Illawarra is a large and elaborate two storey red brick mansion with a dominating tower located off St Georges Road, Toorak. It was erected in 1889-91 by the builder CB Leith to the designs of the architect James Birthwhistle for the prominent land-boomer Charles Henry James. The house was converted to ten flats in 1925-26 and then to boarding accommodation for St Catherine’s School in the late 1990s.
How is it significant?
Illawarra is of architectural, historical and scientific significance to the State of Victoria.
Why is it significant?
Illawarra is of architectural significance as a flamboyant example of a boom era mansion which foreshadows developing trends in late-Victorian period architecture. The ornate grandiosity of the house epitomises the spectacular excesses of the final years of the land boom. The unique French Renaissance design and quality of the workmanship and fittings provide an excellent expression of the lifestyle of Melbourne’s late-19th century elite. Its eclectic combination of mannerist detail, vernacular roof lines and picturesque composition foreshadowed subsequent trends in late-Victorian architecture, particularly the English Queen Anne Revival style, and hints at the Edwardian and Federation trends of the early decades of the 20th century.
Illawarra is of historical significance for its association with the prominent landboom figure Charles Henry James (1848-1898) and as a remnant manifestation of the landboom itself. James was one of the most flamboyant of the landboomers of the 1880s. Originally a North Melbourne grocer, he accumulated considerable wealth through land speculation, going on to become a leading banker, entrepreneur, grazier and MLC, before losing it all when the boom turned to bust. Illawarra reflects James’ speedy rise to wealth and, like many of his landboom contemporaries, his determination to display it.
Illawarra is of scientific (technical) significance as the first recorded example of brick cavity wall construction employing galvanised wire ties in Victoria.
Contextual History:History of Place:
James Henry was one of Melbourne's first 'land-boomers' and one of its most succesful until the depression. He managed to stave off bankruptcy until 1897, later than many of his contemporaries.
His political career was marked by self-interest; the Argus did not believe him to be well-informed, although he was 'in sympathy with the settled interests of the community.' He rarely spoke in council, and when he did it was invariably on development issues in the suburbs.
Associated People: Charles Henry James (1848-98)
1. This exemption remains valid while Illawarra is in the ownership of the National Trust of Australia (Victoria)
2. Exempt classes of works or activities are to be planned and carried out in a manner which prevents damage to the registered place/object. However, if other previously hidden original or inaccessible details of the object or place are uncovered, any works that may affect such items shall immediately cease. The Executive Director shall be notified of the details immediately to enable Heritage Victoria representatives to inspect and record the items, and for discussion to take place on the possible retention of the items, or the issue of a modified approval.
3. Nothing in this Declaration prevents the Executive Director from amending or rescinding all or any of the permit exempt alterations provided work has not commenced on the alteration.
THE ATTENTION ON THE APPLICANT AND/OR OWNER IS DRAWN TO THE NEED TO OBTAIN ALL OTHER RELEVANT PERMITS PRIOR TO THE COMMENCEMENT OF WORKS
Pursuant to Section 66 (1) of the Heritage Act (1995) and in respect to the above registered place/object, the Executive Director hereby DECLARES EXEMPT THE OWNERS NEED TO OBTAIN A PERMIT TO CARRY OUT ANY OF THE FOLLOWING CLASSES OF WORKS OR ACTIVITIES, SUBJECT TO ANY CONDITIONS PRESCRIBED HEREUNDER:
That all works undertaken in accordance with the "Illawarra Conservation Plan" prepared for the National Trust of Australia (Victoria), by Ian and Ros Coleman, dated March 1992 be exempt from requiring a permit under the Heritage Act (1995) with the exception of the adaptation works suggested in Options A to E which would continue to require a permit.