YOU can almost hear the excited chatter of children in the halls, smell the aromas of early Australian cooking, and sense the spiritual energy that has powered Mount Martha House for almost 200 years.
Now home to the Martha House Community Centre, Mount Martha House is a Mornington Peninsula icon and landmark, perched on a grassy hill that was once part of the Martha sheep run and today is just steps from bustling Mount Martha village.
The house’s many incarnations mean it holds an indelible place in the shire’s history, with strong connections to the area’s early inhabitants and a past that includes a coffee palace, hotel, country club, military training school and barracks.
Visitors to the monthly historical tours to the house can learn about its previous owners and some of the 19th and 20th Century’s movers and shakers that spent time there, including state premier Sir William Irvine and the Governor of Victoria, Sir Thomas Brassy, and Prime Minister Robert Menzies and his cabinet.
Volunteer manager of the Mount Martha House historical collection, Gill Gordon, said the property was originally popular with wealthy Melbourne visitors, with people often taking a ferry from Melbourne and then a horse-drawn carriage to the treasured holiday spot.
Gordon said the building also had an important place in military history, being used by the RAAF in World War II as an officer training school and from 1952 to 1974 by the Women’s Royal Australian Army Corps.
Designed by well-known Melbourne architects Tappin, Gilbert and Dennehy, the timber property was built over six months in 1889 in a Federation or Queen Anne Revival architectural style and arranged in a square shape with an Oxford frame courtyard.
Known by many as the big white building on the corner, the property is now maintained by Mornington Peninsula Shire and carries one of Heritage Victoria’s highest ratings for a peninsula property.
The guided, one-hour tours are run on the third Wednesday of the month, meeting at the main entrance for an 11.30am start.
Details at mountmarthahouse.com.au