Last weekend we had a family trip into the city to check out some of the amazing buildings open to the public for Open House Melbourne. Some of them are only open during the Open House weekend. There's a wide variety of buildings and spaces open including historic homes, substations, public baths and more.
The girls did amazingly to walk around the city all day and listen politely to all the guides who shared their passions and knowledge with us. It's such a good way to learn the history of the city and I loved peeking into the places you're not normally allowed to go. My personal favourite was seeing the Myer Mural Hall at long last. It's in the At Deco style and the magnificent murals depict amazing, strong and creative women from throughout history. They were commissioned by Sidney Myer and painter by Napier Waller. His right arm was amputated in WWI and he taught himself to paint with his left. The chandeliers were pretty spectacular too.
We also managed to visit Victoria's Parliament House, home of Australia's first federal parliament. What do you do when you build your Parliament House in the middle of one of the world's biggest gold rushes? Why decorates the walls and ceilings of the Legislative Assembly, Legislative Council and Library with 23 carat gold leaf of course. These rooms are seriously over the top glitzy and ornate. Naturally, the girls who are 7 and 11 loved them! My highlight was the library with books lining the walls and ladders to climb to reach the higher shelves. If fate's listening, one day I'd love a library like this.
A highlight for me was the 1848 edition of Gould's Birds of Australia on display in the library. It was open at a page showing a Spotted Cormorant illustrated by Edward Lear. We love him for his nonsense rhymes including The Owl and the Pussycat. The bio in our copy of his nonsense rhymes illustrated by Australian Robert Ingpen (one of my favourite children's illustrators who I believe also designed the Northern Territory flag) said he had worked as a wildlife illustrator and wrote rhymes to entertain his employer's children. Talented man! I was so excited to see one of his illustrations in person and in such a famous book as well!
Como House in South Yarar was our last stop for the day. It was sold by the Armytage sisters to the National Trust of Australia. What makes it so special is that they sold the house along with all the original furniture and family heirlooms. I have a thing for old kitchens - they remind me of the one at my nana's house that had the wood fire stove. I can still remember my nana heating irons on the stove to iron the clothes at the kitchen table.
A highlight of the whole day was meeting all the wonderfully passionate guides who knew so much about their buildings and were happy to share stories about the people and history that make their building so special. Thanks Tony and Louise and the two lovely women at Como House who shared their places with us. Thanks lovely guides!