Melbourne’s Most Magnificent Streetscapes – Edition #4

Malvern East 3145 – Finch Street

(Gascoigne Estate)

One of Melbourne’s few unchanged architectural streetscapes, the Gascoigne Estate in Malvern East is an amazing showcase of the illusive Federation architectural style. Of great significance in Melbourne’s suburban development history, the estate exhibits the typical subdivided generous allotments of the land bloom in the 1880s. Masterminded by Matthew Davies, The Gascoigne Estate Land Company was registered in February 1885 and held auctions for the subdivided land just a month later. Advertising for the allotments included the phrase ‘a character and stability rivalling Toorak and South Yarra’. After only a handful of Victorian homes were erected in the initial stages, the 1890s Depression put a freeze on development until around the turn of the century, when many of the coveted Federation buildings were constructed. 

The first burst of homes was mainly on Finch Street, with the famous architectural pairing of Beverley Ussher and Henry Kemp heavily involved. While Ussher and Kemp were crafting designs on the south side of Finch Street, it was the familiar John Beswicke who was also operating in the area simultaneously. Although Central Park Road and Kingston Street make a historical mark, it’s Finch Street that stands with the greatest architectural significance.

12 Finch Street – Fashionable and Federation c.1907

Sensationally enhanced by notable architect Paul Delany with the assistance of the award-winning Jenny Smith Gardens and the eminent Jack Merlo, the elegant mix of contemporary luxury and Federation charm culminated in a $6,567,500 sale in May of 2021. Retaining the breathtaking original façade yet transforming the internals with nods to the old, this spellbinding residence captures the essence of family living for those without financial limitations. The trademark wide frontage is complemented by a return verandah, traditional curved fretwork and proud bay windows.

15 Finch Street – The Gables c.1902

Erected by distinguished developer Lawrence Alfred Birchnell, The Gables has been transformed into one of Melbourne’s finest venues for events such as weddings, functions and dinner parties. Surrounded by 100-year-old cypress trees, the Queen Anne Federation landmark sits on an incredible allotment nearing 3,500 sqm. The park like gardens and period elegance makes for a luxurious location for an outdoor wedding or ceremony. Designed by Ussher and Kemp with their trademark plasterwork and leadlights, the famous William Guilfoyl (who designed the Royal Botanical Gardens) was the mastermind behind the landscaping which retains much of its structure today.

31 & 33 Finch Street – ‘Moanga’ and ‘Thelema’ c.1899

Beverley Ussher and Henry Kemp designed some of Melbourne’s most mesmerising residences, right across the Eastern suburbs, over in the West and even down at Portsea, yet they leave their greatest mark upon the Gascoigne Estate. Distinct from one another and their architectural competitors, these illustrious homes showcase the vast allotments, skilful brickwork and steep gable roofs that make the area famous.

92 Finch Street – Gothic Revival Federation

On an extensive allotment of 1600 square metres approx., the stately Federation residence at no. 92 makes its claim as the Gascoigne Estates’ most significant property. Making a massive street front presence with its grand façade, return verandah and distinct eaves, the property has undergone contemporary restorations to result in an $8.7 million sale in 2020.

151 Finch Street – A Kevin Borland Original ‘Crossman House’ c.1976-78

Designed for Jules and Ruth Crossman, thus dubbing it ‘Crossman House’, 151 Finch Street is a one of a kind Kevin Borland architect designed masterpiece that exhibits his particularly unique style. Spilling over Wattletree Road thus falling under the Glen Iris banner, this 1976-1978 built home is an example of the late 70s Australian modern classic style. Incredible with its indoor garden, the home features earthy tones including exposed bricks and panelled ceilings while showcasing sharp angular shapes and impactful towering windows. Borland initially gained fame as a co-designer of the Olympic Swimming Pool before going on to win numerous architectural awards. Although designing many residential and non-residential dwellings around the City of Stonnington, ‘Crossman House’ is deemed to be his greatest original showing as it hasn’t been significantly altered like much of Borland’s other projects. Highlighted by its remarkable skillion roofline, the home satisfies the criteria for inclusion on the heritage overlay schedule to the City of Stonnington.

Another, sure to delight the architectural enthusiasts and on lookers of today would be ‘Kia Ora’, a magnificent c.1912 Federation home destroyed by fires in the 1970s.Prestigious due to its oversized allotments and Federation grandeur, the Gascoigne Estate remains one of Melbourne’s most coveted residential areas. As discovered, Finch Street truly stands out with its grand scale and distinguished nature that herald the notoriety of this prominent estate.