How a Bluestone Came to be on St Kilda Road
On my last visit to the Bluestone for Deaf Children Australia I was allowed to borrow a book The History of the Victorian School for Deaf Children. The book was written by J.H.Burchett, MBE and was first published in 1964. I don’t think the book is still available, so I have to be very careful with the copy I have.
It is great to actually read some of the history rather than just getting bits and pieces from this person and that. So for today’s post I thought I would share some of the information of how the DCA ended up where it is today. The photos are going to be all the ones I have taken of the building so far, I think that will work with this.
The history starts before this, but I am more interested in the bluestone and I am going to look at how it came to be. The book isn’t great with dates, but we can assume that by the early 1860’s the enrolment numbers in the school were increasing at such a rate that operating the school from various houses was not possible anymore. So the school applied to the Board of Land and Works for a land grant. The land on St Kilda Road was not the first piece of land offered, but the one they finally settled on. We know, and have been told before that the land was marsh land, which is probably why they were offered it, what would be today considered prime real estate. Not sure it was back then, but today any land on St Kilda Road is worth millions.
From what I can work out to get a grant of money from the Treasury they needed to raise money from an “apathetic public”. So lots of public meetings were held to raise money for the building fund, and they managed to raise £1,054 and then the Treasury granted them £3,000. With these funds architects were then employed to draw up plans for the new building, I don’t like using the word institute.
The book also states that FJ Rose, the original principal of the school, had ideas and the architects used many of these for the building that was then built.
The contract for the building was signed on the 4th of January in 1866 and work began on it in February, the following month. Sir C.H. Darling, K.C.B. laid the foundation stone for the building on the 6th of March and by September the building was occupied. His Excellency Sir J.H.T. Manners-Sutton K.C.B. officially opened the building on the 13th of October, nine and half months after construction began. Could you imagine a building being built that fast today?
Here is a quote about the way the building was built.
“When the solid nature of the structure is considered and the materials from which it is built, that every stone had to be shaped by hand, the scaffolding an affair of poles and ropes, and then note a modern structure under way with all the modern electrical and other equipment in use, one is amazed at the speed with which the building arose.”
While the building was going ahead and the costs were mounting up, the Treasury wasn’t very forthcoming with the promised funds and the committee found itself struggling financially. In the end seven members of the committee made themselves personally responsible to the bank for the funds and they became the first trustees. Eventually the £3,000 promised was received from the Treasury, much to everyone’s relief.
The building cost £7,266/18/6 to build the central 3 stories with the tower, and the south wing with its two stories. Over the years the building has been added to, with the north wing and various other additions.
Now I find myself part of the story of a new chapter in the building as it prepares for the next 100 years and it changes as the world does around it.
Now here is a gallery of images of how the building is today. There are a lot of them, I was surprised, but it was good to see them again.