This is a sneak peek of edition 22 of Traces!
Within walking distance of Bondi Junction is one of the few late Victorian mansions left in Sydney, yet few people know it exists. Michael Waterhouse introduces us to this hidden gem, known as ‘Edina’.
Surrounded by trees and houses, and backing onto a busy road, Edina is invisible unless you know it’s there. This grand building is known today as the Uniting War Memorial Hospital in Waverley – an important rehabilitation hospital. For many of the past 100 years, however, it was better known as an obstetrics hospital, with 33,000 babies having been born there.
So, what’s the story behind the glorious Italianate mansion and the eight-acre estate on which it was located? Ebenezer and Jeanie Vickery built Edina in 1884 on the site of an earlier house they’d erected around 1860. Located on a ridge, it had excellent views up and down the coast, and to the Blue Mountains in the west. Edina is a poetic name for Edinburgh, and reflects Jeanie’s Scottish background. Ebenezer had acquired his father’s boot-making business in 1851, and he quickly built a sizeable fortune supplying boots to aspiring miners during the gold rushes in New South Wales and Victoria. Over time, his commercial empire continued to expand as he acquired properties in Sydney, sheep and cattle stations across New South Wales and Queensland, coalmines, and several ships.
While a ruthless businessman, Ebenezer was also a devout Methodist and a major benefactor of the Methodist Church. Apart from making as much money as he could, the church and his family were all that were important to him. He wasn’t interested in Sydney ‘society’, nor in what others might think of him. Unlike ‘Swifts’, a heritage‑listed, late Victorian Gothic Revival mansion in Darling Point – of which Edina is more or less contemporary – his mansion was set well back from the main road and largely hidden behind extensive tree plantings. From the start, Edina was hidden from view. It, and the surrounding estate, were solely for Ebenezer and Jeanie, and their family – and their family was a large one.
To discover the rest of Edina’s rich heritage, read the latest edition of Traces.
Pictured: Edina’s front lawn in the 1890s. Courtesy of Michael Waterhouse.