Bede Barlow architectural beauty for sale in Potts Point

Bede Barlow architectural beauty for sale in Potts Point
Bede Barlow architectural beauty for sale in Potts Point

Architect John Bede Barlow designed a Potts Point home for his cousins, the Lane-Mullins family at the end of the 19th century.

The 1892 house at 8 Challis Avenue was named Killountan, joining other well-known Barlow homes, including Keadue in Elizabeth Bay and St Kevin's in Woollahra.

The Toohey's director, John Lane-Mullins, who was a longtime member of the NSW Legislative Council, was a man of considerable means. The father of five was a leader of Roman Catholic laity, including being treasurer of the St Mary's Cathedral Building Fund from the 1870s. He was notable patron of the arts, and foundation president of the Australian Ex Libris Society. 

His family was from County Cork, Ireland, where the family home was also named Killountan.

The home, set between Macleay and Victoria streets, has been known for the past three decades as Simpsons of Potts Point, a small boutique hotel of 14 rooms.

But its current listing seems quite likely to see its return to its original state as a residence, the only privately owned freestanding mansion of its era in the area.

It was during the 1920s when the house known as Belgravia was split into six apartments. They were earning 320 pounds annually when offered for sale in 1944.

Then in the late 1980s, the Farris family undertook a year-long restoration.

Without ostentation, its facade was a statement against the vulgarity of Victorian architecture of the day. There was red brick with stain glass windows and timber ornamentation. 

Its now restored decorative elements were reserved for inside with missing mouldings replaced, elliptical Tudor arches highlighted, and a new internal staircase built, in the same style as the one that had been demolished decades earlier. A conservatory was erected and the garaging built underneath. 

The wooden columns at the entrance were uncovered, recreating the front porch.

There's precedent for the conversion back to residential, touted by the listing agents, Ken Jacobs at Christie's International and William Manning at McGrath.

Set on 650 sqm, the buidling has been on market for over 250 days.

When last offered in 2002, the property sold for $2,850,000.

Over the past 24 months there have been two notable terrace sales in Challis Avenue, including one reputedly for $14 million.

Restauratuer Peter Doyle's Cicada is no longer, having been restored and sold as a residence for $13 million in 2016. 

Killountan, which featured in Our Beautiful Homes: Australia's upper middle class in the Edwardian Age, last traded when bough by Keith Wherry in 2002 for $2.85 million. 

Barlow built houses for Sydney's new rich professionals, mostly Catholics, with big families. His other 1892 architectural jewel is St Kevin's, Woollahra, designed for Dr Patrick Collins and his wife, Margaret, whose ageing daughters kept the home until 1976 when then adman Leo Schofield and his then wife, jeweller Anne, saved the home from its infirm state after paying $182,250. 

Architect Peter Stronach, who helped restore the 1892 St Kevins for the Schofields, once noted the style of the 1890s house was Italianate, Victorian, wedding-cake style, with lots of wrought iron.

Bede Barlow instead built face brick houses with no wrought iron, but rather timber and brickwork decorations, along with verandahs, the beginning of an acceptance of a local style, rather than a copy of a European style. 

St Kevin's last sold for $2.2 million in 1994 when bought by Paul Keating when he was Prime Minister.

"No part of the house has been changed in concession to passing infatuations with fashionable configuration," Keating once told me.

"Leo saved it, and I finished the task."

Barlow, the president of the Institute of Architects of NSW between 1897 and 1902, lived at Airmount, Waverley, now the Christian Brothers' College, with wife, Mary with their only son having been killed at Gallipoli.

An earlier version of this article was first published in The Weekend Australian.

Jonathan Chancellor

Jonathan Chancellor

Jonathan Chancellor is one of our authors. Jonathan has been writing about property since the early 1980s and is editor-at-large of Property Observer.

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