Preserve Local History at 57 Berkeley Street, Hawthorn

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Join your neighbours in supporting the unique beauty of our 1916 Federation Queen Anne Villa at 57 Berkeley Street, a house which – though singular and storied – lacks any heritage protections, leaving its immediate future in constant doubt.

Chesney Wolde – named for an estate in Dickens' Bleak House – was designed in 1916 as the only house south of Callantina Rd. It was built to capture the extensive views down to Gardiners Creek and across to the Yarra River, sitting gracefully on the then-unimpeded slope with 4 large bow leadlight windows angled to the views. 

57 Berkeley Street, having recently been sold, has been passed over for heritage listing despite a number of exemplary qualities that make the house an important relic of architectural traditions. Five unique heritage features make Chesney Wolde Booroondara's most complete and historically significant example of the Federation Queen Anne style:

  1. Return front Verandahs;
  2. Cross bow leadlight window constructed on a 90 deg corner;
  3. Rendered stucco walls;
  4. Original playroom footprint, preserved when modern family room enclosed rear utility courtyard to join up to the original kitchen footprint;
  5. Surrounded by period garden beds, including Chinese Elm and Oak trees.

These hallmarks of the style don't speak to the full scope of the house, which features original rooms, immaculate federation-style stained glass windows, impressive moulded ceilings and fireplaces.

The garden is significant in its own right, featuring historic trees, including an impressive Oak and a striking Chinese Elm, in amongst the truly gorgeous botanical arrangements. The garden has become something of a touchstone for the local community, and it's not uncommon to find friendly faces taking it in on their afternoon walks.

Beyond the architectural importance of Number 57, the house has played a series of roles in the history and development of Melbourne. In the years since the property was first sold in 1918, residents have developed Melbourne retail, pioneered local manufacturing, practiced orthopaedic surgery and fought for indigenous land rights. It's become a conduit for community, serving as a venue for school functions, national and international conferences and other large events.

The recent change in ownership casts doubt on the future of Chesney Wolde, a neighbourhood staple that has seen a century of great change. The once-solitary homestead is now hemmed in by a tight-knit neighbourhood, but for as much as the world has changed, 57 Berkeley Street has retained its character.

Thanks to the efforts of inhabitants, it remains an era-appropriate build with pristine examples of the Queen Anne Villa style. Without a heritage overlay, a century of preservation could be undone in an afternoon – at great cost to the neighbourhood, the community, and the city as a whole. 

The Booroondara City Council has granted a temporary protective overlay on the property, but whilst they recognise the unique character of the house, the ultimate decision lies in the hands of State Planning Minister Wynne.

Sign our online petition to tell Planning Minister Wynne that our community values our heritage, our landmarks and the unique stories they tell.

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You can further voice your concern by reaching out to Minister Wynne via email (richard.wynne@parliament.vic.gov.au), phone (8683 0964) or Twitter.

If you'd like to reach us, you can send us an email at friendsofgardinerheritage@gmail.com.