From mansion to flats, 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, who remodelled 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 impress all its visitors.
Return to Labassa
A reunion of more than 135 former residents, owners and their descendants in 2013 led to an ongoing research project into Labassa’s remarkable lived history over 143 years.
From 1862-1920 Labassa was the residence of a succession of enterprising and prosperous families. Following those boom years it was divided into flats and became home to successive waves of residents of more modest means including socialites, world war heroes, Jewish refugees and bohemian artists.
Follow the different stories and course of the latest research through the Labassa Lives Journal written and compiled by historian Vicki Shuttleworth.
Sunday 19 February 2023
Labassa Open Day: Melbourne International Millinery Competition Display
The Melbourne International Millinery Competition returns to Labassa for the seventh year with a display of hats inspired by an answer to the question – what should super model Jean Shrimpton have worn to the Melbourne Derby in 1965? Ms Shrimpton caused a scandal when she appeared wearing a dress above the knee, no stockings, no gloves and a milliner’s nightmare – no hat!
Labassa is open 10:30am to 4pm with last entry at 3:30pm. Bookings are highly recommended.
Guided house tours on the hour from 11am to 3pm and tearoom available. The tower will be open with a limit of 12 people per tour group. Due to the tower’s narrow, steep steps visitors are advised to wear sensible shoes.
Join us for a guided tour or opt for a self-guided tour.
Guided Tour Times:
11am – Interior House Tour
12pm – ‘Who’s been living in this house?’ Tour (Note: this tour goes upstairs)
1pm – Exterior Tour
2pm – Interior House Tour
3pm- Interior House Tour
Tower tours: 10:45am, 11.45am, 12.45pm, 1.45pm, 2.45pm, 3.45pm (Limit of 12 people per tour).
Tea room available: 10.30am – 3.30pm.
Please arrive at least 15 minutes before your intended guided tour time. Capacity will be monitored on the day.
Information brochure available for self-guided tours.