Mansions in Lorne Now & Then
Last week, a large five-bedroom home built in the last few years, was sold during a “desktop auction” involving three committed bidders.  The property sold for in excess of $7M and well above the asking price of $6.5M.  This sale set a new record for a sale of a private property for the whole of Geelong and the Surf Coast.  There are currently five properties for sale in Lorne with asking prices in excess of $3M.  At first glance, and to someone not familiar with Lorne and its properties, this might seem that, “all of a sudden”, Lorne is on the map for prestigious properties. 
In fact, Lorne has been the location selected by families wanting a luxurious property by the sea for well over a century.  Between 1880 and 1910, there were many prestigious houses built as seaside holiday homes.  Even at that time Lorne was recognised in Victoria and surrounding States as a unique location, offering stunning scenery, clear waters and good climate and the ideal place to holiday.In 1882, the Geelong Advertiser reported, “Lorne not only maintains its reputation as a delightful place of sea-side resort, but is rapidly making advances, and is daily increasing in public favour.  This, no doubt, is a consequence of its charming situation, mild climate and picturesque scenery.  It differs so materially from places of similar resort on Port Phillip bay, that it will always command its particular admirers; its numerous waterfalls and fern tree valleys being a source of never-failing attraction to tourists and excursionists.”In 1884, the newspaper further reported, “Ten years this place was comparatively speaking unknown, but today it has become one of the most popular resorts for those who are privileged to enjoy a short rest from the toil and strife of business in thickly populated cities and towns.  During the past season over 2000 visitors from all parts of the Colony spent their holidays at Lorne, and even now, when the warmer months are approaching, there is every prospect of the place continuing its charms for persons desirous of recruiting their health.Of late property has rapidly advanced in value, almost 50% more than eighteen months since.  Many persons have been purchasing allotments with the view to the erection of seaside residences.As an example of the growing interest in Lorne is this account, reported in 1890, “Next week a commencement will be made with the erection of a beautiful marine villa for Mr Jas S Reid, a gentleman well known in South Australia, who intends with his family to spend portion of his time at Lorne.  The mansion will be after the old Dutch style of architecture, a two-storey building with fourteen rooms to be fitted up in an elaborate manner, the whole resting on a concrete and stone foundation.  The site of the residence is very pleasant as it will command an extensive view of the coast and sylvan scenery. The building will be rather costly: a number of hands are to be employed so as to ensure the completion of it by the close of the year.”A subsequent report stated, “Building operations are progressing grandly here at the marine villa now in course of erection for J S Reid Esq; there are about 20 men at work inclusive of quarrymen, masons and labourers.”Note: If you have any further information on the location of this particular property, the Lorne Historical Society would welcome your information.  Email to notable mansions erected in Lorne during this period include the following:

Kincraig – Upper and Lower
The Russell Family built a home at 236 Mountjoy Parade in 1905 and called it Lower Kincraig.  They also built a home for their staff in 1927 at the rear of their home and it was named Upper Kincraig.  George Russell was a wealthy western district grazier from Barunah Plains.  At the turn of the century (1900) the family owned 51,000 acres of grazing land at the Barunah Plains Estate and they carried up to 50,000 sheep. James took first prize for his wool at the International Exhibition in London in 1899.  James’s wife Annie played a major part in the summer social life of Lorne.

Charles Beal constructed a home at 101 to 103 Smith Street Lorne in 1881.  He called the home Varna.  It was reported that, “a neat villa brick residence is now being erected at the Marine Parade (Mountjoy Parade), for Mr Beal, of Mount Gellibrand.  When built, a charming view of the bay and coast scenery will be obtained from the house. It is rumoured that two or three more cottages are to be erected in the same locality.  It is not generally known, even by the owners of the Township allotments at Lorne, that very excellent brick earth may be found in considerable quantities on almost the whole of the town lands.  Charles Beal’s villa was built of these bricks as was a cellar built into the bank behind the house to act as a cool store.  The bricks used in the construction of Varna were all locally made in Lorne by the Anderson family.  Varna was the first house to have electricity privately installed, driven by an oil engine and dynamo.

Western district grazier Clive Campbell built a home in 1919 in Mountjoy Parade on the corner of Francis Street and named it Jura.  All the material for the structure was transported to Lorne by sea.  It is one of the largest remaining examples in Australia of the Knitlock concrete block type of construction that was developed by Walter Burley Griffin the designer of Canberra.An architectural inspection reported, “This unusual house has an overall symmetrical appearance, and simplicity in detailing.  The “Arts & Crafts” influence is noticeable in the interior and the use of unpainted finishes throughout suggests the Arts & Crafts feeling for truthful use of materials and creates an unpretentious and informal atmosphere entirely suited to the design of a beach house.  There are stories that this might well be Lorne’s “haunted house”.If you are interested, the records of the Lorne Historical Society contain further information and, in some cases, images, of these and other, century-plus older mansions which reflect Lorne’s very long history as a popular seaside resort. 

It’s not a new phenomenon.

Peter Spring
Lorne Historical Society