JHE (Esmond) Dorney’s Architecture in Victoria: Do you have a story?

Image: Esmond Dorney's Windermere (1936) at 49 Broadway, Elwood. Image source: Victorian Heritage Council Database

Monash University’s Department of Architecture and friends are researching the architectural contribution of JHE (Esmond) Dorney in Victoria. We are looking for anyone who may have information on the following Interwar (1929–1940) residences or Melbourne Postwar (1950–) houses and flats, and ones that may look similar, to those included on this list: bit.ly/DorneyVIC

If you think you may be able to contribute to the research in any way – whether you or your family lived in the property, you have any plans or photographs, or you believe you might live in one today – please fill out the form: bit.ly/DorneyContactUs

Who are we?

We are staff and Master of Architecture students at Monash University undertaking research on JHE Dorney’s architectural work in Victoria.

Why do we want your story?

James Henry Esmond Dorney, known as both JHE and Esmond Dorney, was an innovative Australian architect. Born and raised in Victoria, he trained under Walter Burley and Marion Mahoney Griffin before completing his first project in 1929. During the interwar period of 1929-1940 he designed many buildings in Victoria with quite an eclectic range of styles, from Old English Revival (Tudor) to Streamline Moderne. While he designed a few houses, his main contribution was flats and maisonettes primarily in the old City of St Kilda (St Kilda, Middle Park, Elwood) as well as South Yarra, Sandringham and Toorak.

He was drafted in World War II, where he was taken as a prisoner of war (presumed dead) and on return to Australia found his wife had remarried. In response, he remarried and relocated to Tasmania where he did his most critically acclaimed and well-known work in a unique Modernist style.

The prominence and importance of his Tasmanian buildings overshadow his Victorian work. However, the volume and quality of flats that he completed, particularly in Elwood, had a significant and lasting impact on the character and composition of Melbourne's bayside suburbs. Unfortunately, Dorney's own archives were destroyed in a fire at his house and studio in Hobart in 1976, and much of his Victorian work remains undocumented apart from a few heritage citations.

Your contribution to this research will allow us to build a fuller picture of Dorney’s contribution to the built fabric of Melbourne’s inner suburbs and allow his work to be properly attributed. Research collected and generated for this project may be displayed in an exhibition in 2019/2020 and may assist in addressing gaps in local history records and collections.

Please click here to read the Explanatory Statement for further information about participation in the project: bit.ly/DorneyES

Once you fill out the form, we will aim to get in contact with you as soon as possible via your preferred contact method.