Thursday, January 17, 2013

3 Elboden Street, South Hobart 1831-2010

Watercolour by Mary Morton Allport (1806 - 1895) of Elboden Street, South Hobart in 1873 (Norfolk Pine is still standing) 

August 1831 William Davidson applied for a house allotment in Upper Davey Street, adjoining Elboden Street, South Hobart.  
10 December 1831 Davidson was granted a Land Grant of 1280 acres (640 acres for each 500 Sterling). The land had boundaries to Davey St, Elboden Street and Garden Cres, Sth Hobart.

He entered into a standard agreement with the Town Surveyor in which he stated:
That within six months .....I will enclose the same with a good paling fence.
That I will commence the erection of a brick or stone house with a frontage of at least forty five feet during the same period.
That I will complete this building as far as regards the outward appearance within two years.
That I will within that period expend at least in the erection of buildings one thousand pounds.

Two houses, one in stone and one in brick were built by Davidson during the following two years. Both of these houses still exist together with two other houses built later when the allotment was further subdivided.

William Davidson died suddenly on 9 July 1837 at 33 years of age. He is buried at St David's Burial Ground. Cause of death is still unknown!  One could speculate that he died of a "broken heart" after his dismissal from the Government Gardens in 1834.

St David's Burial Ground, Hobart
Joy at William Davidson's plaque "In memory of William Davidson who departed this life July 9th 1837 aged 33 years"

 Fitzroy Gardens - The Garden that nearly wasn't!

Since first being designated as the site of a botanical garden in the early 1830s it took more than seventy years before Fitzroy Gardens became a reality. 

When land in Upper Davey  Street was subdivided for housing the plan showed the blocks backing on to a road called Garden Crescent with an open space down to Sandy Bay Rivulet described as Botanical Garden.  It is likely that this was intended for use by the Van Diemen's Land Society.  This Society was formed in 1829 but was short lived.

April 1834 the Surveyor General wrote to the Colonial Secretary suggesting time was favourable for Crown Lands in front of Garden Crescent be prepared for the formation of a Botanical Garden, the purpose for which has been reserved.  The Lieutenant Governor Arthur did not accede to this request.

September 1845 Lieutenant Governor Eardley Wilmott approved the subdivision of the Botanical Garden land into seventeen allotments.  This led to a Petition to the Queen from householders in Upper Davey Street objecting to the resumption of land which had been used to route Proctor's Road from Brown's River to Hobart apparently without any official sanction.  The location of the road is shown in a plan dated 27 September 1845.  As a result of this petition the allotments were withdrawn from sale - perhaps the first example of people power in Tasmania.

The next development took place in May 1851 when application was made by a number of the local householders for a portion of the land to be enclosed for use as a promenade and pleasure ground for the families in the the neighbourhood.  This was approved.  Although fencing of the land occured little work was carried out. 

March 1854 the Colonial Secretary suggested the land be transferred to the newly formed Royal Society of Van Diemen's Land which had been given responsibility for the Government Gardens on the Domain. The Royal Society would plant and improve the public gardens and would secure the accomplishment of the objects for which the land was originally granted.  This led to another petition from the locals.

Eventually the site was handed over to the City of Hobart in 1886 as a place of recreation, and was slowly transformed into the park lands that we know today as Fitzroy Gardens.

One can only presume William Davidson was pleased to have received a Land Grant with boundaries on Davey Street, Elboden Place, Fitzroy Crescent and with a Botanical Garden proposed on his boundary down to Sandy Bay Rivulet.

Davidson purchased a parcel of land (1 acre and 20 perches) on Davey Street through to Fitzroy Crescent, South Hobart (presumably adjoining his Land Grant  property) on 29 December 1834 for 1000 Pounds after being dismissed as Superintendent from the Government Gardens.

Memorial No.4295 - Indenture date 14 October 1834, Memorial signed 26 November 1834, Indenture of Release 29 December 1834.

The property William Davidson was given as a Land Grant on 10 December 1831 to be subdivided.

"The Mercury" 19 March 1861 (Page 4, column 4) "Preliminary Announcement for sale or public auction" of Valuable Building, Ground in Davey Street and Elboden Place.
3 Allotments facing Davey Street.
2 Allotments in Elboden Place.
1 Allotment in Elboden Place includes brick cottage (which we now know as 3 Elboden Street).

"The Mercury" 19 March 1861 William Davidson's property for sale

"The Mercury" 9 May 1862 (Page 4, column 6) "Auction on Thursday 15 May 1862".
Valuable building allotments fronting on Davey Street and Elboden Place.

Lot 1.  A valuable corner allotment of land having a frontage of 47 feet on Davey Street and 116 feet on Elboden Place.  In 1869 Architect Henry Hunter built "Rouseville" for Alfred Kennerley.
Lot 2. A comfortable cottage residence of seven rooms, with all convenient out-offices, together with a capital piece of garden ground, stocked with fruit trees in full bearing, and having a frontage on Elboden Place of 73 feet 10 inches by an average depth of 156 feet. In 1832 William Davidson built his residence while still Superintendent at the Government Gardens.
Lots 3 & 4. Adjoining Allotments facing Elboden Place.
Lots 5 & 6. Adjoining allotments facing Davey Street.

"The Mercury" 9 May 1862 William Davidson's property for sale or auction on 15 May 1862

Elboden Street, South Hobart in 2005

"Rouseville" Cnr Davey & Elboden St, South Hobart 2005

"Rouseville" view from Elboden St, South Hobart

5, 3 & 1 Elboden St, South Hobart
3 & 1 Elboden St, South Hobart

3 Elboden Street, South Hobart 2005

Entry for the National Trust Preservation Fund (Hobart) 1998-99 Awards.
“Manilla” 3 Elboden Street, South Hobart.
Owners: Chris Wisbey and Sallyann Dakis

Table of Contents
A. Cultural Significance
B. Physical Condition
C. Assessment
D. Approach to the Conservation
     The Projects
     Front Fence
     Side Fence
     Damp Problems
     Internal Refurbishment
     Interior Decoration
     Garden Treatment

Conservation Plan for “Manilla” – following the Principles and Guidelines as laid out in the Burra Charter.

A.  Cultural Significance: 
“Manilla” is a five bay, ashlar sandstone Georgian “Gentleman’s residence”, it has a single room sandstone extension dating from 1853(?) and a late 1880s two storey brick addition .“Manilla” is entered on the Register of the National Estate. It is also a “site of significance to Australian women”!

It was built by William Davidson in 1831/2.  As first Superintendent of the Government Garden he wielded considerable power in the colony and his signature can still be seen, incised with his diamond ring, on a window pane of the offices of the now Royal Tasmanian Botanical Gardens. (Ed: Window pane removed and framed for security reasons)

The land grant of 1859 defines the property extending from Davey Street across to Fitzroy Crescent, and along the entire Elboden Street boundary, a total area of one acre three roods.  A Lands Department plan of 1842 shows the original sandstone house with two substantial outbuildings, one of which remains attached to the Victorian addition.

Within the Davey Street historic precinct this appears to be one of the earliest surviving buildings.  The original extensive grounds and gardens have since been subdivided and are the site of Prospect House, ? Lodge, Rouseville and No.1 Elboden, all substantial Henry Hunter designed residences.

From 1840 to 1853 the house was tenanted by Sheriff of Van Diemen’s Land and subsequently Colonial Treasurer Peter Gordon Fraser, MLC, and noted Colonial artist.

Lieutenant Governor Denison praised his methodical and business like straits and noted that he had conducted himself to the satisfaction of all the governors under whom he had served.  (Australian Dictionary of Biography)

Peter Fraser was a leading member of the committee which organised Australia’s first art exhibition and living opposite Aldridge Lodge, a close personal and artistic relationship developed with Mary Morton Allport.

American Ambassador John Pearson Rowe was the owner by 1860, it passed to Sir William Lambert Dobson, Premier of Tasmania by  ?  turn it went to his son Henry by 1879. (Ed: Sir William Lambert Dobson was a Chief Justice of Tasmania and Leader of the Opposition at one stage.  His half-brother Henry Dobson was Premier of Tasmania 1892-1894 and bought 1 Elboden Street 1873/74).

Retained in the Dobson family until October 1913 when it was sold to Tasmanian poet Miss Helen Power.  According to her publisher Clive Sansom, in the introduction to her collected works “A Lute With Three Strings”, he writes “Miss Power was a remarkable person who expressed all with her strength and integrity”.

From the National Estate Data Base:  “Manilla is significant for its association with Tasmanian poet Helen Power who wrote many poems while living there from 1902 to 1952,  Power won several “Bulletin” awards and her works were published in a number of Australian anthologies.  Power’s poetry is significant for expressing female experience in early 20th century Tasmania and important in the evolution of women’s literature in Tasmania”.

During Miss Power’s tenure the house was converted to flats.  The internal stairway being closed, an external bathroom added to the Victorian addition upstairs and a bedroom converted to a kitchen.

In the 1970’s the house underwent further change with the then fashionable radiata pine, textured plaster, open plan with aluminium windows and skylight treatment.  It was in this condition, as cheap student accomodation when it came into our hands. 

B. Physical Condition:  The challenge was to identify the evolution of the house.

1. Original Georgian
The five bay ashlar residence faces North East, the front steps descend into what is now a back garden and is flanked by an enormous Norfolk Island pine.  There is a departure from the standard four-room-with-hallway configuration in that the stairway turns 90 degrees twice, to access the upstairs attic rooms.

There is an obvious diminution in the quality and quantity of mainly cedar joinery the further from the front door one ventures.  The bulk of the cedar was painted over the original Japanning, one room retaining its original internal cedar shutters.

A fire surround was missing, and other fireplaces had been converted to oil heating with brick accretions and plumbing.  Two ceilings had been gyprocked and one Wunderliched.  The rest retain the lathe and plaster.  All walls had been treated with textured plaster.

The servant’s quarters were knee deep in rubbish.  Vinyl had been laid over the wooden floor, the obvious result, its complete decomposition and the beginnings of rising damp.  Other damp problems stemmed from a variety of sources; an ineffective rainhead, rotted down-spouting, the town pressure water inlet leaking heavily and a kitchen gully trap hidden below a three inch crust of fat and Wheaties, so all kitchen waste was directed onto the sandstone walls.

These factors were coupled with a build- up of several tonnes of earth against the walls. Half covering the windows, inhibiting site drainage and air flow.

The delicacy of the Georgian stairway was hidden under plywood panelling and “straightened” by a single Edwardian bannister and newel posts.  The 70s open planning meant half way up the stairs a wall was removed, a velux window installed in the angle of the roof and radiata pine lined the ceiling and walls.

At the bottom of the stair the “aperture” had been widened, by the removal of a lathe and plaster stud wall which destroyed internal symmetry.

Upstairs both attic rooms had been extended with a truly hideous “shed dormer”, its ply and sarking lining and low gyprocked ceiling coupled with the ill fitted second hand windows dominated the Georgian fa├žade.

2. Georgian Addition
From documentary evidence between April and June 1853 eleven convicts were assigned to “Manilla”, perhaps to build the one room ashlar sandstone extension?

The skirtings and architraves are a combination of Baltic and Huon Pine, the original fire surround has been replaced and an Edwardian Bay window had been added in an aperture designed for French doors, with reveals.  The room also has a filled-in doorway, presumably an outside entrance before the brick Victorian addition.  The ceiling is gyprock, cracking along the common wall above the doorway was evident.

Internal access to this room had obviously been a problem and a contemporary solution was to “Tunnel” under the stairway resulting in a false floor and rebuilt timber staircase to the servant’s quarters.

3. Victorian Addition
A tram ticket from 1891 was found glued to the back of a skirting board and other architectural evidence would lead to the conclusion that his is a likely date for construction.

It is cavity brick on a damp coursed sandstone footing with two bedrooms and hallway upstairs and a kitchen, walk in pantry and bathroom downstairs.  Lathe and plaster ceilings, skirtings and architraves Baltic, doors Redwood and Oregon.

In generally sound condition, though remnants of its previous life as a flat remained; ie. Half blocked doorways, residual piping and kitchen cupboards.

Downstairs the original stone wall of the Georgian house had been partially demolished in the 70s to create a walkway to the Victorian kitchen.

C. Assessment:
Masonry – We commissioned Peter Spratt & Associates, Consulting Chartered Engineers to conduct a structural and fabric survey. (Attached)
Architectural Survey – We engaged Conservation Architect Tim Shellshear for advice, measured drawings, design and drafting. (Attached)
Stonework – Kincaid Stone, Brett Richardson, advice and supply of material for rejointing of sandstone and reinstatement of front steps. 
Garden Survey – Arboriculturist Hobart City Council Andrew Roberts-Tissot and Tafe Horticultural Lecturer Linsday Campbell for garden survey, identification of significant plantings and advice.
Paint Identification Survey – Julian Glavin for microscopic analysis of both internal and external paintwork within the original Georgian House. (Attached)
Wallpaper Identification Survey – Dating and identification of samples provided by Australian wallpaper authority Phyllis Murphy.
Historical Research – Historian Irene Schaffer researched the Provenance of “Manilla”.

D. Our approach to the Conservation of “Manilla”:
The challenge in the conservation of “Manilla”, given the diversity of the building fabric, was to enhance the individual features of each architectural style but also to bring them together as a whole, to produce a house that tells its story from Colonial times to the present.

Where possible function has been restored, reconstruction of known architectural detail has been commissioned, original fabric preserved, and sympathetic compromises reached to adapt the house to a twentieth century lifestyle.

We have gone to lengths not to destroy any of the original fabric in any reconstruction or adaption.  New materials where introduced are obviously so and no work is carried out until a thorough investigation of the site has been undertaken that determines previous usage or design.

For example, on removal of the rotted timber floor in the servants quarters we sieved the subsoil and plotted the location of 12 thimbles, grouped around the fire ….. two farthings 1820, 1836….. and a button from the uniform of “The Old Dozen” the 12th Regiment of Foot stationed in Van Diemen’s Land only in the years 1855-1856.  The house trying to tell a story?

1. Secure the site and enhance the street scape by construction of a front fence.  Pilfering and the reputation of the house as a “drop in centre” was a problem.  (It is widely rumoured various “substances” were sold here!)
2.  Associated construction of a side fence where none existed.
3.  Rectify damp problems.
4. Stonework – missing jointing and fretting.
5.  Internal refurbishment.

Project 1 – Front Fence
The northern side of Elboden is dominated by a series of high sandstone walls, virtually from Davey Street to Fitzroy Place.  For continuity, brick had to be the choice, as our fence was to run from the junction with the brick construction of Prospect Lodge to our brick remnant.

The height was determined by the street scape and the choice of a coping, by the remains of a once external wall that now is entombed below the Victorian addition, this was the servant’s access to the well that we discovered when building the side fence.

Given this contemporary model, two bricks on edge at 45 degrees and central raised mound this was reproduced to top our wall which was built in commons, laid in English Bond at 6 foot height.

This was then bagged to give it texture and apparent age and then painted with a “Mouse’s Back” faux lime wash.

We extended the Parapet wall to coincide with sandstone footings which were revealed on excavation, the effect to indicate the outbuilding was once more extensive than now.  Footings are visible from the footpath.

This wall won the South Hobart Progress Associations “Streetscapes beautification award” in 1996.

Project 2 – Side Fence
This was a priority to secure the site.  It was again a logical choice to blend with existing boundary fences ie. Wooden palings at 4’6” which we then capped with a chamfered 3x1 timber with a further 1’6” diagonal lattice screen added.

Project 3 – Damp Problems
Descending Damp.  The original rainhead was repaired, new round section galvanised down spouting installed, the gully trap excavated! And the cold water inlet disconnected.

Rising Damp.  Not a major problem…..but as insurance.  The earth build up around the house was substantial, a result of the conversion of the house to flats and associated building works.  We excavated the earth back to natural ground level, thereby exposing the servants quarters window and stonework, removing three large trees, a concrete slab from the old bathroom and an accumulation of building debris. The southern and eastern sides of the stone house were evacuated level with the first layers of stone, forticon damp proofing laid, aggregate and drain coil installed and backfilled.

Project 4 – Stonework
Stone jointing over the years had been replaced with a variety of materials in a variety of styles and indeed was missing in many places.  The mortars used ranged from pure cement to a car body filler!  Obviously an attempt had been made to “ribbon joint” the stonework in decades past.

Acting on advice from a stonemason we slaked lime, mixed with loam and a course sand to reproduce a mortar consistent in colour and texture with the original that remained.  All joints were then raked and refilled with a weather striking.

Below the stone plinth an ashlar render had been applied, 60% of which had delaminated, where the rubble stone was exposed it was obvious that this was high quality work and again with advice from the stonemason and an architect it was decided to remove it all and rejoint.

The front stone steps were in very poor condition and very worn.  No footings had been provided for in the original, and they had both sunk and fallen away from the house.  A very unsympathetic cement rendering up to 75mm thick meant that the original bull nosing had been hammered away and they had been heavily scutched in the process.

The top large slab was salvaged and reworked, though it was impossible to reinstate the bull nosing.  Its colour is important to blend with the portico.  All other steps were reproduced and the original iron balustrading reinstated.

Project 5 – Internal Refurbishment
Reconstruction & Restoration of Internal Stairs and Hall Ways.
Restoration of internal staircase by removal of ply panelling, balustrading and newel posts.

Reconstruction of internal walls based on evidence of mortising in both floor and ceiling joists and also first hand recollections from previous owner (1953).  Joinery detail reconstructed from existing remnants.

Reconstruction of staircase ceiling using remaining pegged mortises as patterns.  Solid plastering wall and ceilings where needed.

Restoration of servant’s quarters stone steps by removal of false floor and covering timber staircase, repair to adjoining rubble wall.

Reconstruction & Replastering of Internal Walls.
Some had decided the house was irreparable because of the collapse of the servant quarter’s walls and chimney breast.  Acro-props and lime mortar and some cramped and strenuous stonework soon put this simple technology to rights.

Bricking up of 1980’s demolition of part of original stonewall and solid plastering.

Solid plastering wall affected by falling damp.

Reinstatement of second skin of bricks in cavity wall upstairs (unbelievably, where an external doorway had been removed only the external skin of bricks had been laid, from inside a bamboo blind was hung over the hole and the cavity stuffed on four sides with old jumpers!)

The solid plastering of a significant number of internal walls was a major project given the contours of walls and ceilings dictated by hand-split studs and rafters.

We were lucky to find a tradesman who was as much an artist as an artisan.

Given the importance of the wallpapers in the two front Georgian rooms we decided to “skim coat” both rooms with a solid plaster rather than remove this historically significant record.  It also gave a neutral base to apply the finishing distemper.

Timber Work
Reconstruction of 3 pairs of Internal Cedar Shutters using recycled old Australian cedar, traditional woodworking techniques and blacksmithing iron latches.
Reconstruct a 6 pane double hung window to match existing model from old Australian cedar with matching glazing bars.
Reconstruct sliding window, exact copy of rotted original in a similar timber.

Blacksmithing adaption of window iron bars to match adjacent window.

Reconstruction of floor in servant’s quarters using 6”x1” hardwood, butt jointed.

Reinstatement of Hoist from servants to upstairs for food, etc. [Ie. dumb waiter] Cedar cabinet upstairs.

Reproduction to match skirtings for Victorian kitchen and upstairs bedroom.

Reproduction of door to match Victorian kitchen.

Adaption of bay window to become new entrance and porch, to match existing joinery.

Interior Decoration
Where modern acrylics were used they were chosen to match earlier recorded colours, they were always applied by brush to reproduce texture.

The two Georgian front rooms were both distempered.  We mixed the original ochres to reproduce both the first and second known colours in the house, one in each room, made the animal glue, Calcium Carbonate and a bottle of Pine O’Kleen and go for it!  The result is beautiful.

Julian Glavin “marbleised” the ornate carved sandstone mantle surround in the dining room.  A tedious process of scraping, sanding and texturing.

Woodgraining of the Georgian stairwell, cedar effect on the Kauri and also Woodgraining of the Alcover cupboard in the Dining Room. 

The floor of the Dining Room was washed and waxed to maintain both the original Georgian red paint and later Victorian Japanning.

Two Georgian over mantle mirrors have been repaired in Jesso and regilded.

Garden Treatment
The garden when arrived had a certain “abandoned” charm, a by-product of rampant grass, suckering shrubs and self seeded cherry plums ….adorned with a car seat propped up in an impromptu beer garden.

Out first step was to identify what were likely to be surviving original plantings.  A survey by TAFE Horticulture Lecturer Lindsay Campbell and Hobart City Council Arboriculturist Andrew Roberts-Tissot, suggested there were just five; the Norfolk Island Pine Tree Araucaria Heterophylla, a Cherry Laurel Prusus Laurocerasus, a Sweet Bay tree Laurus Nobilis, Portuguese Laurel and a Holly Ilex.
We also searched for any remaining garden infrastructure, paths, trellis, drains etc. to no avail.

As a condition of his employment with the Government Gardens William Davidson was entitled to take for his own use or to sell, plants he grew but were surplus to government requirements.  So it is fair to assume that the garden he created at “Manilla” was substantial, and indeed a Notice of Auction in the Daily Mercury April 2nd 1860 suggests this was the case. “The house, built of the best stone …… Contains 10 conveniently sized rooms …… and a very extensive garden, filled with choice fruit trees in full bearing.” 

Our philosophy has been to create a garden that is sympathetic to the style and era of the house, using plants that either have a suitable “horticultural heritage”, or importantly, are of a style that fits comfortably into that period.

For example as well as planting many old fashioned roses dating back to the mid 1800s such as La Reine Victoria 1872, Mme Hardy 1832, Quatra Saissons Mousseauz 1835, there are also the new English Roses bred by David Austin which have been selected and crossed from the old fashioned roses, to combine the beauty, shape and fragrance of the older roses, with better disease resistance and length of flowering eg. Heritage, Jayne Austin and The Prioress.

Garden Design
The gravel paths were typical in gardens of the mid 1800s, the limestone gravel used at “Manilla” was chosen to marry with the colour and texture of the sandstone of the house.  The garden beds adjoining the house have been edged with Box hedging, grown from cuttings from the remnants of a Box hedge in Mary Morton Allports garden, in what was Aldridge Lodge in Elboden Street. (See Australian Garden History Journal Vol 8. No 5. Page 12)

A trellis dividing the right hand lower side of the garden has been constructed from to-tree stakes, reminiscent of Victorian garden style, as a means of disguising the impart of the unsympathetic subdivision on the eastern boundary.

The restoration of the garden has been a labour of love, as I am on the National Committee of the Australian Garden History Society.

Collage of Photos showing the restoration work done at "Manilla"
 by Chris Wiseby & Sallyann Dakis between 1995-1998

Renovations at "Manilla" 3 Elboden Street, South Hobart

Renovations at "Manilla" 3 Elboden Street, South Hobart
Street front, Garage now ensuite, Front entry

Renovations to Servant's Quarters

Renovations to Servant's Quarters

Street Front, Stairs to Upstairs

Renovations to Ensuite & Street Front

Re-constructing Front Steps
New Steps constructed

Restoring Mantel Piece & Servery in Formal Dining Room

Restoring Kitchen & entry - new Fence

Australian Heritage Places Inventory
Source: Go to the Register of the National Estate for more information
Identifier: 100547     
Location: 3 Elboden Street, South Hobart
Local Government: Hobart City
State: Tasmania
Statement of Significance: “Manilla was built circa 1833, and is significant as a good example of an Old Colonial    Georgian house.  It retains original cedar joinery, including internal window shutters and features a sandstone fire place surround, decorated with floral motifs.  The house is also significant for its 1850s extension and 1890s servant wing, showing its evolution over some sixty years during the nineteenth century. (Criterion D.2)

“Manilla” is significant for its association with Tasmanian poet Helen Power who wrote many poems while living there from 1902 to circa 1952.  Power won several “Bulletin” awards and her works were published in a number of Australian anthologies.  Power’s poetry is significant for expressing female experience in early twentieth century Tasmania and important in the evolution of women’s literature in Tasmania. (Criterion H.1)

Description: The original 1831 part of the house faces north and is an ashlar faced sandstone structure with hipped roof.  It is of Kangaroo Bluff sandstone with rubble foundations, smooth rendered with smooth faced dressed stones to the plinth, wall quoins and window surrounds.  The face work to the walls is finely dressed.  The house has 12 paned sash windows.  The original part of the house is structurally in two parts determined by the double hip roof with internal gutter.  An 1890s addition is of stretcher bond brink and is single and two storey construction to the south east Elboden Street corner.

The house represents three periods of building.  The first in 1831 is five bay, ashlar sandstone with internal cedary joinery, including doors and window shutters.  It features an unusual and elaborate carved sandstone fireplace surround featuring a floral frieze, thistles and what appears to be pine cone and acorn motifs.  This part of the house has two bedrooms above and convict servant’s quarters below.  The second stage of the house, added in 1850 is one large room of sandstone ashlar and rough stone.  The 1890s addition comprises a two storey Victorian brick addition of three rooms below and two above.  This addition adjoins a remnant of a brick building.

History: “Manilla”, circa 1833 was a built by William Davidson the first Superintendent of the Government Gardens, known as the Royal Tasmanian Botanical Gardens.  It is unlikely that he actually lived in “Manilla” while working at the Government Gardens.  An experienced horticulturalist, Davidson was well educated with influential friends.  He had a major influence on the acclimatisation of new plants to the colony, was a pioneer in the recognition of Australian native plants, and laid out the Botanical Gardens. 

In 1829, a house was built at the Botanical Gardens which was used as Davidson’s residence.  It features Davidson’s signature dated 18 February 1833 engraved into a window.  He married 1st September 1829 and his children were born in the Botanical Gardens residence.  Davidson is reported as being a good draughtsman.  During his time as Superintendent at the Gardens Arthur Wall was constructed under instructions from Governor Arthur.

Davidson was entitled to a land grant on the basis of 500 pounds capital which he brought from Britain.  He did not benefit from a Land Grant and he left the gardens in 1834.  On his death in 1837, the property was transferred to his wife.

Peter Gordon Fraser, water-colourist and public servant lived at Elboden Place and is reported as also having lived in “Manilla”.  Fraser was Colonial Treasurer from 1843 until 1856.  Further research is likely to verify the periods in when Fraser and Davidson actually lived in “Manilla”.

Australian poet (Marguerite) Helen Power was born on 6 January 1870 and moved to Hobart from Campbelltown with her sister after their father’s death in 1901. They bought “Manilla” at 3 Elboden Street and ran it for many years as a guest house to support themselves and Power’s writing.  For over thirty years Helen Power also gave classes in contemporary literature to support herself.  Until the 1930s, Power contributed verse and prose to “The Bulletin” and other periodicals.  Much of her verse was modelled on a French romantic style, although some of it was nature poetry and meditations on love and death.  Several poems won “Bulletin” awards.  Other poems were included in anthologies such as Louis Lavater’s “The Sonnet in Australasia” (Melbourne 1926) and in a short collection “Poems” (Hobart 1934).  Other women wrote poetry in Tasmania during the first few decades of the twentieth century but Helen Power’s work was published and well respected in literary circles in Australia.  In the mid 1930s detractors, espousing an awakened sense of nationalism, complained that her work was not sufficiently “Australian” in style.  Power ceased to write feeling that she was out of touch with her readership.

In the 1950s Helen Power was encouraged to write again by the expatriate English poet Clive Sansom.  Helen Power died at St Ann's Rest Home 142 Davey St, South Hobart on 27 November 1957 and Sansom edited a selection of her work entitled “A Lute With Three Strings” (London 1964).  This selection has been criticised for not including Power’s translations, and only a third of her original verse.  It does not include an important series of poems written during World War One which is regarded as one of her greatest literary achievements.  These comprise what is believed to be a cladestine love affair that ended with the lover’s death in action.  It is unlikely that these were not published because the subject matter was not in accord with conservative social morals of the period.

The Australian Dictionary of Biography notes that writer, Judith Wright favourably reviewed “A Lute With Three Strings” in Australian Book Review in 1965.  She wrote “her book ought to remind us …that poetry subsists less in technique and fashion than in the capacity to respond to life and turn it into art – a fact which, in Australia and elsewhere, has too seldom had its due”.

The house at 3 Elboden Street, South Hobart was identified as a place of significance to women in the 1996 Tasmanian “Women’s Sites and Lives” report by Lindy Scripps.

Report produced: 11 November 2005

Australian Heritage Places Inventory

Source: Go to the Tasmanian Heritage Register for more information
Identifier: 3125
Location: 3 Elboden Street, South Hobart
Local Government: Hobart
State: Tasmania
Statement of Significance: The place is significant for its association with writer, poet and founder of the Hobart repertory theatre, Helen Power.  This building is of historic heritage because its townscape associations are regarded as important to the community’s sense of place.  “Manilla” is of historic heritage significance because of its ability to demonstrate the principal characteristics of a single storey, sandstone Victorian domestic building.

Description:  An irregular, single storey, sandstone and stuccoed building with corrugated iron roofs, boxed eaves, simple chimneys and chimneys with moulded tops.  The roof is over the main structural block is half-hipped; the roofs over the lower wings are separate from the main roof and hipped.  There are two gable-roofed dormer windows in the front elevation of the main structure, double-hung with large panes and with sills well below the level of the eaves.  The windows to the ground floor are narrow and double-hung with large panes.  The windows to the other structural elements are varied.

Architectural style: Victorian

Report produced: 11 November 2005

To sum up:
A number of notable people have lived at 3 Elboden Street, South Hobart since the Davidson and Allason families.
The property has been known as "Manilla" for a number of years.
American Ambassador John Pearson Rowe.
Sir William Lambart Dobson Chief Justice of Tasmania & Leader of Opposition.
Peter Gordon Fraser, Watercolourist, Public Servant and Colonial Treasurer from 1843-1856. (Marguerite) Helen Power, Writer, Poet and Founder of the Hobart Repertory Theatre. Helen ran it as a guest house to support her in her writings, along with her sister Lillian Power 1902-1952.
Willis (Bill) & Elizabeth Fysh bought "Manilla" in the late 1950s (presumably from the estate of Helen Power) and sold the house in 1974.  Willis Fysh was the grandson of Sir Phillip Oakley Fysh (Premier of Tasmania 1877-78 and 1887-92, then member of Barton's first Federal Cabinet 1901-1904). Elizabeth Fysh bought 9 Elboden Street in 1975 and lived there until her death in 2011.
For 20 years the property fell into decay through periods of being used for student accomodation.
Chris Wisbey and Sallyann Dakis bought "Manilla" in 1994 and sold it again in 1999 after restoration.
Owners Chris Wisbey and Sallyann Dakis entered "Manilla" for the National Trust Preservation Fund (Hobart) 1998-1999 Awards.  Tasmanian Heritage Register No.3125.  Register of the National Estate No.100547.

Reference to "Manilla" in various Publications:
Daniel Herbert, Convict Stonemason carved the Mantel Piece about 1833.
The Australian Dictonary of Biography notes that writer, Judith Wright favourably reviewed "A Lute With Three Strings" in Australian Book Review in 1965.
Lindy Scripps 1996 Tasmanian "Women's Sites and Lives" report identifies the house at 3 Elboden Street, South Hobart as a place of significance.
More recently garden beds were edged with box hedging grown from cuttings from the remnants of a box hedge in Artist Mary Morton Allports garden. (Refer to Australian Garden History Journal Vol 8, No 5, page 12). Mary Morton Allport's home (and where she died in 1895) was "Aldridge Lodge" at 6 Elboden Street. This property is now part of Jane Franklin Hall, a residential College of University of Tasmania, and the Principal lives in "Aldridge Lodge". 
The Oxford Companion to Australian Gardens by Richard Aitken and Michael Looker page 177.
The restoration of the garden has been a labour of love by Sallyann Dakis who is on the National Committee of the Australian Garden History Society.

Of Note:
Henry Dobson, Premier of Tasmania 1892 - 1894 bought 1 Elboden St, South Hobart in 1873.
Alfred Kennerley built "Rouseville" in 1869 on corner Elboden & Davey St, South Hobart.
The Kennerley, Dobson and Allport homes were Architect Henry Hunter built homes.
Elizabeth Fysh's parents lived in 4 Elboden Street for many decades until 1966.

Joy Olney visited "Manilla" in 2005 & 2006.

Chris Wisbey and Sallyann Dakis bought "Manilla" 12 July 1994 and sold the property 18 November 1999 after many hours of hard work at restoring it to its former beauty. I was able to meet Chris and he shared some special thoughts on the restoration work.

It changed ownership again on 21 October 2005. I had the privilege of meeting the owners at that time and again in 2006. They were happy for me to take photos of their home and I pondered what it was like when my ancestor William Davidson built and lived at 3 Elboden Street, South Hobart.

I was especially thrilled to see an ink sketch of William Davidson hanging on the wall in the formal dining room. It has been hanging there for about 15 years and past down 3 owners.  The same ink sketch is in the Director's office at the Tasmanian Botanical Gardens.

More improvements were made during 2007 with a new front entry into an informal dining/living room and opening onto a deck, new kitchen and painted throughout. The servant's quarters below were restored giving a rumpus room, store room and wine cellar. The property was sold again on 22 February 2010.  It is presently leased out.

Photos taken by Joy Olney 2005 & 2006 below:

Front entry of 3 Elboden Street, South Hobart overlooking garden

Side view of William Davidson's original sandstone residence. (Informal dining & deck since been added).

Formal Dining Room with cedar shutters and William Davidson's ink sketch 2005

Ink Sketch of William Davidson (1804 - 1837) hanging on the wall for the last 15 years & passed down 3 owners
 Formal Dining Room newly painted, dumb waiter in corner goes down to Servant's quarters 2006
Mantel Piece carved by Convict Stonemason Daniel Herbert

 Lounge Room 2006

Sitting Room

Stairs to Servant's Quarters below 2005
Servant's Quarters still to be fully restored 2005, now Rumpus Room 

Servant's Quarters still to be restored 2005, now Storeroom
Stairs to Servant Quarter's front door below upper floor
Servant Quarter's front door below upper floor

“Manilla"3 Elboden Street, South Hobart, Tasmania 7004 
Sold 22 February 2010.

Extraordinary property - Fascinating history.

"Manilla" is an extraordinary property with a fascinating history. It proudly and deservedly holds cultural and iconic significance as a landmark Hobart residence.

Set within a magnificent established and productive garden, one is instantly captivated by the blend of a fine Georgian sandstone residence contrasted by a simply stunning architect designed contemporary extension.

The home offers an extremely flexible and spacious layout whereby the division between the public and private domains are well defined. There is a wealth of formal and informal rooms that provide immense accommodation and cater for all family members.

Complemented with refined interiors the home also retains a rich array of crafted period features. 

Meticulous attention to detail and exquisite fittings and finishings provide a clever and well considered architectural and empathetic living experience.

The home enjoys an exceptional living/dining extension with bi-fold doors to a sheltered, sun bathed deck on the north-east corner extending the wealth of space for relaxing and entertaining. The adjacent kitchen forms the heart of the home and with its excellent facilities and... 

    General Features
    Property Type:House
    Building Size:362.97 m² (39 squares) approx
    Outdoor Features
    Carport Spaces:2
    Garage Spaces:2

    Other Features
    Built-In Wardrobes, Close to Schools, Close to Shops, Close to Transport, Fireplace(s), Winecellar.

    3 Elboden Street photos at time of sale:

Floor Plan

"Manilla" 3 Elboden Street, South Hobart in 2010
Back View 3 Elboden Street, South Hobart 2010
Back Garden 2010

Front Entry 2010

Informal Dining/Living - out to deck 2010

Kitchen in 2010

Formal Lounge Room in 2010

Front Entry in 2010
Formal Dining Room - note Davidson on wall in 2010

Main Bedroom in 2010
Ensuite to Main Bedroom in 2010

If there are any descendants of William Davidson out there (186 years after his arrival in Tasmania),  I would really appreciate you contacting me via email at 

You can view my other blogs at -

1 comment: