367-368 Beaconsfield Parade, St Kilda West. Melbourne, Victoria

On Beaconsfield Parade opposite a small triangular reserve, Catani Gardens and West Beach in St Kilda, can be found what remains of a truly special row of Melbourne terrace houses.  Only 2 of the original spectacular row of 5 houses remain. The State Library of Victoria records this terrace as 3 storeys, perhaps because their photographs do not show the sunken English style basement floor.  Although bastardised the remaining terraces are three bays wide and retain some of their original features. 1940s remodeling and demolition have rendered this row of terraces almost unrecognisable from what it once was.  

Terrace Houses: 367-368 Beaconsfield Parade, St Kilda West. Melbourne, Victoria

Terrace Houses: 367-368 Beaconsfield Parade, St Kilda West. Melbourne, Victoria

The contrast between the incredibly rich detail which once was and the stark current appearance is massive.  The balconies were once a spectacular long and deep arcaded classical keystoned loggia and the upper storey was a display in classical detail and Italianate style.  There were detailed cartouches and reliefs inside pediments and sashes, urns, detailed cornices, friezes of festoons and the obligatory iron lacework as well.  The roof, including that of the verandah was completely subdued to this architectural display.

From Scoops Lane, you can actually appreciate how large these terraces must have been. They go back quite some way and are extremely tall as well. You can see where the pediments were removed and rendered over to create vertical elements and where parts of the party walls were removed and replaced.

The original row of five terrace houses in 1880s from the State Library of Victoria

The original row of five terrace houses in 1880s from the State Library of Victoria

One reaches the assumption that the remodeling was done to provide a sturdy balcony to the top storey when the terrace was converted into flats.  The upper balcony now projects out to provide a generous amount of space.  The party wall and balconies have a heavy concrete look and the cast iron columns have been replaced by columns of thin glossy black bricks.  The overall effect could be described as “stripped classical” or early “brutalist”.

Nevertheless, the whole building has now been let overgrown with vines which compensates a little for the heavy concrete look.  Beneath the balconies is some incredibly preserved detail, including the original doors, stained glass windows and ornamental sashes on both floors and basement levels.   Some of the original 1880s interiors also remain.

Classical details on the facade visible on the ground floor

Classical details on the facade visible on the ground floor include sashes over cartouches and detailed doors, surrounds and glasswork

The 1960s contribution to this sad story is a 3 storey block of brown walk up flats which utilises the space where the demolished houses in the row stood at 364-366 Beaconsfield Parade.  Don’t ask me why but with some of the best beach views going around the “architects” of this thing decided to face it with a whopping brown brick wall, set it back about 10 metres from the street and allows just a couple of aluminium windows for the privilege of viewing the carpark and wheely bins.   A real shame and a real waste of a prime real estate.

60s flats which occupy the site of the 3 demolished terrace houses

60s flats which occupy the site of the 3 demolished terrace houses

Nevertheless the row has some heritage protection under City of Port Phillip heritage overlay HO3 (ironically so is the block of 60s flats – but for why I have no idea, especially when you consider how many buildings of interest aren’t).  One can hope that someday at least the remaining part of the terrace could be restored to its former glory, although it would take a huge effort and a lot more research.  I’d love to hear from someone who lives or has lived in these amazing houses.

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