Two matters coincided and caused me some head scratching. Our hairdresser friend decided to celebrate her birthday, odd in itself, as she never has before. She decided we should dine at a French restaurant near where she lives, Embassy@97 in Fitzroy Street, St Kilda. We had a fine meal and HD realised she knew the owner from hair dressing school. Before we went, I had a look at the restaurant website and it made mention of being in front of the old French Embassy in St Kilda. Yes, I knew the building. It is fine apartments now. I took photos of it a long time ago, well just the entrance as that is all you can really see.
This is beside Embassy@97, looking into the building known as Brooklawn, apparently once a French Consulate.
Then I came across this photo on my travels around the internet. The photo is of famous/infamous Mirka Mora and was captioned Mirka Mora rummages among the rubble of Australia's first French Embassy. Well, how many French Embassies were there? The State Library gives more details of the photo, but that wasn't where I came across the photo. All I knew was it was MM on the site of demolished French Embassy in 1968 in Fitzroy Street, St Kilda. Well, where was it?
I got busy searching, using many different search terms and I was getting nowhere. I asked in a group and I was given some misinformed information, suggesting that it was on the western side of Fitzroy Street as the visible building at the very top of the photo was Srathmore Apartments, which are almost next door to Embassy@97. With Melways street view I could see the top of the Strathmore Apartments and although similar, it wasn't a match. Two of my own posts popped up when I was searching and I should have examined them then and there as they contained part of the answer. I also emailed Alliance Francaise in Grey Street but I never heard back from them.
A friend then reminded me that Embassies are in are capital city of Canberra, not in our big cities. During my research I decided that the building behind Embassy@97, Brooklawn, was only a consulate, not an embassy. It had also been a brothel in its time.
I went to the website of the State Library to do some searching there and the first thing that popped up was the above photo with extra information. It was a Herald newspaper photo and this info:
Three-quarter-length, to left, standing amid piles of bricks and stone,
holding pieces of rubble at demolition site of building by the name of
Voltaire-Racine, former French embassy and fashionable hotel in Fitzroy Street, St. Kilda.
Voltaire-Racine, now I had something to search for. Digitised newspapers told me is was a boarding house in the 1920s, but I was getting many different street number, 71, 73, 75. Then elsewhere 71 and 81 were coming up. Ok, I believe Voltaire-Racine was the site of the first French Embassy in Australia and it was where Mirka was when the photo was taken. It was time to physically investigate and disprove the false information I had been given. The location seemed to be on the corner of Fitzroy Street and Jackson Street, or Loch Street, as maps have a bob each way with the street name. I knew there was one old building on the corner, which kind of ruled out many of the street numbers but not entirely as there were Fitzroy Street numbers behind the existing old building. I needed to go to the shops, so instead of the City or Prahran, I would go to St Kilda. The tram stop is right opposite Embassy@97, so it was a good place to start.
However, before I left home, I took a look at my old posts that popped up. On this one, Sean tells me the name of the house was Brooklawn, Its the old French Embassy ("Brooklawn" 91-97 Fitzroy Street) now
apartments. http://www.skhs.org.au/SKHSbuildings/18.htm Architect is
unknown. Part of a series of four mansions now built out by shops ...
That would have saved me a bit of time if I checked. What about this one? RH and Marshall Stacks both mention Voltaire-Racine.
RH: You wouldn't have known of the old Voltaire Racine 'apartments'in
Fitzroy Street. The house was at the end of a narrow walkway between two
shops (just down from where the post office is now, if it's still
there) and the house itself was at the rear of one of the shops; you
could just glimpse a few stone steps up to a doorway.
Marshall Stacks: NLA Australian Newspapers - article display
_ ST. KILDA, VOLTAIRE, RACINE, 75 Fitzroy Balcony SUITE, excellent cuisine; tennis, billiards, grounds. _'Phone, 040 Windsor.
And there you go. I am standing near where Voltaire Racine, the old French Embassy was, looking across Fitzroy Street to an apartment block which is an exact match to the building at the top of the photo with Mirka.
Closer up reveals the name of the apartment building is Kingsclere but I have a feeling it was known as something else, and NO, I am not going to find out.
This is the back of the horrible modern building and car park that replaced Voltaire Racine. What a shame. I cannot find any photos of Voltaire Racine.