FROM grand home to boarding house, post office, squatters’ digs and back again, this building’s 120-year history is one of great change, but its stately presence has stayed timeless.
Now, 490 St Kilda Rd is set to change hands again, as a unique property with multimillion-dollar price hopes — and what’s believed to be the only mansion remaining as a residence on the famous tree-lined strip.
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The circa-1897 property is known as Landene.
The vendors undertook an extensive restoration of the home in the early 1990s.
Engineer Graeme Davies was drawn in by the building’s character when he saw it was for sale in the early 1990s.
But that character had been through years of neglect.
“When I went and had a look at it, squatters had already been out of it a couple of years, and the place had deteriorated very badly,” Mr Davies said.
“All the fireplaces except for one had been taken out and I assume sold off. There were water leaks everywhere, and it was in very run-down condition.”
But character won out, and he bought it — without wife Shirley’s knowledge.
“I came home one evening and said ‘I’ve bought a post office’ and she said ‘what do you want a post office for?’ and I said ‘I like the building’,” Mr Davies said.
Its condition less than impressed her, he added.
Features including handpainted ceiling architraves were restored.
The grand formal rooms have been restored true to their original style.
So began a two-year restoration of the grand home, replacing the cracked lath and plaster walls, aged plumbing and electrics.
With interior designer Tony Cardamone, original architecture was enhanced and features including handpainted ceiling architraves restored.
The project cost almost as much as it did to buy the building, Mr Davies said.
It had changed hands for $800,000 in 1992, CoreLogic records show.
Images from the restoration, which took two years and cost several hundred thousand dollars.
Original lath and plaster walls, aged plumbing and electrics were replaced during the works.
The restoration also revealed history, thanks to a chance encounter.
A descendant of the original owner saw the works and skip bins out the front and stopped in.
Along with another descendant who became a regular visitor, and former residents from its boarding house days, Mr and Mrs Davies could collect the building’s history.
“It’s been so interesting — we’ve had a lot of people through that have lived in it,” Mr Davies said.
The land was first sold in 1875 and later sold again to the England family, who built the grand Queen Anne home Landene in 1897.
It was a family home, then became a boarding house after World War II.
The Postmaster General’s Department bought it 1949 and used it as offices, and it became the St Kilda Rd Central Post Office in 1962.
Later, a dentist moved in upstairs, and then in 1989 Landene made the news when squatters were evicted from it.
Today, Landene is an elegant private residence.
After 26 years Mr and Mrs Davies plan to downsize from their much-loved home, and will sell Landene complete with antique furniture or donate these items to the National Trust.
Harcourts Melbourne City director Dionne Wilson said the property could suit a grand home, or be used as a headquarters, embassy, boutique hotel or gallery.
“The opportunities are really endless as to what people want to use it for,” she said.
Ms Wilson said it had been difficult to price the property given its unique nature and potential for use as either a residence or for commercial or business uses, but it has a guide of $7.4-$8.1 million.
A prime St Kilda Rd position means trams are at the home’s front doorstep.
She was certain people would be swept away by it — as per her own first impression.
“As soon as you walk in, before you even see grandeur of the rooms, you know it’s going to be massive,” Ms Wilson said.
“The entry foyer sets the scene and gets you excited to step inside and see more.”
Offers for the property close 2pm, December 6.