Sunday, March 4, 2012

Darlinghurst Blog: Villas of Darlinghurst: Kellett House

Kellett House (detail), artist unknown, circa 1876.
Built on an allotment of over 3-acres granted to Samuel Augustus Perry in 1831.

The first NSW Premier, Stuart Alexander Donaldson, was one of Darlinghurst's first residents and can lay claim to the naming of Kellett Street. 
In the mid-1800s Donaldson moved into a large, two-storey villa on a 3-acre plot, where the Hotel Mansions on Kellett Street and Baywater Road sits today.
The villa, originally called Bona Vista, had been built for Samuel Augustus Perry in 1831, and Donaldson renamed it Kellett House, giving the street its name.

Perry was granted the allotment by Governor Ralph Darling, but unlike most of the gentry who were given the original 17 plots on the ridge of Woolloomooloo Hill - which came to be known as Darlinghurst - he had a rather scruffy appearance.
The London-born soldier and surveyor, who arrived in Australia with his wife and six children in 1829,  sat for his portrait in the 1800s and the unknown artist captured a man who looks more like the hipsters that roam around Darlinghurst today.

His hair looks like it could do with a good brush, his sideburns are very 2005 and his unbuttoned, military coat looks straight off the Autumn-Winter 2012 runway. A man ahead of his time, perhaps.
Perry came to Sydney to serve as the deputy to NSW Surveyor General Thomas Mitchell, and he clashed with the older man who was jealous of anyone he thought likely to succeed him.
Therefore, Perry was generally assigned mundane duties so Mitchell could accuse his underling of being idle.
Perry didn't live in Bona Vista for long and in 1834 sold it at auction to Richard "China" Jones MP, who renamed the villa Darlinghurst House, after his wife's good friend, Lady Elizabeth Darling, wife of the Guv.
While researching this transaction, I came across this gem of an article from the 30 November 1937 edition of The Sydney Morning Herald, written by Joseph Reidle:

"Ghosts in Crinolines, When Kings Cross was dotted with stately homes.
"A great effort is required to imagine that King's Cross (sic) - the present throbbing centre of Sydney's night life - was once sparsely dotted with stately homes, where demure ladies drove leisurely through private avenues of trees in their carriages.
"Those were the days when land was owned by the acre. 
"To-day (sic), despite stout resistance to the demolisher's picks, century-old homes are being knocked down so that the task of converting King's Cross into a swarming, human ant-hill may proceed uninhibited.
"Roslyn Hall and Orwell House are already man-made ruins, and a similar fate awaits Kellett House, Springfield and Larbert Lodge. 
"But before modern mammoth structures completely annihilate even the memory of their long lives, these last survivors of a bygone age merit at least a brief obituary."

The article goes on to describe, in words and pictures, the ruin-like state of some of the original villas and, despite the fact that the Villas book states Kellett House was demolished in 1877, it appears from this article parts of the home were still around in the 1930s.

So, after Donaldson moved out of Kellett House in the mid-1800s, it was purchased by wealthy squatter W.F. Buchanan.
The original plot was subdivided from 1864 and Buchanan demolished part of Kellett House and built a terrace on the site, known as Bayswater Terrace - obviously how the road today was given its name.
The Hotel Mansions was built in the late 1800s and remodelled in 1918. 
The remains of Kellett House were sold in October 1937 and it was probably demolished soon after.
Today, the Hotel Mansions is about to be converted into designer apartments known as Manor, and the area continues to be a swarming, human ant-hill.


1 comment:

AndyMac said...

The house in the top right-hand corner of the SMH article was 'Kinneil' a latecomer, built in 1891 to the design of J. J. Clark at 15 Elizabeth Bay Road and demolished in the 1960s. I think it was at the site of what's now the council carpark with the junkies' lawn on the top.