From mansion to apartments, Labassa has survived with its Victorian era decoration intact.
Labassa is an outstanding Victorian era mansion with opulent architectural features. Originally called ‘Sylliott Hill’, it was renamed ‘Ontario’ in the 1880s reflecting its new owner Alexander William Robertson’s Canadian heritage. He had the mansion redeveloped in the French Second Empire style by commissioning the German born architect, John A. B. Koch, to remodel the house into a thirty-five roomed mansion. The interior features gilt embossed wallpapers, ornate stained glass and a rare trompe l’oeil ceiling.
Renamed Labassa in 1904 it was home to Melbourne’s elite until 1920 when it was divided into flats. The residents included Hollywood’s first Australian silent film star and other colourful bohemians. Labassa is the most lavish of the few surviving nineteenth century mansions and the magnificently restored interiors of the main rooms again impress all its visitors.
A reunion of more than 135 former residents, owners and their descendants in 2013 has led to an ongoing research project into Labassa’s remarkable social history during the mid 20th Century.
From 1862-1920 it was the residence of a succession of enterprising and prosperous families. Following those boom years it was divided into apartments and became home to successive waves of residents of more modest means but not necessarily modest ambitions.
Follow the different stories and course of latest research through the Labassa Lives journals written and compiled by historian Vicki Shuttleworth.