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.
Sunday 18 April
Labassa: A Lived History
Labassa’s unique character is as much a reflection of the people who inhabited the building as its spectacular architecture. Experience the complex richness of Labassa and learn how the mansion and its lived history enrich our understanding of time and place. Labassa has endured nine owners, conversion into ten flats, sixty years of sporadic maintenance and more than 700 tenants. And, it has survived all this with most of its opulent Victorian era decoration intact.
Note: This event is being held as part of the 2021 Australian Heritage Festival running from 18 April – 2 May. This is a timed-ticketing event, walk-ups will be accepted only if the tour is undersold. Visit the Australian Heritage Festival webpage for more information.
26 April – 6 May 2021
CostumeLAB: Textile Conservation in Action
CostumeLAB is an exhibition event that combines conservation science with fashion history. A collaboration between the National Trust and the Grimwade Centre for Cultural Materials Conservation, CostumeLAB highlights the essential role conservation plays in the preservation of textiles and fashion.
The conservator’s work is often performed inside dedicated spaces and laboratories, out of the public eye. CostumeLAB reveals this behind-the-scenes work. Conservators will treat fragile textiles – many never before displayed – while visitors learn about the techniques, knowledge, and craft of conservation.
Part exhibition and part live event, CostumeLAB is structured as a short-term residency. Hosted over only 10 days, this exclusive event provides an opportunity to gain privileged access to historical costumes, to see inside the garments, their construction, and evidence of wear.