What is significant?
The Old Colonists Homes complex of 142 self-contained homes and ancillary buildings was established by actor, philanthropist and entrepreneur George Coppin in 1870 to provide accommodation for elderly colonists who, through no fault of their own, had fallen on hard times. A neighbouring development of two houses for Coppin's Old Actors Association was taken over by the Old Colonists Association in 1906. The Old Colonists Association was concerned to record and commemorate the efforts of Victoria's earliest colonists, as well as to 'assist necessitous old colonists' and promote the advancement of 'native-born (European) Victorians', and originally residence in the Homes was restricted to those who had arrived in the colony before 1851. Except for two cottages funded by the Association itself, all the houses in the Old Colonists Homes village were built with funds donated by prominent Victorian citizens, and each building is marked by a memorial stone showing the date and donor. The houses are sited in delightful gardens and cottages were erected in every decade from the 1870s to the present. The Homes continue to be managed for their original purpose by the Old Colonists Association, and the complex remains a remarkable example of 19th century charitable provision of housing for the elderly.
How is it significant?
The Old Colonists Homes are of historical and architectural significance to the State of Victoria.
Why is it significant?
The Old Colonists Homes are of historical significance as an early and remarkably intact example of the provision of housing for the aged in Victoria; for their association with George Coppin and other notable Victorians who donated cottages to the complex; and for their links with Victoria's earliest years.
The Old Colonists Homes are an important example of the development of philanthropic welfare facilities at a time when governments provided few or no such services. They betray the influence of similar philanthropic ventures in the USA and Britain, the unique layout of the complex appearing to derive from early 19th century English experiments in housing the aged poor. The design of Blaise Hamlet in 1810 outside Bristol, the work of the architects John Nash and George Repton, seems particularly relevant. As in the Blaise Hamlet housing, the Rushall Park cottages feature variety in design and the provision of individual garden settings. As well as fitting within the long tradition of almshouses, the cottages also parallel the Utopian model of such company towns as Saltaire and Bourneville in England and planned communities such as Riverside in the USA.
The Old Colonists Homes were founded by George Coppin (1819-1906), an extraordinary character from the earliest days of Melbourne. He was an actor, speculator and philanthropist who had arrived in Sydney from England in 1843. He founded a number of philanthropic organizations, including the Old Colonists' Association, the Australian Dramatic and Musical Associations, the Victorian Humane Society and St John's Ambulance in Victoria. The Old Colonists Homes, which include Coppin's founding donation bluestone cottage, provide lasting evidence of Coppin?s philanthropic activities and of his determination to commemorate the efforts of the early colonists. Besides Coppin, the complex has historical associations with a number of notable Victorians who have funded the construction of cottages over the years.
The Old Colonists Homes are a historical reminder of the early years of the colony's existence. The Old Colonists Association was determined to recognise the importance of the pre-goldrush generation and to establish and record their new society's history, and the Homes are a tangible reminder of these efforts.
The Old Colonists Homes complex is of architectural significance as it contains an exceptional number of remarkably intact buildings that provide examples of a great variety of building styles and materials covering a period of more than 120 years. The Homes show a spectrum of Picturesque taste in Victoria in a variety of buildings each designed with a special feature or motif. The complex is unified by this Picturesque quality, its personal domestic scale and the delightful gardens. The whole complex has a remarkable village quality due to the mature landscaping, the Picturesque planning of the site and the architecture of the cottages. It is the largest and most intact complex of its kind in Victoria, and possibly in Australia. Comparable but less intact examples are the Austin Cottages in Geelong and the Jewish Montefiore Homes in St Kilda Road.
The Old Colonists Homes are of architectural significance for their associations with a number of important Victorian architects. The first stone cottages were designed by George Johnson, possibly the most prolific designer of municipal buildings in late 19th century Victoria, as well as of many theatres and opera houses in Melbourne and other Australian cities and the annexes to the Royal Exhibition Building in Carlton. Joseph Crook, who was responsible for a large number of buildings around Prahran, Windsor, St Kilda and Malvern, designed the Jubilee Cottages, Sumner Hall, the caretaker's residence and a number of other components of the complex. Other significant architects to have left their mark on the Homes include George Wharton and James Wood.
Old Colonists Homes
Former North Fitzroy Post Office
Former North Fitzroy Electric Railway Substation
Former United Kingdom Hotel
Fitzroy Cricket Ground Grandstand
Porter Prefabricated Iron Store