Grand dame

Is thi s Perth’s finest house?

The Weekend Australian - Magazine - - LIFE -

With its el­e­gant ar­chi­tec­ture and man­i­cured grounds that sweep down to the Swan River in Perth’s most ex­clu­sive sub­urb, it’s easy to pic­ture this land­mark fam­ily home buzzing with life in its early-1900s hey­day.

Built for Ho­ra­tio “Hor­rie” Sholl, a pearler and pas­toral­ist be­fore he be­came a Mem­ber of the Leg­isla­tive Assem­bly (1891-1901), the house was one of the first in the area. It was also con­sid­ered a hub of so­cial life in the young city. “By his mar­riage with Jessie Cave in 1883,” says the

Aus­tralian Dic­tio­nary of Bi­og­ra­phy, Sholl “had, be­sides three sons, seven daugh­ters whose good looks made the fam­ily home at Pep­per­mint Grove a so­cial cen­tre in Ed­war­dian Perth.”

The house was built from lime­stone, tim­ber and iron, the first sin­gle-storey sec­tion re­plac­ing a wooden fish­ing cot­tage in 1894. A more spa­cious two-storey sec­tion was added in the early 1900s. With only two own­ers in the past 123 years, its her­itage fea­tures in­clude the 19th-cen­tury sta­bles that were ex­tended when cars re­placed horses as a means of trans­port.

Pep­per­mint Grove coun­cil­lor Charles Hohnen, an ad­vo­cate for the pro­tec­tion of her­itage-listed prop­er­ties, says the five-bed­room house needed a sig­nif­i­cant over­haul when he and his late wife, Jeanne d’Espeis­sis, ac­quired it from her fam­ily in 1987. The d’Espeis­sis fam­ily had bought the home in 1951, us­ing it as their city base when not at their farm at Cape Nat­u­ral­iste in the state’s south­west.

Fol­low­ing its last ma­jor ren­o­va­tion 25 years ago, the house has for­mal din­ing and liv­ing ar­eas, a fam­ily room with kitch­enette and an up­dated kitchen with ad­join­ing sun­room that opens to the stone ter­race. Orig­i­nal fea­tures are ev­i­dent in the wrap­around ve­ran­das over two lev­els, tes­sel­lated floor­ing in the en­trance hall, an im­pos­ing jar­rah stair­case, jar­rah floor­boards, stained glass win­dows, mar­ble fire­places, sash win­dows and elab­o­rately dec­o­rated high ceil­ings.

The prop­erty, which in­cludes a grass tennis court and gar­dens bor­dered by lime­stone walls, sits on 2731sqm over­look­ing Fresh­wa­ter Bay in one of Aus­tralia’s wealth­i­est lo­cal govern­ment ar­eas – and the small­est, span­ning a mere 1.1 square kilo­me­tres.

“Peo­ple have said to me, ‘Why don’t you sell off the bot­tom lawn?’, but that would de­stroy the grace of the prop­erty,” says Hohnen. “Some­body else might, but that will be up to them. It’s a lovely house and a lot of peo­ple say it’s their favourite house in Perth so I feel re­spon­si­ble for it and that’s how we’ve looked af­ter it.” Af­ter 65 years in the same fam­ily, the home is ready for new own­ers, he says. “It’s the end of an era; the fam­ily have grown up and left. It’s a lot of hard work for me. We mod­ernised it in the 1980s and the pas­sage of time means it needs do­ing up again.”

But de­spite its size, el­e­gance and pedi­gree, Hohnen in­sists the house is “not a man­sion”. “It looks enor­mous, but it’s re­ally just a beau­ti­ful fam­ily home,” he says.

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