Home City of Kingston Mentone Mentone’s former Royal Coffee Palace

Mentone’s former Royal Coffee Palace

The iconic former Royal Coffee house at Mentone is part of Kilbreda College, situated 28km southeast of Melbourne CBD. This majestic structure occupies a prominent place in the township of Mentone and stood a witness to Mentone’s growth story from its humble beginnings as part of a cattle station.

The foundation stone for the Royal Coffee House was laid in August 1887, in the presence of a large local crowd. The building was designed by architectural firm, Reed, Henderson and Smart. It had been thought necessary to build a coffee palace which besides being an ornament to the settlement of Mentone, would also provide a first-class temperance hotel. The concept of coffee palace on those years were a large and elaborate residential hotel which didn’t serve alcohol. Temperance hotels were the fad of the day, which were first established in United Kingdom in the 1850’s and Australia adopting the concept in the 1870’s.  Many large and prominent landmark type structures were built in Melbourne as Coffee palaces from 1880 to mid-1890s.

On 16th June 1887, Royal Coffee Palace Company was formed with ten shareholders, with the intention of establishing a coffee palace in Mentone. Sir Matthew Davies, a wealthy member of Victoria’s parliament and Charles Hetherington, an accountant from Hawksburn were the largest shareholders. After the railways came to Mentone, it was Matthew Davies vision to turn Mentone into a fashionable resort with the Coffee palace occupying a prominent place. The land bound by Como Parade, Mentone Parade and Florence Street was purchased from the National Land Company in 1887. The Royal Coffee house was opened in November 1887 with a total cost for the project being around £11,000.

The 1890’s economic depression took the shine out of the marvellous structure and its shareholders. The newly constructed Mentone Hotel made a big dent into its client base. By then, majority of its original shareholders had disposed of their investments in Coffee Palace. The company was liquidated by the end of 1894.

Matthew Davies was declared bankrupt and Mercantile Bank took over Coffee Palace. In 1903 William Meader became the proprietor of the building and eventually, the name of the building was changed to Como House.

The Brigidine Sisters, a Catholic religious community which has its roots in Tullow, Ireland bought the fully furnished but in disrepair, Coffee Palace through a local man named James McGuffie in July 1904.

The Coffee House, adjoining cottage and one and a half acres of land were purchased for a mere £2,050 in pursuit of establishing an education institution for girls. On 7 August 1904, the Brigidine Convent School was officially opened and was blessed by Archbishop Thomas Carr. The structure is part of the Kilbreda College ever since.

References:

The Age (Melbourne, Vic. : 1854 – 1954), Mon 8 Aug 1904, Page 4, NEWS OF THE DAY.

https://localhistory.kingston.vic.gov.au/articles/52

https://geocaching.com.au/cache/ga19474

The Elsternwick Leader and District Record (Brighton, Vic. : 1887 – 1888), Sat 27 Aug 1887, Page 3, ROYAL COFFEE PALACE, MENTONE.

Daily Telegraph (Launceston, Tas. : 1883 – 1928), Mon 15 Aug 1904, Page 2, RELIGION & TEMPERANCE

The Elsternwick Leader and District Record (Brighton, Vic. : 1887 – 1888), Sat 27 Aug 1887, Page 3, ROYAL COFFEE PALACE, MENTONE.

https://www.kilbreda.vic.edu.au/CollegeNewsDetails.aspx?ID=M90

 

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      The iconic former Royal Coffee house at Mentone is part of Kilbreda College, situated 28km southeast of Melbourne CBD. This majestic structure occupie
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