Osborne House, at 456 Victoria Street, North Melbourne, was erected in 1854 for George Ward Cole. In 1871 he sold the property to Miss S. Hales, who with her sister ran a ladies' college from the premises, called Osborne House, until at least 1895, when it appears to have reverted back to residential use. The two storey house with attic was constructed of cut timber shiplap boards and lined with 200mm boards. These materials were probably imported. A triple arched porch punctuates the main entrance. Shaped timber architraves surround the upper windows, each with six-pane sashes, whilst the lower windows are set in bays with tile-clad hipped roofs. The house originally consisted of five rooms and an attic, but was extended to a fourteen room house, including four attic rooms, by 1865.
How is it significant?
Osborne House is of architectural and historical significance to the State of Victoria.
Why is it significant?
Osborne House is of architectural significance as one of the few surviving examples in Melbourne of pre-cut imported timber construction. The importation of portable houses to Australia reflected the shortage of materials and workers in gold rush Victoria. The fact that the timbers appear to be of American origin provides evidence of the extent to which the Australian colonies were very early on linked to world-wide trade: other pre-fabricated houses in Melbourne are of British and Southeast Asian origin. While a large number of pre-fabricated dwellings were imported to Victoria during the gold rushes to cope with Melbourne?s rapidly growing population, very few now remain here, or, indeed, in the world.
Osborne House is of historical significance as one of the oldest houses in North Melbourne, its simple style and composition reflecting the austerity of Melbourne?s early years, and for its associations with George Ward Cole. Cole (1793-1879) was a prosperous ship owner and merchant who arrived in Melbourne in 1840. In the new colony he set up as a merchant and established Coles Wharf in 1842. His main residence was St Ninians in Brighton where he entertained Melbourne society. He was elected to the Legislative Council as the member for Gippsland in 1853, resigning in 1855 to return to England. Upon his return to Melbourne in 1857 he was elected MLC for Central Province, being re-elected in 1860 and 1870. Cole was active in a number of important debates at the time, including ones over unemployment, defence, flooding of the Yarra, the development of the Harbour Trust, the Railways and the Constitution. As both Coles Wharf and St Ninians have been demolished, Osborne House is perhaps the only extant building associated with Cole.