Historic Fitzroy Street house scheduled for redevelopment

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By Dr Mandy Leveratt

When Minister for Housing and local MP, Martin Foley, announced on August 4th that the redevelopment of Elenara at 2 Fitzroy Street would be completed by 2018, this marked another stage in the fascinating history to save the graceful Edwardian building which currently provides accommodation for 36 of Port Phillip’s most disadvantaged citizens.

Back in 2014, just before the State election, it was believed that the then Coalition State Government had earmarked Elenara for sale. St Kilda Community Housing launched a media campaign to keep the building as a community-managed rooming house.

Residents appeared in a video and in the press to talk about how much living there meant to them. As the local MP, Martin Foley declared at the time that “Victorian Labor will reinstate Elenara on the upgrade list”.

Since then it has been a long wait to see what the plans look like and to hear when the upgrade would occur. Not surprisingly John Enticott, General Manager of St Kilda Community Housing, welcomed the announcement by the Minister. However, Mr Enticott cautioned that the timetable for the redevelopment would have to be put in place before the end of this year in order to meet the Minister’s deadline.

For those with long memories, Elenara had been under threat before, back in the early 1980s when developers were eying the prize location. Once again a government came to the rescue when the Ministry of Housing bought the building under the old Rooming House Program and gave it to the St Kilda Rooming House Issues Group to manage.

The buildings that comprise 2-6 Fitzroy Street (and the two next door) were completed in 1908-1909 after local resident Susanna Jamieson had commissioned architect George Cummings to design them. On the eve of the First World War, Elenara was being advertised in a tourism publication St Kilda by the sea, Australia’s premier pleasure resort as “The Ideal Private Residential Hotel” facing the sea.

It was from Elenara that John Gillies Bolton said goodbye to his wife and child and embarked with the 8th Battalion on the transport ship Benalla which led them first to Egypt and then on to Gallipoli on April 25th 1915 where Bolton was awarded the Military Cross.

John Bolton was the son of William Kinsey Bolton, who was Brigadier General of the 8th Battalion after whom Bolton’s Ridge – on the right flank of Anzac Cove – was named. Bolton senior later became a founding member of the Returned Sailors and Soldiers Imperial League of Australia, better known as the RSL. He also became a Victorian Senator from 1917 to 1922.

With such an illustrious history behind it, it is pleasing to know that Elenara will survive for many years to come.

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