• Jon Ruwolt

Intrigue in Orange NSW and in Moonee Ponds

Updated: Aug 12, 2019

The gracious Orange home of Dalton's original storekeepers -  'Mena' -  is again available for purchase after a very fine total period restoration.

Dalton's, now Myer, is still the largest retail store in Orange, NSW, now booming again due to an influx of cashed-up retirees, University expansion pressures, and of course the presence of successful gold mines in the surrounding area.

Mena, 50 Kite Street, Orange, NSW 2800

In the 19th century, Irish immigrant James Dalton made a well-timed move into retail, opening his merchant doors in the early years of the gold rush, and so keeping miners from the nearby goldfields at Ophir well-supplied.

The lasting signs of James Dalton's business success are a handful of Orange mansions built for Dalton and his family. Among the best of these local landmarks is Mena. The house has its own website: https://www.menahouse.com.au/

The 'intirgue' about Mena is that although the house presents as undeniably Victorian in architecture, the detail uses Art Nouveau design, only popular in the very late 19th Century. 


The entrance hall to 'Mena' showing Art Nouveau leadlight in the front door set and hallway.

Art Nouveau leadlight at 'Mena'

The official history of Mena states that

"Well-known Orange Business Merchant James Dalton built the house in 1875 for his eldest son Thomas. It is said that the original garden was an area of approximately 3 acres."

Fine fireplace in the drawing room, showing Art Nouveau figuring.

However the National Trust in 1986 stated: 

"'Mena' was originally named Killiney and was built for Thomas Garrett ("Gatty") Dalton by his father James, probably in the 1890s"... 

"The exact date of this Kite St. house of Thomas Garrett Dalton's is not known, and though it has mid-Victorian features such as cast-iron lace and plaster mouldings round the windows to match the heavy quoins at the corners of its stuccoed walls, there are other details, for example the louvered ventilation openings under the roof ridge and the small coloured panes bordering the French windows, which only became popular in the nineties.

Dining table with leadlight french doors, showing the stylish glass border panes.

"Thus it appears likely that the house was built at the time of business revival after the disastrous depression with which that decade opened, and this theory is consistent with the above family history.

"The dominant false gable over the entrance, with its wooden fretwork infill and sun-ray pattern brackets, is very typical of Australian architecture in the closing years of Victoria's reign, as is the use of Australian flora in the cast-iron trim." 


Stylish Art Nouveau design in brass fixtures

 "The internal joinery is of cedar and it is evident that no expense was spared in the building and fitting out of this house. It is fortunate that it has survived almost intact and now has sympathetic owners whose approach is exemplified by the appropriate new front fence."

The Orange Heritage Register Manual has an even earlier date of construction for Mena:

"The other legacies of the Dalton family in the City of Orange include:

Duntryleague’, considered the most splendid country house of any Irishman in

Colonial Australia (now the Orange Golf Club),

Knocklong’ in Hill Street, built in 1863 for Thomas, brother and business partner of James, 

Mena’ in Kite Street, built in 1865 by James for his eldest son Thomas

66 Byng Street, built in the early 1900s for Jack, second son of James, ‘Ammerdown’, built in 1906 for Dick, fourth son of James

Galbally’ in Byng Street, built in 1918 by Dick.

The Dalton family houses were unequalled in any (other) country town."


Read more:

Mena - Mansion - NSW Heritage

Sale notice: 50 Kite Street, Orange, NSW 2800

Mena Website: https://www.menahouse.com.au/

Orange Heritage Manual (pdf)


More Intrigue in Moonee Ponds...

Edenhope, 80 Maribyrnong Road Moonee Ponds VIC 3039

- GRAND ESTATE WITH GRANDEUR AND GRACE - 

"Edenhope C 1873 offers unparalleled grace and grandeur with 5 bedrooms, 5 bathrooms, library and multiple living zones."

Edenhope, 80 Maribyrnong Road Moonee Ponds VIC 3039

Yet the Heritage Assessment of the Lorne Street Precinct notes:

"Edenhope at 80 Maribyrnong Road, (is) a substantial and prominently sited Edwardian house with some particularly fine detailing including multiple verandahs with turned timber posts, canted bay windows, rough cast render and ruled ashlar."

The exterior presents as Edwardian; however the interior of the house is decorated in full-on 'Boom' splendour. This is an example: 


The Sitting and Dining rooms at Edenhope showing highly decorated surfaces.

(Was this originally a ballroom?) Other rooms are decorated in rich red ruby tones... (prepare to be shocked).

The Moonee Valley Heritage Database shows:

  1. "The house known as 'Edenhope', (was) built c.1910, at 80 Maribyrnong Road, Moonee Ponds..."

  2. It is architecturally and aesthetically significant as a fine example of a Federation era bungalow with typical detailing. It makes a notable contribution to the historic character of the Lorne Street and Maribyrnong Road residential precinct. (Criteria E & F)

  3. The house known as Edenhope, (is) distinguished by its dominant slate roof with terra cotta ridge tiles and fretted verandah frieze redolent of Indian architectural forms.

  4. The pitch of the verandah roof adds finesse to the design which incorporates half timbered gable ends, rough cast and red brick chimneys, heavily corbelled, and a faceted bay to the entry. The walls are predominantly rough cast with red brick dressings.

For more of this Victorian-style splendour see the sale listing at 80 Maribyrnong Road Moonee Ponds VIC 3039. (Expect no Art Nouveau detail here, to be sure.)


"Joe Agosta claims he put his own blood sweat and tears into this property that was paid for by the generous donations of others who unfortunately were caught up his big rip off scam." - Channel 7 News


Read more:

Heritage protected places in Moonee Valley

Lorne Street Heritage Precinct - Victorian Heritage Database (click more link)

Moonee Valley 2017 Heritage Study Vol 1 Precincts and Precincts Extensions

Moonee Valley 2017 Heritage Study Vol 2 Places