14-16 Gertrude St, Fitzroy

“This building was constructed in 1912 for Albert E Bennett, a dentist for combined use as a surgery and residence. It was built by contractor L Hansen. Bennett had already constructed two villas in Gertrude Street in 1906, possibly his earlier practice, for he was a dentist in Fitzroy from at least 1903.” (South Fitzroy Conservation Study, 1979, p.126).

“The architect of this building is unknown but the relief cement foliage detailing and the internal ceiling treatment is similar to Walter Butler’s “Grong Grong”, Toorak of 1907 and the Conservatorium of 1912, University of Melbourne, by Peebles , of Bates, Peebles and Smart Architects. The building appears to be modelled on an Italian Palazzo composition, but the enlarged bluestone plinth and unfilled ground floor loggia, provide a variation and debasement of the theme. However the Art Nouveau cement detailing is very fine, and the projecting balconettes over the side entrance have the luxuriant detailing of Gaudi’s buildings. The elongated keystone motif with incised ruling at the first floor level an the large corbel supporting the balconettes are in marked contrast to the more correct Italia renaissance detailing of the arcaded loggia and ground floor pilaster” (South Fitzroy Conservation Study, 1979, p.124).

“Number 14 was originally the surgery and has a stained glass name panel with “Bennetts Dentist” in the porch. Internally the encaustic tiles to the floor remain intact, and the art nouveau ceiling treatment (cornice and panels with foliage and grape decorations) is of some interest. Number 16 was the private residence and it is larger than 14 and somewhat more opulent. A stained oak stairway (with intact bannisters with tulip cut outs and incised Newell posts; leads to the upper floor of both buildings which was originally all used as the residence. Petitions have now been inserted, drastically altering the building. Two roundels of stained glass with delicate plaster surrounds survive in the upstairs and downstairs wall and intact lead lighting survives to the side lights and transom lights of both entrances.” (South Fitzroy Conservation Study, 1979, p.124).

“This building provides an important example of an Art Nouveau residence / combined commercial building. It is superior to “Brooklyn, 50 Georges Street, which was refaced at a similar period but is more crude in detailing and execution. Whilst 43 Alfred Crescent, North Fitzroy, provides a more consistent example of an intact art nouveau residence, both internally and externally, the detailing, composition and execution of the building differ markedly from this building. The combination of bluestone, face brickwork and delicate cement detailing produce a building of considerable interest and importance.” (South Fitzroy Conservation Study, 1979, p.124).

Albert Edward George Bennett (Dentist)

Mr Alfred Edward George Bennett – Photo from the Cyclopedia of Victoria, 1903-1905, Vol 1, p.478

“Albert was born in Castlemaine, Victoria, in the year 1863, and is a son of the late Mr. Benjamin Bennett, one of the early pioneers of the colony, and a well known business man in Melbourne. When at an early age, his parents removed to New Zealand, remaining there for some years, and eventually returned to Melbourne. On the voyage back, which was very slowly accomplished in those days, they had a thrilling experience. Leaving New Zealand in a sailing vessel, very heavy weather was soon encountered, which sprung the ship’s timbers, causing her to leak badly. The pumps were set to work and had to be kept going night and day, while the cargo and passengers’ luggage were thrown overboard to prevent the ship from foundering. They eventually succeeded in getting into Nelson. Passages were again secured and the voyage continued in the steamer ‘Gothenburg’ which vessel, a few days after getting to sea caught fire, the flames raging for several days and threatening total destruction, but the conflagration was ultimately got under and the vessel reached her destination in safety. Completing his education in Melbourne, Mr. Bennett was subsequently articled to the dental profession with Mr. Otto Kolsch D.D.S late of Elizabeth Street, Melbourne, with whom he qualified to practice as a dentist under the Act. Commencing the practice of his profession in 1885, he became widely known in the North-Eastern and Western districts of Victoria. He afterwards successfully established himself in Sydney NSW and finally succeeded to the practice which he now conducts in Fitzroy. Mr Bennett is a well-known member of various institutions including the Masonic craft, and at present occupies the position of Junior Warden in the Kent Lodge, No. 31 V.C.” (The Cyclopedia of Victoria, 1903-1905, Vol 1, p477-478)

The practice referred to above was located at 78 Gertrude Street, Fitzroy. They were here for a few years before moving to 40 Gertrude Street (1906-1915) and then to 14-16 Gertrude St (1919-1952). (Electoral Rolls: 06,12,13,15,19,24, 27, 28,31, 34, 36, 49)

Albert married Amy Barwell in 1897, and together, they had four children: Amy Vera (1901), Burleigh Mannington (1904), Thelma Violet (1906), Edna Mavis (1909). Amy passed away in 1930 and Albert in 1952.

Image held by Fitzroy Library. 1978

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