Situated on the corner of Dundas and Newcastle streets in Thornbury, "Barunah" is an impressive example of a grand, 19th century tower mansion.
Also known as "Tower House", "Barunah" was built around 1892 by F.A. Harris, a former Preston Shire President and owner of the Builders Brick and Tile Supply Co. in South Preston.
Having sold his business for 60,000 pounds, Harris used the proceeds of the sale to purchase 4 blocks of land from the Pender's Grove subdivision. Harris then set about building the type of house that befitted a wealthy and successful business man like himself.
Built in Victorian Italianite style, with stained glass windows, elaborate cornices and a breath-taking view from the tower, "Barunah" was planned as a grand and ornate mansion in the manner of Werribee Park. At the time of its construction, the house stood quite alone, with many of the streets in the area only being formed some years later. He built the observation tower, possibly so that he could view the horse races which may have been run on a race course that was to have been built near the Darebin Creek. After 1900 it was gradually surrounded by houses as more people began to settle in the area.
Unfortunately for Harris, his fortunes took a turn for the worse in the depression. His company went into liquidation and in 1895 and "Barunah" was seized by the Bank of N.S.W. It is said that Harris never got the chance to live in his wonderful house before it was taken away from him.
"Barunah" was then occupied by a series of tenants and owners. A tanner, Paul Hardenak, rented the house for a while. In 1902 it was sold to James Woods, a prosperous grocer. Notes and measurements marked Mr Woods under the main staircase have been found and left by the current owner. Woods lived there off and on until Henry Davidson purchased the property 15 years later.
Around this time street numbers were formally introduced to Dundas street, and in 1929 "Barunah" became part of the new suburb of Thornbury.
There seems to be an interesting story attached to one of the owners - a Mr. Davidson. Apparently he was a bookmaker who, having bet heavily against Phar Lap in the 1930 Melbourne Cup, was then forced to sell the house to pay his debts.
"Barunah" is still very much in its original condition, complete with servants' quarters, coach house and stables.
Now considered as being of ‘National Significance’, "Barunah" is listed on the National Estate by the Australian Heritage Commission, and was once again sold at auction in November 1998. It has since been extensively renovated.
The 1884 residence was again sold in July 2001 for $1.7million, a record price for a Darebin home.
Butler, Graeme (1982). City of Northcote urban conservation study. Alphington: City Of Northcote.
Lemon, Andrew (1983). The Northcote Side of the River. North Melbourne: Hargreen.
Northcote Historical & Conservation Society. (1988). Northcote: Glimpses of Our Past. Northcote, Vic: Author.