Is thi s Perth’s finest house?
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.