History and HeritagePlanningWhitehorse

A house and people of historic significance – Hasan Hassan

By 27 December 2020March 18th, 2024No Comments

A house and people of historic significance – Hasan Hassan

In October 2017, a developer bought 83-87 Dorking Rd Box Hill North and in June 2019 they submitted two applications to re-develop this site. The house has a Council Heritage Overlay and five magnificent 100 year old Monterey Pine trees have a Vegetation Protection Overlay.

Whitehorse Council received a number of objections to the proposal and held a volatile Consultation Forum at Box Hill Town Hall in February 2020. In June 2020, the Council issued a notice to ‘Refuse to Grant a permit’. The Council is to be commended. The developer is taking the Council to VCAT.

The land on which the house now stands was bought by Mr W H Thodey in 1889. Mr Thodey was a Melbourne and Box Hill resident, a significant Box Hill landowner, a financial writer for ‘The Argus’, an Editor of the ‘Australian Insurance and Banking Record’, a member of the British Institute of Actuaries and a member of Melbourne’s Athenaeum Library committee. He was a descendant of the famous British diarist John Evelyn who collaborated with Christopher Wren in rebuilding London after the Great Fire.

Mr Thodey commissioned notable Melbourne Architect Arthur E Clarke to design this unique, beautiful and distinctive French Second Empire style villa, and it was built in 1891. Arthur Clarke had served his articles with John Hayward (nephew of Sir Charles Barry, designer of the Houses of Parliament, London 1837) and then worked for Melbourne architectural practice of Grainger & D’Ebro. After Grainger & D’Ebro was dissolved in 1885, Arthur Clarke commenced his own practice.

Public buildings designed by Arthur Clarke include the Box Hill Shire Hall (corner of Cambridge and Station Streets, 1889, demolished in 1987), the Nunawading Shire Hall (destroyed by fire in 1927), and St John’s Anglican Church Blackburn (1890).

The only other surviving home known to have been designed by Arthur Clarke in the City of Whitehorse is ‘Urara’ at 2 Gordon St, Blackburn – in another architectural style. Arthur Clarke moved to Perth in the late 1890s where he designed the School of Mines in Kalgoorlie in 1903 and the Leederville Town Hall – both are classified and preserved by the West Australian State Register of Heritage Places.

From 1928 until 2015 the McCook family owned and lived in the house. Originally the Rev W McCook, his wife Hannah and their three children lived there. Hannah operated the Gladstone Girls College at the house. Their daughter Winifred won a scholarship to attend the Presbyterian Ladies College (East Melbourne). She gained entry to Melbourne University graduating in 1945 from the Faculty of Law as one of only four women to do so. She was admitted to the Bar in 1946 and worked for many years from her office in Ringwood.

In 1949 at the request of the Australian National Committee – United Nations, Winifred prepared and published a report titled ‘The Legal and Political Status of Women in Australia’. From 1959 to 1965, Winifred led and organised six expeditions to the Northern Territory and Western Australia in search of aboriginal cave art and artefacts. They visited a number of sites and discovered two new sites – paintings at Livingstone Pass and incised designs in the Ehrenberg Range. She notified the authorities of these new discoveries. From 1969 and 1970, Winifred travelled through Papua New Guinea climbing Mt Wilhelm 14,793ft (Mt Kosciuszko is 7,310 ft) and visited outlying islands. In the house there is a mural on the wall that depicts a camping scene and may have been drawn by the expedition artist.

The driveway through the garden is bordered with terracotta edging bricks stamped ‘ATT. Co. Mitcham’. They were manufactured and supplied by the Mitcham Brick & Pottery Co which started in 1883 in Mitcham. This would suggest that the historic terracotta edging was installed when the villa was built.

Hasan Hassan is a local resident who has lived in Whitehorse for over 20 years.  To read more of Hasan’s writings and research about history and heritage in Whitehorse, go to his website here.

This item was first published in Eastsider News in December 2020