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  • Writer's pictureJon Ruwolt

A Tale of three Mansions

Updated: Dec 20, 2020

1. Fintry, 101 Victoria Road, Bellevue Hill, NSW

Fintry has become infamous for the eviction of Mia Freedman and her husband Jason Lavigne. The couple founded the news site Mamamia together in 2007 and have three children.

The Mamamia founders have lived at the century-old mansion Fintry since January 2015

  • A NSW Supreme Court fight could see media power couple lose it altogether

  • The owner of the property has torn up their $12million contract of sale and claimed their deposit of $600,000.

  • The Lavignes and home owner Somna Lala Kumar are suing each other

101 Victoria Road. Not only does it score a Victoria Road address, but its hilltop position grants the home 180 degree views spanning from Bondi Beach to Sydney Harbour.

  • The 6-bedroom, 5-bathroom Arts and Crafts home sits on a generous 1,368sqm flagpole parcel of land that previously swapped hands for a very full-priced $10.2m in Nov 2007.

  • The owners then undertook a $1.019m renovation that saw the addition of a salt water infinity-edge pool (that overlooks Lachlan Murdoch’s compound) and

  • with extensive interior and exterior refurbishments all while maintaining the original house footprint.

  • The result is impressive: extensive wood panelling, a modern kitchen, and plenty of view orientation.

At the time, the Lavignes entered into a deed with the owner with the London-based Somna Lala Kumar, and husband, Macquarie banker Joseph Jayaraj; the agreement allowed the Lavignes to rent the dress circle property from Ms Kumar but gave them the option to buy it down the track.

  • Ms Kumar had been unsuccessfully trying to sell the more than $12 million Bellevue Hill property for about three years until early 2015 when instead she entered into a deed that allowed the Lavignes to live there with the option of eventually buying it.

  • Late last year the Lavignes exercised the option to buy the property, but three months later a courier delivered a notice that the contract had been withdrawn.

  • A big point of contention between both parties was who would pay for repairs to the leaking slate roof, which the Lavignes contended was in a state of “dilapidation” that would cost $251,800 to fix.

  • Supreme Court orders resulted in them abandoning negotiations to settle on their mooted purchase of five years prior. They got to keep their deposit.

Now Mia Freedman and her husband, Jason Lavigne, have bought a Point Piper house for $12.75 million after their recent eviction from Bellevue Hill.

  • That was the home of orthopaedic surgeon Professor Lawrence Kohan and his wife, Gail,

  • It was snapped up by the co-founders of the news and lifestyle website Mamamia just weeks after it was listed with a $12 million to $13 million guide by Paul Rich, of Rich’s Double Bay.

Back On the market: Fintry, the Bellevue Hill mansion owned by Somna Kumar, wife of investment banker Joseph Jayaraj. Expect to pay $16 million this time around through Mr Placks and his colleague Ashley Bierman. Hint: Check the Roof for leaks.

Heritage of Fintry

In January 1957 Fintry was purchased by Sir Bernard Thomas Heinze (1894-1982), eminent Australian musician and conductor.

  • Heinze had been conductor of the Royal Melbourne Philharmonic Society from 1927 to 1953 and part-time director-general of music to the Australian Broadcasting Co, and music advisor to its successor the Australian Broadcasting Commission.

  • Heinze lived at Fintry until his death in 1982, with his wife Valerie and their second son Adrian Heinze (1937-1995).

Sir Bernard, together with his son Adrian, added a fully equipped and functioning eight seat theatre to Fintry, with furnishings including wallpaper, curtains, carpet and seats said to have been acquired from Sydney’s Capitol Theatre.

  • Lady Valerie Heinze lived on at Fintry until her own death in 1992, as did her son Adrian.

  • After his death in 1995, Fintry was sold with the theatre still intact. The theatre was photographed for the Houses Trust of NSW in 1996 before the house was remodeled.

Fintry’s other high-profile former owner was Seven’s commercial director Bruce McWilliam, who bought it in 1995 for $2.06 million and sold to Kumar in 2007 for $10.2 million.

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2. Birida, 108 Brown Street, Armidale NSW

An apartment in the historic Birida, Armidale, in the NSW Northern Tablelands is available for sale through Gail Schaefer of Uphill & Schaefer Real Estate.

‘Birida’, one of Armidale’s most notable surviving Federation houses, exists following the passing of Beth Moore.

One of Armidale's most beloved residents
Beth More, formerly of the John AIden Shakespeare Company
  • Mrs Moore, the daughter of William Dickson, president of the Upper House from 1952 to 1966, was brought up in the leafy surrounds of Parsley Bay in Sydney’s eastern suburbs.

  • She toured Australia in the late 1940s as a performer and stage manager with the John Alden Shakespeare Company, going on to purchase the estate in the 1980s with physicist husband Terry Moore.

Her son, Sandy Moore, describes Birida as "a truly beautiful property with a real soul".

“There have only been three private owners in 120 years and the property has always sold as an estate,” he said.

  • “Not one of the owners, including my parents, chose to leave, which says a great deal about what it is like to live there.

  • “As a family, we’re very sad to say goodbye to Birida.”

Birida was built in 1907 as a retirement property for pioneer pastoralist George Baker.

  • It was, in its time, considered one of the finest Federation mansions and sits on 2384 square metres.

  • Made from Armidale blue brick, Birida originally had staff cottages, large stables, a cow bale and two paddocks.

  • In 1940 the property was bought from the Baker family by the Presbyterian Church to be used as the country arm of the Presbyterian Ladies’ College.

When PLC decamped in the 1960s to their current position on North Hill, Birida was bought by retired architect J.R Magoffin who remained in the property till his death in the late 1980s.

  • Armidale City Council granted Terry and Beth Moore permission to divide the property into five luxury apartments in 1991.

  • They retained Apartment 3, the main centre section of the original home containing the magnificent hallway and the exquisite drawing room, as their residence.

Selling agent Gail Schaefer of Uphill & Schaefer Real Estate said the apartment had the finest period features complemented by all the modern conveniences expected in a luxury residence.

  • “When built, it was a grand home and grounds befitting the status of a well-known local pastoral family,” she said.

  • Apartment 3 was Last sold for around $600.000

Read more:

3. St Cecilia, 2 Callary Street, Peterborough SA

'St Cecilia', the Edwardian heritage mansion makes a strong, stone-laden case to be the most intriguing historical treasure of the mid north, let alone Peterborough - a rail town with a proud past of its own.

  • Commissioned by and built for the catholic 'Bishop of railways' John Norton in 1912,

  • St Cecilia was the first home with electricity in Peterborough and

  • leaves a lasting imprint on anyone lucky enough to see it more than a century later.

Bishop's palace. Convent. Boarding School. Bed and Breakfast. Art gallery. Much loved home.

  • And what you'll see is something of great scale and handcrafted beauty

  • set back triumphantly on its grand estate behind a stone and wrought-iron skirt.

As if to build suspense, the journey from gate to front door tells a story of its own. The statue of a headless lady a salute to the patron Saint of Music, Cecilia; a Roman noblewoman beheaded by sword.

  • The statue - and the subsequent naming of St Cecilia - is the legacy of custodian Annette Frankel; whom, for the last 40 years, has preserved this home of some 15 rooms with a sense of obligation.

Miss Frankel not only saw the beauty of St Cecilia through the eyes of its predecessors, but through the adventure-seeking guise of those willing to partake in her murder mystery parties - or purchase the art that dots the walls and delineates the story through her eccentric disposition. And there is not a better setting.

  • From that stone facade to the intricate detail of its leadlight windows, tessellated tiles, hand grain doorways, cast iron fireplaces, rustic pine floors and soaring lathe and plaster ceilings, time has not wearied the raw beauty of a home with hardly a crack in sight.

Yes, it has seen better days and there is work to be done. But it's also easy to imagine what could be of a home of fifteen bedrooms, terraces, two staircases, and a grand banquet room that spans the width of the dwelling.

  • Ahead of its time, the home was ingeniously designed to inhale cool summer breezes, repel the sun's hot advances and retain warmth in winter...without ever using that electricity.

  • On the property stands, a separate stone coachhouse. In the 1950's, these coachhouse rooms were used as schoolrooms, and then by Ms Frankel as a bed and breakfast.

  • Real Estate Listing: 2 Callary Street, Peterborough, SA 5422

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