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Architect: G.W. Vivian and Frederick Kawerau

East | E05

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Established in 1870, Willsmere is a rare, mostly intact 19th century former lunatic asylum, and an architectural marvel of Melbourne. Spread over 25 acres, sitting above Yarra Bend Park, and at one time forming the highest constructed point in Melbourne, the Italianate and French Second Empire buildings were designed with the aim of portraying Melbourne as a civilised and benevolent city. The design included innovative ‘ha-ha’ walls that retained views without the feeling of being enclosed. In 1993 Willsmere was converted to 256 private residences with the addition of townhouses, however it retains a heritage listing. The central administration block comprises a three-storey building with attic Mansard roof and cupola. Two barracks-style wings extend to each side, which include two towers and courtyards lined with iron-columned verandas. The complex is set in gardens and surrounded by a walled fence.

Need to Know

  • Open: Thursday 3 & Thursday 1 January 10am-4pm - Booking required for this building

  • Photography Restricted: Yes

  • What's Open: Gardens, Museum, Bluestone Cells

  • Special Note: Tour is mainly outdoors – dress appropriately

  • Tour Type: E05

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  • Tour Details: First release Friday 13 July 8:30 am until booked out, second release Friday 20 July 8:30 am until booked out, small booking fee applies. Tours at 10am, 10.30am; 11am, 11.30am, 12pm, 12.30pm, 1pm, 1.30 pm, 2pm, 2.30pm, 3pm, 3.30pm, running for 40minutes, in groups of 17

  • Access: Able bodied access only

  • Building Type: Residential

  • Facilities: Toilets

  • Year Built: 1870

  • Transport: No public transport available.

  • Photo Credit: Farley Webb Photography


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