed Linden.
He donated large amounts to both congregations and was on the committee of the
However, he was not himself an Orthodox practitioner, he sent both his sons to
and often attended the East Melbourne Unitarian Chapel, where he felt the
minister to be a ‘very clever preacher.’ Although a founder of the Australian
Israelite, he later boycotted the paper. His philanthropy also extended to
gifts to both the Alfred and Melbourne hospitals.
His great interest was
his family. Only sons and sons-in-law ever became partners or shareholders in
his business, though he advised them to become financially independent. In
1889, his daughter, (Alice?), was married at Linden
to Isaac Hallenstein’s eldest son: bonding the
business relationship between the families. In the same year, Moritz bought
Romscui, a 1,620-hectare property on Lake Victoria,
near Paynesville. Ten years later, he published his memoirs: Chapters from the
Story of my Life. After Rahel died in 1901, his own
health declined and he died at Linden
within the year.
After World War I, many
of the St Kilda mansions were converted to boarding or rooming houses, or even
to houses of ill repute, but the Michaelis family stayed on in Linden.
Linden Court Private Hotel, c.1957
On 15 August 1953,
Alice Michaelis celebrated the centenary of her grandparents’ arrival in Australia
with an ‘at home’ at Linden.
Only four years later, in November 1957, ‘Linden
in a ‘very dilapidated condition’ was sold to Mr and Mrs Witty, who proceeded to
renovate it as a ‘high class residential business’
for 45 guests at 25/- each per day. Two years later, it was on the market again
for £27,500. By then, the land had reduced to only 40 x 24.4 metres. The
National Trust, founded only four years earlier and still led by their first
president, Sir Darryl Lindsay was sufficiently concerned by this turn of events
to classify Linden
‘class B’. Over ten years, (1962-72), Linden
was operated as a private hotel by Theodou and Alice
van Veenendaal. In November 1983, it was auctioned,
again as ‘Linden
and this time, purchased by the St Kilda City Council for use as an art gallery
for the community.
Linden Gallery (later
Linden Arts Centre & Gallery) opened in late 1984, by presenting the visual arts
component of the St Kilda Festival. In late 1986, the building was more
seriously renovated. There were performances there that year by
Theatreworks. The exhibitions programme was
organised by St Kilda’s Art Acquisitions Officer, Michael Vale. Later
coordinators included Joan Winter, (1985-89), Kevin Wilson (1989-94) and James
Harley. There were few precedents in Melbourne
for municipal art galleries in 1984, and the early years at Linden
required struggle and dedication to survive. There was also support from local
private gallery owners; Luba
Bilu and Anna Schwartz of Tolarno (17).
now has five individual gallery spaces, community access studios,
artist-in-residence studios, media arts facilities, a gallery shop and the
In the early years, exhibitions were of a remarkably high standard. Exhibiting
artists included: Tony Clark, StiegPersson, Vivienne Shark LeWitt
and Polly Borland in 1987; Yuendumu aboriginal community, Rick Amor,
Bilu, Charles Blackman, Arthur Boyd, Sidney Nolan
and Clifton Pugh in 1988; all interspersed with events, readings, talks,
performances, music, and classes. Various arts organisations began to use Linden
as their headquarters, as it became a fulcrum of the life of St Kilda in the
Letter to Linden Owner, Mr Ronald Witty, from National Trust President,
Alice Michaelis. Invitation.
15 August 1953.
David. Discover St Kilda’s Heritage. City of
St Kilda, 1985. p25.
Casey, Maie, Lindsay, Joan, Casey, D.A.,
Freeman, John R., Freeman, Tom D., Henderson, Allan R.
Emerald Hill & Sandridge Times.2
The Watermark Press.
1999. pp29, 39, 267 & 272.
Harris, Anne et. al.
X-10 Years of Linden-Arts Centre & Gallery.Linden-Arts Centre & Gallery. St Kilda 1996.
File no. H213.
Home, J. Avin.
‘Moritz Michaelis (1820-1902)’. in Douglas
Pike (Ed). Australian Dictionary of Biography.
Press, Melbourne 1974. Vol.5, pp 245 & 246.
Lewis, Miles. (Architects’ Index).Architectural
1977, pp10 & 59.
Lewis, Miles. Melbourne Mansions.Database.
McDonald, Alix. ‘Linden’s
cupboards become showers’. The Age,
14 April 1974.
National Trust of