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'Grace Park House'
Chrystobel Crescent, Hawthorn

The History

Grace Park was one of the first estates established in Hawthorn. Michael Lynch of the Rising Sun Hotel in Mel bourne and his wife Julia (nee Grace) bought Crown Allotments 38-42 bound by Power Street , Glenferrie and Burwood Roads and the present northern back fences of Mary Street . On the highest part of the property, they built their two-storied home (c. 1857). The house was designed by notable Mel bourne architect John Gill and included 8 rooms, a cellar and stable. In 1989, Grace Park House was included on the Historic Buildings Council Register by virtue of its being 'of special significance to the State of Victoria '. This magnificent property also received an 'A' grading in the Hawthorn Heritage Study (Meredith Gould, 1992). Its primary significance is historical as it is the original mansion house and land of the 'Grace Park Estate' around which an area, famous for its street design, was planned. It is also important as one of the earliest surviving mansion houses in the Hawthorn area that, although altered, has architectural importance as a rare example of a Georgian styled house.

Michael Lynch was a leading pioneer. He was a member of Boroondara's Road Board and was a donor of land for the Church of the Immaculate Conception. Lynch's will stipulated that the Grace Park estate was to be retained by his family in perpetuity. After his death in 1871, Julia Lynch became the owner-occupier of the house and land. However, in 1874, the homestead and 4 hectares became Mrs. Robert Colvin Clark's Ladies' College and the rest was leased to Edmund Edwards, a local horse breaker. From c.1900 until the 1930s, the house was variously a boarding house and private flats. More recently, physicist Dr. Maxwell Swingler and his wife have resided there.

The Garden

When the current owners bought the house, it had been extensively restored and updated. A local designer, Durham Strachan of Peter Strachan Interiors (who has worked on other heritage properties such as Parlington in Canterbury ) has been engaged to ensure the continuing refurbishment is sympathetic to the period while ensuring functionality as a family home. The current owners consulted Heritage Victoria about the garden and a tree and shrub survey was conducted. Photographs from the early 1930s were considered and suggestions were made as to how the garden could be altered so as to be more sympathetic to its heritage. These included, removing the Pin Oak obscuring the front West side of the house and planting another more removed from the house, planting a rose garden also to the west of the house and removing some trees that had split or were considered dangerous. An example of this is the Robinia at the rear of the house adjacent to the pool area.

The three Robinia in the rear garden are original and the oldest trees on the property followed by the elms in the front garden. The Italian Cypress on the west side of the front garden is thought to have been planted in the 1920s as this was the fashion at the time. This may also have been when the driveway was moved to Chystobel Crescent as the house entrance faces west and the original driveway would have gone all the way to Power Street . The hoop pine in an adjoining property is an important tree that may have been in the centre of the (probably circular at the top) driveway. Also in the front garden are 2 magnificent gums that are thought to date from the 1960s. The current owner has imbued the garden with a touch of his own passion by replicating plants from the Augusta Golf Course in Atlanta , Georgia , USA . So far 7 of the 18 species of plant have been added, including Nandina and Dogwood.

The Residence

The mansion itself is a two-storied residence with extensive wooden verandahs on three sides, incorporating squat bluestone columns and accessed via French doors. You may like to observe the original fastenings on the doors and the brass coach-lamps along the verandahs and also to note the relatively low balcony railings. From the southern side of the verandah, there are views to the Immaculate Conception Church and to the west are fabulous city views.

Inside the house are 3 levels of rooms. The basement is accessed via an original cedar staircase. Following a recent flood, carpets were taken up to reveal wonderful bluestone flooring. This together with the thickness of the walls (2.5 bricks) gives a sense of solidity and a hint of life in those days. This feeling of nostalgia is enhanced by the row of servants' bells in the corridor. On the ground floor, one can see the beautiful Baltic pine floorboards and the very tall, original cedar skirting boards. There is a formal dining room (which at one stage was used as a kitchen to service the ballroom) and a sitting room. Both rooms have ornate cornices and, as in the study and library, open fireplaces.

Through the arched hallway, in the home of the former ballroom, is a vast open plan kitchen, dining, living area. Tongue and groove panelling below a dado rail lines the walls which are painted, as throughout the house, in neutral colours that give a sense of light and calm. The kitchen benches are black granite and this is mirrored in the outside bar that has also been rendered to match the fašade of the house. The inside bar is constructed from cedar to replicate the original cedar that was used extensively throughout the house and it is housed in a conservatory area that echoes a similar area outside the master bedroom upstairs.

Passing up the carpeted Baltic pine staircase, you can see a beautiful arched window and then a landing with a deep, panelled octagonal skylight. Upstairs, there is the same feeling of solidity. The bedrooms all have French doors opening onto the wide verandahs as well as wonderful open fireplaces. In one of the bedrooms, you will see some beautiful, original fireplace tiles: one depicting a man dancing and another a woman playing a musical instrument. In another bedroom, there is an original fireplace with a warmer still affixed and delightful floral tiles.

The master bedroom has views over the tennis court and pool back to Mary Street . There is a curved wall in this bedroom and the marble ensuite to the other side houses a steam room. Again, neutral colours on the walls and floors and the effective use of skylights and conservatory-style ceilings help to ensure that this wonderful house, while retaining all the benefits of having been so solidly constructed in the past, provides a warm and welcoming family home today.