40 Nicholson Street, Fitzroy (Osborne House)

This house is often thought of as the earliest documented house in Fitzroy. The central section was constructed in 1850 for John McPherson who owned and occupied the house until 1876. The House was originally known as Helena House (and later as Osborne House). The original house was designed by Charles Laing (Miles Lewis, Gertrude St Walk, April 2013).

In 1979 however it was identified that “Bishop Goold’s house (part of the Convent of Mercy, Nicholson Street…) was erected a few months earlier than Osborne House” (South Fitzroy Conservation Study 1979, p.11-12).

Its central section erected in 1850 by builder William Pelling for wealthy squatter John MacPherson, was acquired in 1887 by Melbourne merchant and speculator George Nipper who converted this private residence to a boarding house (operated for 93 years) via the construction of two flanking three storey wings with encircling iron verandas. The additions of this establishment (named Osborne House in the Jubilee Year of Victoria’s reign) are in the conservative Classical mode.

Miles Lewis, Gertrude St Walk, April 2013
Osborne House, Nicholson St, engraving by Samuel Calvert in The Commercial Album of Victoria, (unattributed, undated [Melbourne, before 1887, though incorrectly attributed to 1891]). The verandah was added in the early 1880s, when it was a boarding house, and flanking wings were built by George Nipper in 1887 to the design of Charles Webb.- Source: Miles Lewis, Gertrude St Walk, April 2013

In 1888 the side wings were added, probably to the design of Charles Webb, by the new owner George Nipper. From this date it was used as a boarding house with two attached shops.

Image held by Fitzroy Library. Taken from the Collingwood and Fitzroy illustrated Directory and Handbook, 1905.
1958 – Photo from John Lockyer O’Brien
1958 – Photo from John Lockyer O’Brien
This is actually Salsbury House 38 Nicholson Street., Fitzroy. by  Unknown. Image held by Fitzroy Library. c 1975
This image shows the original house at the back, and the wing on the left (which make up Osborne House) and part and you can just see the start of Salisbury House on the right. Image held by Fitzroy Library. 1975
 Image held by Fitzroy Library. Photo Mario Cotela. Oct 1988

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