Stop 5 - Architectural mysteries
Stop 5 - Architectural mysteries
Text and script written by Heritage Victoria
Produced by Malcolm McKinnon
Narrated by Peter Mares
Features an interview with Alex Njoo
From the audio tour From Riches to Rags and Back Again, created by Heritage Victoria.
Edwardian houses are a rarity in the parts of St Kilda that we cover – and in fact the one at number 8 Victoria Street is something of a fake. Alex Njoo, an architect and the current owner of Number 8, tells of the history of his house.
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Audio Transcript for Stop 5
We’re on the corner of Victoria and Pollington Streets. This is stop number 5 on our tour.
Architectural mysteries will keep appearing on this walk, and like the house we just visited at number 14, at number 8 all is not as it seems. At first glance, this is an ordinary Edwardian house – a prime example of residential architecture from the period between Federation in 1901 and the end of the First World War.
Edwardian houses like this are a rarity in the parts of St Kilda that we cover – and in fact this one is something of a fake. Number 8 is in fact a continuation of the Victorian terrace at numbers 10 and 12.
ALEX NJOO: You get a perspective when you see the two so-called “working-class cottages” and this one, the third one at the corner. You can get some idea of its evolution.
Alex Njoo is an architect and the current owner of Number 8 Victoria Street.
ALEX NJOO: My understanding is that around about 1926 or ‘27 somebody renovated this place and redid the whole thing, making it into a hybrid of Edwardian, Federation, Victorian… Some of the windows like those on the front of the cottages next door were relocated and used as the side windows for this house. There’s a bit of Queen Anne as well, with the little oriel stained-glass windows. So it has all of these little elements. Internally it still has a lot of late Victorian features, like the pediments above the doors.
This house, like numbers 10 and 12, began life some time in the mid 1860s as six-roomed terraces. Number 8 became a holiday residence, some kind of respectable B & B.
ALEX NJOO: Further on, in the 1940s, they built a two-story place in the back. It’s just an ordinary cement rendered two-story block without any particular characteristic. I dubbed it “Tel Aviv Moderne” in the St.Kilda terminology.
Like many of the buildings we look at on this tour, the fortunes of Alex Njoo’s house mirror the fortunes of St Kilda itself:
ALEX NJOO: When I first bought it back in 1979 it was a boarding house. There used to be nine so-called “apartments”, because there were numbers on the doors of each room.
Nobody wanted to live in this part of St.Kilda. This used to be known as part of the “devil’s rectangle”, where the prostitutes used to hang around. Even across the road, the renovated two-story Victorian - that was a brothel.
St Kilda architect Alex Njoo, the owner of Number 8 Victoria Street
Let's continue down Victoria Street towards the bay.
As you pass the glass foyer of the large apartment block, look at the large tree growing in the foyer, and note how the huge glass windows reflect the backs of the buildings opposite: two Victorian homes dwarfed by the two blocks of brown-brick flats rising above them.
Keep walking towards the sea and turn to your right when you reach the corner of the Esplanade. Our next stop is outside the famous Espy, a Victorian hotel with sweeping stairs leading to its entrance. Behind it looms a huge new apartment tower with curving lines.