Stop 1 – Summerland Mansions
Stop 1 – Summerland Mansions
Text and script written by Heritage Victoria
Produced by Malcolm McKinnon
Narrated by Peter Mares
Features an interview with Carmel Shute
From the audio tour From Riches to Rags and Back Again, created by Heritage Victoria.
Summerland mansions was built over a couple of years in the early 1920s and it was one of the first European style apartment blocks to also include shops down the bottom.
Long term St Kilda resident Carmel Shute moved into an apartment on the second floor of Summerland Mansions in 1987 – and she became fascinated by the building's history.
Download this audio file and head to St Kilda to do the walk.
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Audio Transcript for Stop 1
Hello and welcome to this walking tour of St Kilda domestic architecture, in which changing house styles reveal the seaside suburb's rollercoaster ride from riches to rags and back again.
I’m Peter Mares from ABC Radio National and I’ll guide you through some St Kilda streets that show how history is captured in bricks and mortar, in verandah posts and window frames and roof tiles. The tour was designed by Heritage Victoria and produced by Malcolm McKinnon. It's a gentle stroll through generally quiet streets and it should take about one hour.
The features that we'll be pointing out are all easily visible from the street, but remember that we are looking at people's homes, so please respect residents' privacy – we don't want any complaints about architectural peeping Toms!
There are no public toilets on the route itself, but we'll end near the Acland Street cafe strip, where you will find facilities of all kinds– or a quick detour will land you on the lower esplanade where toilets are marked on our map – hopefully you've downloaded the map from the Heritage Victoria website or picked one up locally. If not, never fear, we'll give you clear instructions on how to proceed.
And just to check you're in the right place – you should be in the small park next to tram strop number 135 on Fitzroy Street – opposite a rather grand building called Summerland Mansions - and we'll hear more about in a moment. This is stop number 1 on our tour. The tour comprises 16 stops in total, corresponding with the 16 audio tracks that you’ve downloaded to your MP3 player. (As we progress, you’ll sometimes need to pause your player between tracks, allowing time to get to the next stop on the tour.)
Before we set off, have a seat under the spreading branches of the Morton Bay Fig which may be almost as old as the suburb itself – Moreton Bay Figs were a favourite decorative tree amongst early settlers. Try to imagine the scene before this tree was planted - it’s 170 years ago and you're on the land of the Kulin people. This stretch of sandy-ridged, ti-tree covered coastline is the home of the Yalukit Willam, one of the five clans of the Bunurong, or coastal tribe. And this spot we're sitting in was a meeting place for Aboriginal people long before European settlement.
With Port Phillip Bay to your right, you're looking up at a hill that Europeans called the “green knoll” and used initially for grazing - on our tour we'll pass a plaque where the first stockman's hut was built.
Shortly we’ll cross Fitzroy Street, to unravel the history of St. Kilda, but let’s pause here first and look at Summerland Mansions opposite. This is no ordinary block of flats
CARMEL SHUTE: Summerland mansions itself was built over a couple of years in the early 1920s and it was one of the first European style apartment blocks which also included shops down the bottom.
Long term St Kilda resident Carmel Shute moved into an apartment on the second floor of Summerland Mansions in 1987 – and she became fascinated by the building's history
CARMEL SHUTE: The flats were all owned by one owner and rented out to the yuppies of the day for six guineas a week, which was an incredible sum, when the basic wage would have been less than half of that.
By the 1920s, St Kilda had become one of the more fashionable places to live in Melbourne and most Summerland Mansions residents would have been independently wealthy.
CARMEL SHUTE: The rooms are beautifully proportioned, high ceilings, wood panelling, French doors between the lounge room and reception area – balconies with glorious sea views right out across the bay to Williamstown and the You Yangs ... ... just gracious living. Maid’s quarters at the back, but small kitchens - the kitchens were so small because there was actually an internal staircase that led downstairs to the public dining room which is now the Street Cafe. So you were expected to have your meals downstairs, which was a terribly progressive idea for the 1920s in Australia.
St.Kilda resident Carmel Shute who lived in Summerland Mansions for twenty years.
Summerland Mansions is a strange mix of architectural styles – a fusion of Arts and Crafts, inter-war Classical and Queen Anne. These terms will make more sense as the walk progresses…
Summerland is not overly decorative – the use of ornament is quite restrained. Above the awnings of the cafe you might be able to see the horizontal stained glass windows that would have thrown light into the dining room. The windows have an ‘arts and crafts’ feel – an aesthetic that emerged in the late 19th Century and idealised the handiwork of the artisan/craftsman – a response to the soul-less-ness of industrial production.
Now let's cross the road at the lights and head up Acland street, which runs along the north side of Summerland Mansions. While we walk Carmel Shute will tell you a bit more about the history of the site on which Summerland Mansions is built:
CARMEL SHUTE: Summerland Mansions is on probably the most iconic site in all of St Kilda. It was the first Crown land to be sold in 1842 and it was sold to the skipper of the Lady of St Kilda, which was a schooner moored in the bay and of course the ship that gave its name to St Kilda the suburb.
Keep walking up past Summerland Mansions.to the corner of with Jackson Street, and take a seat at the concrete bench opposite number 8 Acland Street.