Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Holiday homes: 1870s and 2012

Amess House is typical of the resort homes built in the Western Port Bay region in the 1870s, and contrasts greatly with those built at the present time.

Samuel and Janet Amess lived in Melbourne and holidayed on Churchill Island for 60 years. Amess came from Scotland and made his fortune in the gold fields of Victoria. He went on to be a notable builder, stonemason, bridge builder and the Mayor of Melbourne.

Samuel Amess purchased Churchill Island as a place where "he could loosen his tie and enjoy the tranquillity with his family". The home he built (which stands today and is shown in the photographs) is of Italianate style and was fashionable at that time. Cast iron lacework decorates the outside, while inside there's a dining room, morning room, master bedroom, drawing room, kitchen with colonial oven, scullery, nursery, children's bedroom, store room, cellar (a cool place where there was a Coolgardie safe, butter churn and cheese press) -- and a barn.

In the year 2012, travel between Melbourne and Churchill Island takes about two hours, by road, with most of the journey being on a freeway. Two bridges solve the problem of Western Port Bay.

In the 1870s the journey was not so easy. A Cobb & Co. coach carried the Amess family from Melbourne to Mornington, where they boarded a boat to Hastings, and then crossed Western Port Bay to Churchill Island. There were no bridges or freeways in those days.

In the 1870s, a manager ran the property and servants looked after the family while they were living on the island. The servants lived in cottages separate to the main home.

When Amess House was being restored, original wallpaper fragments were discovered and reproduced to help restore the house to its original state. The restoration process was carried out by experts and a dedicated team of volunteers, so the result is pleasing and a true representation of this past era.

Tomorrow I'll show you the charming garden that surrounds Amess House.

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