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Labassa: Eye of the Lens Open Day

Home > Melbourne > Architecture | Photography | Places of Interest
by Fiona Anderson (subscribe)
A Melbourne based writer who is a travel junkie, dedicated foodie and emerging photographer.
The focus is on the elaborate features
Stunning Victorian-era mansion Labassa opens its doors to the public on the third Sunday of each month. For January's open day, the call out is for budding photographers of all ages to visit and capture the magnificent interiors and the well-preserved decorative features the mansion is famed for. Visitors can also seek inspiration from a presentation of work from some of Labassa's most significant photographers.

Labassa: Eye of the Lens Open Day
Labassa retains many of its impressive 19th century features. (Image credit: Jon Rendell.)

Originally called 'Sylliott Hill', the mansion was renamed Labassa in 1904. In 1920, it was divided into flats and known as 'Labassa Flats'. Residents included Louise Lovely, Hollywood's first Australian silent film star, and other colourful Bohemians. The mansion was the setting for extravagant parties in the 1930s and 1940s, and fundraisers in aid of the Red Cross Comforts Fund during the Second World War.

Interestingly, one of the earliest residents in the flats was Dr Ralph Parker McMeekin, Medical Superintendent at the Melbourne Hospital from 1915-20. Dr McMeekin gained a reputation for criticising the government of the day over its handling of the 1918 influenza ('Spanish flu') pandemic. In a move some may say has parallels with the current day, he accused the government of failing to recognise the seriousness of the pandemic.

Labassa: Eye of the Lens Open Day
Lavish details inside Labassa. (Image credit: Anthony Basheer)

This and many other vignettes of the history of Labassa have been captured by author and historian Vicki Shuttleworth. You can read more of her work here.

While Labassa may have undergone many changes to its structure and ownership, it is nevertheless considered the most lavish of the few surviving nineteenth-century mansions. The painstakingly restored interiors of the main rooms impress all who view them. Interior features including gilt embossed wallpapers, ornate stained glass and a rare trompe l'oeil ceiling make it a magnet to photographers with a bent for history and architecture.

Labassa: Eye of the Lens Open Day
The front hallway of Labassa. (Image credit: Jon Rendell.)

Five sessions are available for the open house on Sunday 16th January. Each tour takes approximately 30 minutes. Visitors will have the opportunity to complete a house tour, and then take a guided photographic tour. You are invited to bring your own camera and try to get that 'wow' shot.

Children are welcome to attend the open day. To keep them entertained, there will be an activity sheet available to help them 'hunt' for Labassa's 'quirky critters'. For example, Labassa is not a zoo, but can you find its big cats? The answers will be accessible by scanning a QR code linked to a webpage.

Labassa: Eye of the Lens Open Day
Elaborate staircase and stained glass - a magnet for photographers. (Image credit: Jon Rendell.)

The session times are:

- 10am session: house tour at 10.45am and external photography at tour 11.15am;

- 11.15am session: house tour at 12.00pm and external photography tour at 12:30pm;

- 12.30pm session: house tour at 1.15pm and external photography tour at 1.45pm;

- 1.45pm session: house tour at 2.30pm and external photography tour at 3.00pm, and

- 3.00pm session: house tour at 3.45pm and external photography tour at 4.15pm. (Note last entry is at 3.30pm.)

Ticket prices are:

National Trust members: Free
Adults: $15

Concession: $12
Children: $9
Family (2 adults, 2 children): $35.

Labassa is located at 2 Manor Grove, Caulfield North.

For more information and to purchase tickets, please click here.

All images supplied.
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*Fiona Anderson was invited as a guest
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Why? Savour a slice of history in a way the whole family can enjoy
When: Various session times between 10am and 4.30pm on Sunday 16th January
Phone: (03) 9656 9889
Where: Labassa, 2 Manor Grove, Caulfield North
Cost: Adults - $15, concession - $12, children - $9, family (2 adults, 2 children) - $35, National Trust members free.
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