The Mont Albert District - a Pictorial History 1830 to 2013

1916 - Californian Bungalows

Indigenous Heritage
Geology and Topography
Vegetation and Fauna
Climate and Hydrology
1840s to 1870s
1850s - Parish of Nunawading
1852 - Whitehorse Inn
1861 - Postal Services
1880s - Electricity Supply
1880s to 1920s
1882 - Phantom Railways to Doncaster
1883 - Residential Heritage Precinct
1884 - Broughton Park subdivsion
1884 - Brickworks
1885 - Surrey Hills district - map
1888 - Football Clubs
1889 - Gas Supply and Gasworks
1889 - Doncaster Electric Tramway and Tower
1890 - Mont Albert Railway Station
1892 - Surrey Hills Golf Club
1892 - Water Supply, Reservoirs and Sewerage
1899 - Telephone Services
1905 - The Surrey Dive
1907 - Scouts and Guides
1912 - Mont Albert Village Shopping Precinct
1914 - Mont Albert Progress Association
1916 - Californian Bungalows
1917 - Schools
1917 - Wattle Park
1924 - Early Shortwave Broadcasting from the Surrey Hills district
1924 - Black's Estate
1925 - Bus Services
1929 - Tramways
1930 - Cricket Clubs in Mont Albert
1930s - Balwyn - Beckett Park Bonfires and Wildlife Sanctuary
1948 - Grange Tennis Courts
1957 - Pioneer Park
1961 - Surrey Hills Communications Tower
1981 - Box Hill Miniature Railway
Koonung Creek Parklands
Heritage Notes
Mont Albert Road - Early History
Mont Albert Rd - the East End
Elgar Rd - north and south of Mont Albert Rd
Mont Albert Rd - View St to Elgar Rd
Bushland Reserves
Service Associations
Sporting Clubs
Box Hill Institute of TAFE
Walking Trails
The Author's Websites
References and Acknowledgements

2013 - the author's Californian bungalow "Hargicourt" built 1923

Californian Bungalow - Australia's Favourite Interwar Home

There are thousands of "Californian Bungalows" across Melbourne!  The author has lived in one since 1959 when his family moved from Auburn to Mont Albert.

In the author's suburb, as in other parts of Melbourne, there are entire streets of Californian Bungalows, all built between 1922 and 1930.

The basic design has certainly stood the test of time!

2013 - the author's Californian Bungalow in Mont Albert Rd
Were our bungalows any different from those built in the USA? Single-storey homes in Australia were absolutely the norm, rather than 1.5 storeys. Utilities could be installed more easily than in a two-storey house and there were no staircases for the elderly and children to navigate.

The Australian back yard had to be big enough for the entire family, for dogs, cubby houses, cricket games and a chicken shed. The front garden could be smaller, but it had to be surrounded by a decent fence. And the building materials were specifically Australian.

It is believed that the earliest designs in Australia were based on craftsman design principles. Houses were built low, with shallow, low pitched roofs of terracotta shingles or roofing slates, exposed rafters and beams showing from under the roof.

People loved materials with a rustic, natural look. Mixed materials were used, to add to the cot­t­agy look: stone, brick and timber, earthy materials were used in Australia (whereas in the USA they had used wood shake shingles, river rock and clinker brick)].

A gable roof faced either the front or side always and although the building could be asymmetrical, masonry veranda piers were remained very popular. Windows had small panes and were arranged in casements. Front doors were typically high-waisted and decorated with leadlight.

The interior plan was left to the family’s preference, but typically featured a central hallway, the good rooms at the front of the house and the kitchen and laundry at the back. Two bedrooms were initially built – if families needed a third, it would have to be added under the roofline or tacked onto the back at a later date.

Panelled walls had a plate shelf, and built in furniture, such as window seats, bookshelves and fireplace nooks. 

Imported originally from California in 1916 by a real estate agent, the first Australian Californian bungalow was erected in Sydney. The bungalow become the favourite house style in Australia immediately after WWI, when it quickly spread across all Australian towns and cities. It was a solid and respectable house, serving the two great needs that made it so popular in California: affordability and suitability for a dry, warm climate.

Timing was everything for the bungalow in Australia. Tim Durbridge at  showed the British idea of Garden Cities was taking firm hold of the minds of Australian town planners. Here was a means of fostering the egalitarian Australian ideology. It also ensured that new development improved land values since zoning disallowed cheap, owner-built haphazard housing. Blending with its natural surroundings in the sun splashed bush, great for the family to sleep out and gaze at the Southern Cross, the bungalow provided privacy, excellent plumbing and much respectability in Australia’s new Garden Suburbs.

Bungalows in Victoria

The State Bank of Victoria ran the scheme with a fierce paternalism. It drew up a book of house plans from which prospective clients must choose. It specified all the materials to be used and insisted that the building could only be carried out by an approved builder. The bank's building inspectors made frequent inspections on site. Over 12,000 houses were built like this. Most survive and have lasted well.

The illustration (below) shows a typical design which was immensely popular at the time. It is a compact design with all rooms clustered around a shortened hallway - very different from the Victorian cottage it replaced where the long central corridor bisected the whole house. The wood of which it is largely built was almost all imported: weatherboards and floorboards of baltic pine, framing of oregon from west coast America, and doors, skirting boards, picture rails, architraves and window frames of Californian redwood. Only the redgum stumps and hardwood floor joists and bearers were grown locally. 

These are the principle on-line sources used in researching this Chapter:

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