• 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."