Text from Historic Melbourne Sketchbook
In the 1860s, Parliament decided that a new and more elaborate Government House was required but stated that it should not cost more than 25,000 pounds. The startled tenderers, on reading the specifications, were convinced it would. In addition to drawing, dining and waiting rooms, a ballroom 70 by 100 feet, twenty bedrooms, a shawl room and a library, the ‘impressive edifice’ was to be built in brick, rendered in Portland cement.
By the time Government House was completed in 1876 to the design of W. W. Wardell, the architect of St Patrick’s Cathedral, the cost in the best of Australian large building traditions had risen to 154,000 pounds. It is, however, Melbourne’s stateliest home, the centre of which is the lovely ballroom with its arcade and delightful musicians’ gallery.
Built in bluestone in the Italianate style and modeled on Queen Victoria’s Osborne House, the ivory-coloured stucco façade is impressive with Ionic columns above the Doric of the porticos below.
Everyone seemed pleased with the result except the first resident Governor, Sir George Bowen, who protested to the British Secretary of State that ‘the Governor of Victoria is now called upon to maintain a Government House much larger than the official residence of the Lord Lieutenant of Ireland or the Viceroy of India, on less than half the salary and allowances of the first and one third . . . of the second.’
Old postcards of Government House.