Thursday, November 26, 2009

Toorak Grammar "You don't know what you've got til it's gone..."

If, by happenstance, you glance up as your tram rattles past 652 High Street, Prahran try to look beyond the immediate garishness of the used car yard to the neglected and tumbling down beauty behind.
This is the original Toorak Grammar, a private boarding school started in the home owners private home when finances got a tad tight back in the depression.
The 1880s depression, that is.
(Frederick) Frank Goldstraw was a noted teacher and artist, painting not a few decent portraits of renown fellow teachers and people of standing in the academic community whilst he was employed at Wesley College.
He executed a magnificent portrait of infamous Sir Redmond Barry which, forgotten then rediscovered, was lost all too quickly in a fire.
Several of his paintings still hang with pride in Wesley College, apparently, but poor old Frank has been forgotten thoroughly.
The old house/school is falling to bits; a past fire and general weather has gutted its innards, pigeons are procreating with wild abandon in what was once Victorian splendour and the beautiful ornate plaster ceiling roses have crumbled to a chalky dust stirred only by the breezes that work their fingers through the yawning gaps or, perhaps, by the forlorn and equally forgotten ghost who is reputed to wander the former school.
The gorgeous bricks, which were laid before Canberra even existed, are in perfect order and could be salvaged; many aspects of this building could be saved and recycled but for the march of time which has not been kind to the old girl and, having forgotten her original owner and school master Frank Goldstraw, it seems that Stonnington Council have forgotten about the building as they have no record of its existence on their files in any shape or form.

If, by happenstance, you glance up as your tram rattles past 652 High Street, Prahran try to look beyond the immediate glaring newness of the flats that will be erected at some time in the near future to replace the neglected and tumbling down beauty....


  1. Great post Jayne. That door showing in a few photos looks like it is not one you would want to step out of.

  2. Thanks, Andrew.
    Actually, just realised in the Stonnington-owned pic (first link) the wee balcony still existed!

  3. Have passed this on to a friend who is a descendant of one of the early headmasters of the school - I went prowling around there in 2003 to get pics of it for her.

  4. The 1880s? My cottage is older than that...although, to be honest, it's difficult to tell by looking whether it was demolished several years ago or not.

  5. It's really deteriorated since then, Daniel, the lower ground windows on the left are completely covered by corrugated iron now.

    Brian, I know, but what heritage we do have is being demolished, neglected, chucked out, pulled down and scrapped without any thought of our future generations who'll have not a dicky bird to show for any history.

  6. It really is sad to watch such a beautiful old building slowly erode like that. There are so many uses it could be repaired for.

  7. Yep, but it's really gone beyond saving now, classical demolition by neglect.

  8. I am the a the descendant of Frank Goldstraw mentioned by Daniel. I came down there not long after Daniel checked it out for me and we went there to try and get a good look only to be met by difficulty with the owner at the time (who had a car yard perched out front) It was clear he had no care about the property and it was heartbreaking. I did get a glimpse of a small part of the inside. Frank was not the only one that was significant in the history of education in Australia. His wife, Matilda, was the first female headmistress for a private girls school in Australian history. She also published a novel under the pseudonym of Noel Hope titled Milliara: an Australian romance novel.

    It is heartbreaking to see what has become of this house. I would be absolutely grateful if someone could get some current pictures for me, as i live in Sydney, of the house as a whole. I have a sketch of how it was when it opened, it would be complete to have something of it near its end.

    Thank you so much Jayne for finding this worthy of your time and concern.

  9. Hi Dani, thank you for commenting.
    I'm only sorry I couldn't get more photos but permission was 'suddenly' withdrawn by a second party.
    It has indeed been a beautiful building and it's still evident that it was designed by someone who had talent, it's just a damn shame it's been let go as badly as it has.

  10. Hi all those interested in 652 High Street, Prahran. This property is going to be redeveloped into 30 residential apartments. If you object to the demolition, and/or would like to see a proper cultural heritage assessment (including archaeological excavation of the remaining back yard) please let Stonnington council know NOW as the decision on the planning permit has not yet been made. The link below should take you to the appropriate site. Thanks, concerned resident, JT.

  11. hi all - there will be a meeting tomorrow at 6pm in the Prahran Town Hall to make a decision on the future of this beautiful building. Please come and show your support before this historical landmark is removed! Meeting will be held 6pm sharp in the Prahran Town Hall tomorrow (18th November, 2010) - jacquie

  12. Hi all - there will be a meeting held tomorrow (18th November, 2010) at 6pm in the Prahran Town Hall regarding the future of this historical landmark. Please come and show your support! Many thanks - jacquie

  13. hi - the leader newspapers have expressed interest in featuring this story. please contact me if you are interested in being a part of this.