History and HeritagePlanningWhitehorse

St Elmo – a house of knowledge. Hasan Hassan

By 30 August 2021March 18th, 2024No Comments

‘St Elmo’ – a house of knowledge

Hasan Hassan

The house at 800 Station St, Box Hill North is an 1888 built double fronted Victorian weatherboard villa and is covered by a Council Heritage Overlay (HO227).

Frank Tate bought the land and built the house, he was a renowned education reformer who as Director of Education in Victoria implemented many changes to the education system and teacher training. Frank Tate played a pivotal role in the establishment of the Australian Council for Educational Research (ACER), worked to gain approval to build the Box Hill State School and the first technical school for girls in Victoria – Box Hill Girls Technical School.

Frank received a number of awards in recognition of his outstanding work in the field of education. These included being appointed to the Companion of the Imperial Service Order by King Edward VII in 1903, the Companion of the Order of St Michael and St George in 1919, the La Medaille du Ministre des Affaires Etrangeres in 1921 and the Chevalier of the Légion d’honneur (Legion of Honour) in 1927.

In 1923 Frank and his wife and daughter accompanied a delegation led by the Governor of Victoria to Amiens, France commemorating the Australian soldiers who died in Villiers Bretonneau. Whilst there, Frank opened a new school built using donations from the school children of Victoria.

A portrait of Frank Tate by W. B. McInnes is held by the National Gallery of Victoria and the Frank Tate Building at University of Melbourne is named in his honour.

William Kirwood was born in England in 1853 and migrated with his parents and three siblings to Melbourne in 1854.  William and Jessie Kirwood and their family lived in the house from 1901 to 1910 and named it ‘St Elmo’. William worked as a ‘Warehousemen’.

In 1922 Helen Lyne owned the house and lived there with her husband Arthur and their children John and Nancy. The family owned the property from 1922 to 2012.

John Lyne was a Geography Teacher and wrote many books used in schools. He founded the Geography Teachers Association of Victoria and was also a Fellow of the Royal Geographical Society. In 2010 John was presented with the prestigious ‘Distinguished Fellowship’, awarded for his work and dedication in the field of Geography by the Institute of Australian Geographers.

John was an Elder and board of management member at the Central Box Hill Uniting Church. He worked in the Church’s youth centre providing help and advice to many street kids and taught English for young people from non English-speaking backgrounds.

John was highly respected and admired both as a student and teacher at Scotch College. He was ‘Dux of School’ and the Drama staffroom is named ‘The Alec Lyne Room’ in his honour. After John retired in 1974 he was commissioned by Cambridge University Press to write a number of books including Greater Melbourne – which was used as a School text, Canberra: a Planned City and Australia’s Resources – Their Use and Conservation He also contributed to other books including The Global System, Conserving Australia and Coghill’s Readings in Geography. The State Library of Victoria has many letters written by John.

John was an avid collector of Australian pottery made by Merric Boyd, the son of the famous Australian painter Arthur Boyd. He gifted his collection to the National Gallery of Victoria in 2012.

In 2011 the Whitehorse Council applied Heritage overlays to the house based on the recommendations in the Whitehorse Planning Scheme Amendment c140 Panel Report: November 2011. The Panel stated that ‘it agrees with the citation that 800 Station Street, Box Hill North, is of local historical and aesthetic significance’.  Whitehorse Council stated ‘The intent of the HO227 is …. to ensure that any new development does not detract from the heritage significance of the place’.

The garden did not have a Vegetation Protection Overlay (VPO) but the Bunya Pine tree is listed by the National Trust. In 2013 the house was bought by a developer and the garden was ‘moonscaped’ leaving only the Bunya Pine tree.

It is interesting how demolishing half of a Council Heritage protected house and allowing a massive building to be constructed up to and around it, does ‘not detract from the heritage significance of the place’!

This was a rare surviving original intact example of our early built and horticultural heritage which should have been fully protected and preserved. If this destructive treatment of our built and horticultural heritage continues, Whitehorse will not have any intact examples of buildings and gardens from the 19th century left. In 2018 developers bought the Council Heritage Protected house and garden at 83-87 Dorking Rd, Box Hill North. Will it suffer the same fate as 800 Station St, Box Hill North?

To read more of Hasan’s writings and research about history and heritage in Whitehorse, go to his website here.

St Elmo’s garden 2005

St Elmo’s garden 2015

This article was first published in Eastsider News Edition 7, August 2021.