Sunday, August 23, 2015

Edgewater Towers

It was the ever expanding Open House a few weeks ago in Melbourne. I had one day off, the Saturday to catch something and I went through the electric catalogue and I could not find anything that excited me and the thought of long queues, with the favourite attractions booked out well ahead, was just off putting. Then something grabbed my eye, Edgewater Towers in St Kilda.

I should think Ann O'Dyne and Hels can tell us a bit about Edgewater Towers. R had been inside a couple of years ago and he wondered why it could possibly of interest, but how interesting it was.

It dominates St Kilda's skyline and we can see a small section of it from The Highrise. Construction of Australia's first privately developed apartment block was completed in 1961. The initial developer, Bruce Small, who went on to become Mayor of the Gold Coast and oversaw the introduction of parking meters and bikini clad meter maids to feed them coins, made his fortune after buying a small bicycle shop in Malvern. The Malvern Star, as the bikes were called, became very popular, aided by selling them on credit, and at its post WWII peak, there were 115 stores with 1,000 dealers.

It was also Australia's tallest privately developed residential block until the construction of Robin Boyd's Domain Park Flats, which can be seen on the left of my blog header photo. 

Edgewater Towers was designed by architect Mordechai Benshemesh and over the years has been used in a number of television shows and the 'own your own luxury housing' has seen a number of famous people reside in various apartments.


The front of the building faces Marine Parade and the rear, where most of the carparking spaces are, leads to Spenser Street. There was a long running battle with authorities over fire safety, there being few rules when it was built. An upgrade in early 1990s was followed by addition of a sprinkler system in the mid 2000s and full fire safety measures by 2014. We began with a terrific lecture in the foyer to a crowd of about 20 visitors. R and myself missed the first part, so later caught the beginning of the lecture for the next group.


The tour was conducted by volunteer residents of the building and they were very enthusiastic and passionate about their home. I think we began in a one bedroom third floor flat facing Port Phillip Bay with nice but not remarkable views. The building has also undergone an amount of remedial work on its concrete exterior. Someone suggested towards the end of the construction, the concrete became thinner and thinner to reduce costs.



From there, we travelled up in the very slow independent lift to perhaps the 11th floor. There are two lifts but independent of each other and at different ends of the long central corridor, so it was just a matter of waiting. Here we are looking over Luna Park. If we can see Edgewater Towers from home, then we should be able to see home from here but I couldn't pick it out until later in the full sized photo.


Looking towards Acland Street and beyond the Peanut Farm sports oval is the community garden, or allotments if you like.


For some reason this survived the fire regulations and it was suggested it probably should not have.


Truly though, the building is of rather a plain appearance. The public interior and interiors of flats have been much altered but good service has been addressed to its original appearance.


After the I think 11th floor apartment, we went up on to the roof, a health and safety work, and public liability nightmare. Original roof fencing had been replaced with a closer in and sturdy fence, but we stepped over pipes, tubes and roof infrastructure. Many of those with us were not young or fit. The views were really good though. This is the St Kilda Marina.


Really interesting terrazzo, in such large pieces.



There was a fire in a flat after the sprinkler system was installed. It was quickly put out by the sprinklers.


The mail boxes are not original.



Let us do a roll call of famous people who have lived there. Because of my age, I know most of them.

Sir Hubert Opperman, famous cyclist and later a conservative politician. Mother and the sister of artist Sir Sydney Nolan, the sister and her husband once running the upmarket restaurant within the building. Max Merrit of the band Max Merrit and the Meteors. Brian Dixon, footballer and later a minister in the state conservative party government. Stanley Leighton, founder of Leighton Holdings. Josef Ganz, perhaps the original concept designer of the VW beetle. Wrestler Mario Milano. Hairdresser Ian Morrey, once world hairdresser of the year. Featured in a television show about him, Edgewater Towers was also the home of Dr Bertram Wainer, a campaigner for women's right to abortion and against the police corruption involved when back room abortion was rife.



This corner was once an upmarket restaurant run by the aforementioned sister of Sydney Nolan ... for a time. It closed long ago and was converted to an apartment. To conclude, what a great effort by the resident's of Edgewater Towers to have the building and some apartments open. Thanks to all who conducted the day of opening of, not a gorgeous building but an iconic Melbourne building. Residents of Domain Park Flats take note and open your building for the masses next year.


31 comments:

  1. Tower is lovely and view from the top amazing...What a pity I live 700km from the sea.,.

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    1. Gosia, although I am not a beach person, I like to be near the sea. If you look at our population, Australians cling to the coast line.

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  2. Thank you.
    Love those views. And am awed that they know just who lived there...

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    1. EC, I forgot to mention, but there was so much information displayed on the foyer walls, it would have taken over an hour to read it all. This was the second year it has bee open and the person who gave the lecture said they find out more and more about the building from each group he talks to.

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  3. Interesting concept to go and look through theses buildings with some historical and cultural significance. Good to see you didn't leave your auditor's hat at home. Love the terrazzo floor.

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    1. Carol, historical and cultural significance are words I should have used. I really like terrazzo and it the public areas have been restored and polished very nicely.

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  4. Fascinating post Andrew. Very interesting to read the history. And not bad views compared to my flat landscape.

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    1. Thanks CM. I do need some hills around me. Open land and open forest scares me.

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  5. Not keen on tall buildings but I do like the floor.
    Merle..............

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    1. Merle, you are not alone not liking tall buildings. I find them interesting but more of the internal space than the outside of the building.

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  6. The sand looks so light...almost white.

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    1. Susie, the camera doesn't always tell the truth. It is light coloured and fine sand but not almost white.

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  7. Normally I'm not a fan of terrazzo floors, but I do like the one you've shown. It would be lovely on a patio or in a vestibule.
    You always share such interesting bits of history, one of the reasons I enjoy coming here so much.

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    1. Jac, I have only seen, or noticed small chipped terrazzo before, not this large example. Many things interest me, so consequently I know a little about a lot but not much about anything.

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  8. I think the views are remarkable, even from the third floor. Anywhere that has a view of the ocean is good in my eyes. Of course it must be a proper view, not just a glimpse 'when the sun is right if you lean right out and look left'.
    I remember having a magazine picture of Max Merritt on my bedroom wall. Right next to Jon English. (*~*)

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    1. River, the trouble with ocean views is they are usually dark at night. I had Jon English but not Max. I can't really remember him.

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    2. Did you have Jon English in tight white pants leaning against a red convertible?

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    3. I remember that photo, but I can't remember if that was the one I had. I think not.

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  9. I remember being driven past it when it was new and sparkly. I thought it was the height of elegance on the beachfront. It was before the older houses started to be sold and renovated into luxury up market money makers.

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    1. Jah Teh, it must have really been something when it was brand new, almost unseen of here.

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  10. I remember Bruce Small...met him once years ago on the Gold Coast.
    That good to see inside the towers, those apartments that you could.
    Terrazzaro was very popular once...still could be over your way..

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    1. Margaret, as I remember Small, he played the fool very skillfully, rather like Bjelke Peterson. Our first flat in about 1980 had a terrazzo bathroom floor. We used to polish it until it gleamed. I don't see much of it now.

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  11. Open house is a great opportunity to see inside buildings that are part of our skylines but a mystery as far as the inside goes. I'm not sure I would have chosen this apartment block but it looks as though your curiosity was quenched and it did indeed have something of interest to show. P's sorted out the Covent Garden balloons. They will be on display from next weekend where I will be first in line.

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    1. Marie, it is really the history of the residents that is so interesting, but to learn about such a well known building that has appeared in the news over the years was certainly interesting.

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  12. I like the terrazzo flooring and the stone wall, also terrazzo? It is interesting you know of so many people who have lived there.

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    1. Strayer, I think the wall is faced with slate. I was surprised myself to learn how many famous people had lived there.

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  13. That was fascinating, thank you. What a diverse range of residents! The Bruce Small connection makes sense- I think from (very fuzzy) memory that there was a building very similar to Edgewater Towers in Surfers Paradise that survived until about the late 1970s

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    1. RJ, you too would know of many of the people who lived there. Wasn't Small one of the first who was described as the white shoe brigade?

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  14. I'm annoyed I missed Open weekend, though I was quite sick. Still, they should do them more often.

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  15. Was anything mentioned about the article about concrete cancer that was in the domain...https://www.domain.com.au/news/concrete-cancer-a-ticking-time-bomb-for-melbourne-apartments-20150427-1mtefn/

    I think buildings like these should be protected for future generations.

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    1. Raj, I've not heard of concrete cancer being an issue at Edgewater Towers. Plenty of issues with the fire equipment though, all now resolved.

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