Built in 1882, after demolishing an 1863 single storey house, the two storey Italianate Mansion, Villa Alba stands opposite Studley Park in Kew. The building is unique for its 19th century interior decoration, the work of Scottish trained Paterson Brothers.
Landscape artist and conservator, Dr James Broadbent did some justice in restoring Villa Alba’s gardens to its original 19th century landscape plan. The original garden had been largely destroyed over the years, especially after the Royal Women’s hospital purchased it and hospital wards were built over it in the 1950s.
In December 2019 when ToMelbourne Team visited the Villa, it was in a pathetic state and required urgent renovation. The Museum is open to the general public on the first Sunday of each month or by special arrangement.
History of Villa Alba
Colonial Bank of Australia was incorporated in 1856 and 26-year-old William Greenlaw began his career as a clerk in the bank the same year. Mr. James McEvoy, a Riverina squatter, whose sons were well known in cricketing circles in later years was fond of Greenlaw’s little sister Anna Maria. He settled the land where Villa Alba now stands in Anna Maria’s name with a condition which secured the land to the McEvoys later.
William Greenlaw was promoted gradually to attain the position of inspector in the bank. In 1862 Greenlaw began constructing a house at the land given to his sister and called it Studley Villa. Due to financial constrains the house was built with sandstone found in the area instead of bluestone.
There were two other houses in the area of the name Studley , which prompted a name change in 1870 to Villa Alba. McEvoy’s house located in Kew was also known as Studley House. In 1882, Greenlaw demolished the single-story building and rebuilt Villa Alba to a two story Italianate Mansion we see today.
William Greenlaw was a speculator in share market and was declared insolvent in 1893 and died two years later.
William’s widow, Mrs Esther Greenlaw, remained at the villa for about six years after her husband’s death. An exercise of power contained in the settlement was executed in 1907 between Anna Maria Greenlaw and Charles Edward and James Fenwick McEvoy. Any dealings thereafter were carried out through the firm of McEvoy Bros. for Mrs Esther Greenlaw.
Anna Maria sold the contents of the house in a two-day sale in 1897 and then leased the villa. In 1918, after Anna’s death, Villa Alba was sold to Samuel Fripp. It was purchased by Women’s hospital in 1949 and used it to house nurses. The house was later used as the residence of the hospital’s caretaker. In 1983, Kew Council and then owner of the Villa, Mt Royal Hospital established Villa Alba Preservation Committee.
In 1999, Villa Alba was sold to the Society of Jesus for the use of Xavier College. In 2004, in a deal financed by the Victorian Department of Infrastructure, Villa Alba Museum Incorporated (VAMI) obtained the title to the house and the original block, while Xavier College held on to the right to lease part of the original land for passive use by the students of its Early Learning Centre.
Address: 44 Walmer Street, Kew
Adult $12 / Concession $10
Free Entry for Children