Oh NO!! Australia’s first $100 million sale
Updated: Aug 12, 2019
Lady Mary Fairfax’s vast Point Piper estate poised as Australia’s first $100 million sale
Point Piper estate Fairwater, held by the Fairfax family since 1901, is to be sold amid expectations it could be Australia’s first sale for $100 million or more.
The listing follows the death last September of Lady (Mary) Fairfax, aged 95, and dispels reports of more than 20 years ago that she planned to bequeath the estate to the people of NSW.
Recent speculation that the estate was to be sold was confirmed by a one-line statement on Thursday morning by Ken Jacobs, of Christie’s International, who has been appointed by the trustees to sell the property.
The 1.12 hectare estate is 60 per cent larger than the Elaine estate next door, extending from New South Head Road to Seven Shillings Beach. It is arguably the finest historic residence in the country, and the largest private holding on Sydney Harbour.
The house on Seven Shillings Beach is one of the largest harbourside properties in Sydney, and it comes with century-old oaks and gun-barrel views.
Lady Fairfax was on the record, during her lifetime, as saying she wanted it to go to the state, but can the state afford to keep it?
“It is remarkable that an estate offering such rare and unrepeatable features still exists in Australia today; this opportunity will not come again,” Mr Jacobs said.
Trophy homes of this calibre are near extinct given decades of redevelopment and subdivision, leaving the Elaine estate next door as the only near comparable house sale. It was sold by the other branch of the Fairfax media dynasty last year for $71 million to tech billionaire Scott Farquhar.
Fairwater is of greater value than its older neighbour Elaine on a handful of key measures. As well as a larger land size, the main residence has greater architectural merit, there are another two houses and a swimming pool on title, and its position 100 metres north on the beach affords better views.
Related: What next for Lady (Mary) Fairfax’s estate Fairwater?
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Fairwater dates back to 1881, when work began on the Victorian mansion designed by leading architect of the day John Horbury Hunt, for stockbroker Francis Edward Joseph.
Fairwater, designed by architect John Horbury Hunt, pictured in 1920.
In early 1901 newspaper proprietor Sir James Oswald Fairfax paid £5350 for the two-storey house, and commissioned additions in the arts and crafts style in 1910 by Manson and Pickering architects.
Built in pale yellow brick with a slate roof and Tudor-style gables, it is described in heritage records as “medieval and Queen Anne inspired”.
Sir James died in 1928 and his widow Lady (Mabel) Fairfax followed in 1965, leaving the family home to their son Sir Warwick Fairfax.
Fairwater, on 8000sq m of harbourfront land, is larger than Elaine, and the house is apparently in better condition. Confusing matters further: it’s not exactly clear who owns it. The record suggest Warwick Fairfax, later Sir Warwick, was born there in 1901, and took possession in 1968, nine years after he made Lady Fairfax his third wife. Sir Warwick died there in 1987, after which Lady Fairfax called herself the owner. She had four children and 10 grandchildren.
Sir Warwick was the fourth of five members of his family to preside over the destiny of Australia’s oldest newspaper, The Sydney Morning Herald, and was knighted in 1967.
The following year, Sir Warwick moved to Fairwater with his third wife, Lady Fairfax, and for almost half a century it was known for its glamorous parties, charity fundraising events and an impressive guest list of business leaders, politicians, royalty and a few Hollywood stars