About The Lennox

Photo: John Gollings

A House Haunted… by Art

Ghosts, Gangsters, Artists, Actors, Authors and Musicians have all collided in this magical abode.

A veritable Who’s Who of Melbourne’s cultural characters have collected, at one time or another, at a former pub, now dubbed The Lennox, at Richmond’s 208 Lennox Street.

THE LENNOX TODAY

A major group show curated by Ben Aitken, artist-in-residency held by Robert Kelly. Mark Schaller’s ‘Homage to Hydra’ Julian Cairns becomes the musical director and projects by Helen Bogdan and John Gollings are formulated, and much, much more

GHOSTS

Back to the 80s. Ann Holt establishes her studio, The Inevitably, ghost stories haunt buildings of such longevity. “There was a resident ghost at Lennox Street,” artist Ann Holt, who lived there during the 1980s, confirms. “I had seen it coming up the cellar stairs as a ball of white light on several occasions.

BECOMING AN ARTISTS ABODE

Back to the 80s. Ann Holt establishes her studio, The Lennox becomes a second home to the crew filming Dogs in Space and the ROAR artists use the space for an exhibit at the Australian National Gallery

THE MARK SCHALLER YEARS

Parties, exhibitions and live music; The Lennox comes alive. Plans for causes and trips were planned, most notably an artists’ journey with Schaller, David Larwill and Peter Walsh, the ongoing Artists For Kids Culture Trust was hatched at the premises. Artist Lisa Roet exhibited, and the famed Skyhooks used the space to record their first reunion song in 1990.

THE FUTURE

A rich bricolage of art, music and performance. Upcoming exhibitions curated by Ben Aitkens, David Moulday and Ashley Crawford are planned.

The Lennox AirBnB

Exclusive Studio Apartment in the heart of the action

Safe, secure and private. Clean and quiet. That is certainly how most of us want our home-away-from home when we travel. Of course, we want the mod-cons, air conditioning, cable television and the Internet. But most of also want excitement, to be in the centre of things, to delight in a new environment. To taste the cuisine, to hear the music, to stroll the parks and gardens and art galleries and museums. The Lennox AirBnB offers all of the above plus a wonderfully friendly milieu in a setting which is pure historical Melbourne.

1. The Lennox Today

The Lennox looms, somewhat imperiously, over its more domestic neighbours towards the top of Lennox Hill[i]. From its rear balcony it takes in the vistas of the Melbourne Cricket Ground and the ever-evolving skyline of Melbourne’s CBD, while the view from the front room is dominated by the imposing Jesuit-run St. Ignatius Church on its commanding site at the summit of Richmond Hill in Church Street, which was built in stages between 1867 and 1894.

But well before there was a Lennox, this was the realm of the on the Wurundjeri-willam people of the Kulin Nation. Not far from the banks of Birrarung (the Yarra River) it was a place of traditional ritual, hunting and day-day-life. The settlement and development of Melbourne by Balanda (outsiders) impacted heavily on the Wurundjeri-willam people and from the 1830s dispossession of land, dislocation, frontier clashes and introduced diseases led to a dramatic decline in the population. But the Wurundjeri survived and live in the region to this day [ii].

[i] The land which now comprises the Richmond Hill Area was purchased from the Crown in 1839 and consisted of six portions each of 25 acres in the parish of Jika Jika. The purchasers were Dr. Farquhar McCrae (surgeon), Rev. Joseph Docker (squatter), W H Yaldwyn (squatter, banker), Henry Gordon Brock and John McNall. It was originally the home of the Wurundjeri-willam people of the Kulin Nation</p

[ii] https://www.yarracity.vic.gov.au/the-area/aboriginal-yarra

Officially dubbed The Lennox in 2020, the building at 208 is a thriving centre of artistic and cultural activity replete with an active exhibition space and room for an artist-in-residence to maintain a studio and residence. It also holds a separate snug b’n’b on the side of the building for like-minded visitors. Tucked conveniently between the multi-cultural shopping centres of Richmond’s Bridge Road and Swan Street, with their restaurants, bookshops and fashion outlets, and easy walking distance from Melbourne’s CBD, it is situated in an idyllic, suitably cosmopolitan locale for artists and their fans. In winter fires roar in the main space and in the cellar, where regular musical events occur once a week. A piano and formal dining table and antique chairs create a cosy nook amidst heavy-set bluestone walls and massive Tasmanian Oregon beams. In summer the barbecue takes over in the sunny rear garden. Over the years the building has attracted a ‘who’s who’ of Melbourne’s cultural world.

Continued

Hunkered at the corner of Lennox Street and Rowena Parade, the building was erected in 1878 and rumours abound as to its chequered history, including the strong possibility it was a House of Ill Repute. Rumours also abide that it was a haunt of infamous Melbourne gangster, Squizzy Taylor. That it was a pub, or at the least a speakeasy, is beyond dispute. At the turn of the century the owner was George Pearson, variously described as a ‘bottler’ and a ‘spirit merchant.’ When writer Ashley Crawford sanded the floor in preparation for an exhibition by Lisa Roet in the ’90s the reek of stale beer and whisky was pervasive.

In 1986 arts-patron Helen Bogdan secured the building on behalf of Bogdan Geier Productions and since that time, as both a studio and an exhibiting space, Lennox Street has established its own vibrant history. It has hosted decidedly eclectic exhibits by the likes of Mark Schaller and the late David Larwill (1956–2011) (coincidentally two of the founders of the notorious ROAR Galleries), Bernhard Sachs, Michael Staniak and James Clayden.[iii] Other highlights have included a series of exhibitions hosted by David Moulbay of Lindberg Galleries, including a showing by Marc de Jong in 2019.

A recent highlight was a somewhat anarchic, but nonetheless elegant, group show in 2019 curated by young artist Ben Aitken and it was a hit. Colourful and at times challenging, Aitken made the most of the vast spaces(s), curating a cocktail of the emerging and the established. Amongst the artists included were Jon Cattapan, Kate Benyon, Leslie Rice, Michael Vale, Natasha Beniek, Phuong Ngo and Sam Leach.

[iii] The space has at various times been utilised by such galleries as Lindberg Galleries, Nicholas Projects and NKN Galleries who represent some of these artists.

Aitken’s eclectic group show opening (2019)
A Nicholas Projects exhibition, curated by Benjamin Aitken - installation view

Continued

Mark Schaller’s ‘Homage to Hydra’ in late 2019
The Cellar

Another highlight was Mark Schaller’s ‘Homage to Hydra’ in late 2019. Although Schaller had eventually moved out after residing and working in the space for over 24 years (his daughters, Charlotte and Ava grew up there), he and Helen Bogdan have remained close and since his departure he has exhibited there twice. ‘Homage to Hydra’ was a vibrant homage both to Greek mythology and to Hydra, an island Schaller has visited several times.

A piece of graffiti from the Berlin Wall on the upstairs balcony

And while, since the restoration, most of the art shown has been determinably contemporary, more elderly treasures are a part of daily life. A large piece of Berlin Wall art bought by Helen and adventurer Gary Geier whilst they were in Germany and had shipped to Australia. Ancient chairs from Macau are set amongst antique furniture in the cellar next to Helen’s Grandfather’s piano. Framed photographs of the fleet of ships which traversed the Pacific for the islanders before the jet-age and an ancient Gong from a French monastery in Hanoi.

Continued

The Coach House becoming a studio for the ROAR artists’ commissioned murals for the Australian National Gallery in Canberra, 1986. Photo: John Gollings.

When Schaller moved in, he adapted the old Coach House next to the main building as his studio, complete with a battered pot-belly stove for heating in winter.

For many years the largest and strangest oddity to be found at Lennox was a giant metal sphere nestled on the cusp of Schaller’s studio space. Approximately three-metres in diameter, this curio had visitors intrigued for years. It looked as though it had dropped from the stars or risen from the seas of a Jules Verne novel, but there were no portholes, just a metal hatch to allow access to the claustrophobic interior. More than one intoxicated visitor had decided to drop into the sphere, only to find there was no simple way to climb out.

‘The Capsule’

Another strange object that inhabited the space for a time was part of Chris Henschke’s exhibition, ‘Demon Core,’ in Hobart. Tony Lloyd curated the exhibition for MONA’s Dark Mofo Festival in Hobart in 2019 showcasing Henschke’s sculptural works. Lloyd and Henschke approached Helen for space to construct and test a new piece for the installation before its shipment to Tasmania.

Chris Henschke’s ‘Demon Core’

This strange, other-worldly object, dubbed ‘The Capsule,’ was built for radiologist and balloonist Gary Geier. He had planned to circumnavigate the Earth at stratospheric levels with the capsule attached to a massive helium balloon. This somewhat Quixotic, if not potentially suicidal, quest was ultimately abandoned due to lack of funding, despite having attracted support from NBC in New York. ‘The Capsule’ was eventually transported to a rural property in New South Wales.

Continued

Helen with John Gollings (2020)

A regular guest is photographer John Gollings who has worked with Helen on numerous assignments over the years in her role as an International Public Affairs Consultant. representing small independent governments in the Pacific region. Her successful career took her to many countries as well as to the United Nations and the International Court of Justice at The Hague. She has also worked as a writer and producer in the film industry. John Gollings has worked with Helen over many years on overseas assignments and remains a very close colleague and friend. When Australian National Gallery director James Mollison visited Lennox to discuss his commissioned murals with the ROAR Studios artists in 1982, Gollings was there to document the proceedings.[iv] However, Gollings was far more than a social photographer or documentarian. He has produced a quantity of powerful experimental art. He is, without question, Australia’s most distinguished architectural photographer, but he is similarly known for his unique documentation of the Australian landscape, which he often documents with aerial photography. Gollings is working with Helen on a major upcoming exhibition at The Lennox.

Robert Kelly at work (2020)

The Future is bright. The space is, today, far from the dilapidated shambles it once was. The Lennox regularly hosts the boisterous board meetings of the alternative art fair, NotFair, of which Helen is a founding board-member and hosts the Christmas celebrations for the Hong Kong Trust Company for their Melbourne clients.

The artist-in-residency is currently held by the young, classically-trained draughtsman-artist Robert Kelly who has recently returned from studying at The Florence Academy of Art in Italy. At the time of writing, Kelly is using The Lennox studio to execute a portrait of lawyer Julian Burnside AO QC who is distinguished as a lawyer, arts philanthropist and author.

Julian Cairns at Lennox Choir Practice (2019)

Helen has also invited the composer and musician and life-long friend Julian Cairns as the musical director for The Lennox, leading to weekly musical events. Cairns was Director of Music at Melbourne Boys Grammar, Wadhurst for 18 years, but he has also worked in a vast variety of musical forms. Another musician of fame who, circa 2019, caressed the ivories at The Lennox was Ronald Farren-Price AM who received the prestigious Sir Bernard Heinze Memorial Award in 2017.

[i] This mission was commissioned by Andrew J Whist, head of corporate affairs for Philip Morris (Starting in 1973, Mollison secured funding from Philip Morris to acquire contemporary Australian photography for the ANG).</p

2. Ghosts

Inevitably, ghost stories haunt buildings of such longevity.

“There was a resident ghost at Lennox Street,” artist Ann Holt, who lived there during the 1980s, confirms. “I had seen it coming up the cellar stairs as a ball of white light on several occasions. I never spoke of this to anyone, but subsequently the actor Nique Needles told me one day he had seen a ghost several times at the top of the stairs. Later on, David Larwill independently told me about seeing a ghost in the upstairs kitchen at night. As Lennox Street was originally a pub during the Melbourne gold-rush we could only guess its colourful history.”

Art students Mark Ostel and Tony Harding lived there briefly, recalls Mark Schaller who moved in soon after they left. “Mark told me that Tony was convinced the house was haunted and had spent $500 on a medium he had found in the phone book to cleanse the place. Tony explained the medium had burnt some incense and done some chanting and the ghost had gone.”

Bridge Street (Westend)
Renovation (2015)

3. Becoming an Artists Abode

“I FOUND IT AS A VACANT BUILDING in late 1985,” recalls Ann Holt. “No one had lived there for decades. I contacted the owner and after some convincing he agreed to rent it to me cash in hand on the condition that I take responsibility for cleaning it up as he thought it was uninhabitable. The cellar was flooded, and the original wood-fire oven was still in the cellar. There was a 1930s car standing on end, shoved vertically down the keg-drop. There was a very rare, hand-carved, Huon pine sink installed on the ground floor from the 1800s. It was heaven!”

“The house was very insecure and there were several break ins,” Holt remembers. “In the summer of 1986 Richard Lowenstein was about to start filming Dogs in Space around the corner. The producers were looking for accommodation for some of the cast and crew and asked how I would feel about living with two men I had never met for the duration of the film. I jumped on this opportunity and said ‘perfect, that sounds safe.’ One of the film’s lead actors, Nicque Needles, arrived in all black leathers with his long skinny legs, a guitar and a cowboy hat. The stills photographer Steve Pyke [v] arrived in the middle of the night from London immaculately dressed in a two-piece wool suit looking like he had just walked out of Saville Row with a Hasselblad strapped across his solder. Lennox Street became the party place during the months of filming of Dogs in Space. An array of larger than life characters from Melbourne’s alternative music scene, numerous actors and music identity Molly Meldrum were amongst the cohort of visitors and party goers.

[v] “Steve Pyke was working for the seminal ’80s magazine The Face and was part of the London scene, playing in bands alongside the likes of the Sex Pistols and extensively documenting The Pogues on tour,” Ann Holt recalls. “Steve went on to become a major portrait photographer, published many books and now works for The New Yorker. I have some of his photos taken at Lennox street during this era and a VHS film Nicque, Steve and I made on the roof. The Pogues and Public Image were our daily soundtrack blasting from the top windows.”

Ann Holt at Lennox Street 1986, Polaroid by Troy Davies

Continued

Michael Hutchence with Ann Holt’s painting on the wall at 208 Lennox Street, 1986, . Michael wore hand painted trousers to match the painting. Photo Serge Thomann.
Nicque Needles, Ann Holt and Steve Pyke with Ann Holt’s Dog Fight painting at 208 Lennox Street circa 1986. Photo John Corker

“Richard Lowenstein and Michael Hutchence sometimes came over at the end of the days filming and we would sit around the large table in the upstairs kitchen and debrief. It was an amazing vibrant era of music, art, film and creativity at Lennox Street. So many really special, talented people all seemed to converge at the same time.”

When the film wrapped everyone dispersed, Holt recalls. “David Larwill asked me if he could move in. I also rented a space out the back to Pasquale Giardino to use as a studio and this is where the murals for the Australian National Gallery were painted. Several murals, commissioned by then ANG Director James Mollison for the Gallery, were painted there by the ROAR artists. We cohabited there for a year when the owner decided to sell the building.”

Michael Hutchence at Lennox Street 1986, Polaroid by Ann Holt.
The ROAR artists working on the commissioned murals for the Australian National Gallery in Canberra, 1986. From left to right: Karen Hayman, Mark Howson, Pasquale Giardino, Mike Nikhols, David Larwill, 1986. Photo: John Gollings.
The ROAR artists working on the commissioned murals for the Australian National Gallery in Canberra, 1986. From left to right: Karen Hayman, Mark Howson, Pasquale Giardino, Mike Nikhols, David Larwill, 1986. Photo: John Gollings.
David Larwill moving one of the finished panels for the Australian National Gallery from the Lennox Street studio, 1986. Photo: John Gollings.
David Larwill moving one of the finished panels for the Australian National Gallery from the Lennox Street studio, 1986. Photo: John Gollings.

4. The Mark Schaller Years

The building was purchased, spontaneously by Helen Bogdan in 1986 as a potential production facility for the multi-media company Bogdan Geier Productions. After a period she offered it to Mark Schaller. Establishing a studio was Schaller’s first priority and the stable area on the side of the building provided the perfect site. “I put in a floor and a new roof and turned a kind of outdoor area into a huge studio with the approval of the resident spirits, which everyone was convinced still haunted the place.”

Lennox Street became a bustling social space for artists, musicians, writers and environmentalists. Plans for causes and trips were hatched there, most notably an artists’ journey with Schaller, David Larwill, Peter Walsh (1958-2009) and writer Ashley Crawford to raise awareness (and money) to successfully draw attention to uranium mining in Kakadu in the Northern Territory and securing the area as a World Heritage Site. Similarly, the ongoing Artists For Kids Culture Trust was hatched at the premises. Artist Lisa Roet, who lived in the space briefly after a sojourn in Berlin, described it as “old-fashioned-style artists’ colony.” Well-known musos such as Rosie Westbrook, Spencer P. Jones (1956-2018), Maurice Frawley (1954-2009), and Charlie Owen became regulars and the famed Skyhooks used the space to record their first reunion song in 1990.

“Spencer P Jones was performing one evening and the police arrived and said the neighbours had complained about the noise,” Schaller recounts. “Spencer came up and said to the officers ‘I didn’t know it was fancy dress tonight!’ His charm and cheeky grin, mixed with sarcasm, worked. They said is that Spencer P. Jones? I confirmed that it was, and told them that he was about to play, and they asked do you mind if we come back in our civvies (civilian clothes)? They came back and had a few beers and said they had a wonderful time, and from that moment on 208 Lennox was immune – if they ever received had a complaint, they wouldn’t respond. We could make as much noise as we wanted!”

Lisa Roet and Ashley Crawford in 1994

Continued

Another character of renown to stay at Lennox Street was British photographer Robert Whitaker (1939–2011) who was invited to stay by Schaller. Whitaker was best-known internationally for his many photographs of The Beatles, taken between 1964 and 1966, and for his photographs of the rock group Cream, which were used in the Martin Sharp-designed collage on the cover of their 1967 LP Disraeli Gears. Whitaker began work in London as a photographer in the late 1950s, but moved to Melbourne in 1961 and became part of the small but flourishing Melbourne arts scene which was centred around Georges (1913-1992) and Mirka Mora (1928-2018). Through this connection Whitaker befriended the Mora’s sons, gallerist William, actor Tiriel (The Castle, 1997) and film director Philippe (Mad Dog Morgan, 1976) all of whom became regulars at the Lennox. During his stay Whitaker took numerous portraits of such artworld luminaries as Schaller, Howard Arkley (1951-1999) and Robert Hunter (1947-2014), another Lennox regular.

“Needless to say, there were lots of performances at Lennox,” Schaller states. “One night I stumbled home with the Working Class Ringos – Maurice Frawley 1954–2009), Spencer P Jones, Des Hefner, Conway Savage, Shane Walsh and Charlie Owen and we went straight downstairs to the cellar so as not to wake anyone upstairs and continue drinking. The cellar looked like upstairs with some old couches around the fire place.”

“Another frequent visitor was my friend Peter Mathers, who had won a Miles Franklin Award from Patrick White for his book Trap,” Schaller recalls. “Peter would stop on his way up the hill at Lennox ‘base camp’ and eventually leave to continue his climb up what he called Mount Pellaco where he lived. The huge Pellaco sign is still there.”

Mark Schaller

Continued

Schaller 'Ozymandias'

One day Schaller and his then-partner, and the mother of his two daughters, architect Lucy Tibbits, bought a piano for $400 with delivery and tuning. “The piano arrived and a few days later the piano tuner arrived with his seeing eye dog, He pulled that old piano apart all by feel, glued the hammers back and adjusted the strings by ear. ‘I said what do reckon?’ He said, ‘well delivery is $150 and tuning is $250 so you get what you paid for! Soon after we hosted a dinner party with Ronald Farren-Price and asked him if he might consider the piano. He said; ‘they roll out the Steinway at Carnegie Hall for me, but under the circumstances, why not.’ He played Franz Liszt’s Hungarian Rhapsody and some Beethoven sonatas. That old cowboy piano was treated to a concerto of the first order.” Listz’s Rhapsody, as it transpired, was an inspired choice given that the composer coincidentally wrote the piece during the same period as the construction of The Lennox.

“David Larwill somehow persuaded me to give him a key,” adds Schaller. “‘The law of the key, Tiger ’ he declared. No way I was getting it back.”

Another regular sipping wine at the Lennox was neighbour and politician John Button (1933–2008). A burly, chain-smoking nugget of a man, and a close friend of former Prime Minister Gough Whitlam, Button served as a senior minister in both the Bob Hawke and Paul Keating Labor Governments. Thus, it was not exclusively a creative’s haunt – even the President of the Republic of Nauru, dropped in to visit Helen.

5. The Future

Artist, Sophie Perez entering the Rowena Pde door. Photo: Julie Haines from Willow Creative.

“Over the years I have become very good friends with Helen as an active philanthropist and lover of the arts,” Schaller says. “I have many memories of Lennox and hopefully more to come. It’s a house that’s haunted. Haunted with a fabulous atmosphere provided by the spirit of artists – thanks to Helen.”

Lennox Street became a bustling social space for artists, musicians, writers and environmentalists. Plans for causes and trips were hatched there, most notably an artists’ journey with Schaller, David Larwill, Peter Walsh (1958-2009) and writer Ashley Crawford to raise awareness (and money) to successfully draw attention to uranium mining in Kakadu in the Northern Territory and securing the area as a World Heritage Site. Similarly, the ongoing Artists For Kids Culture Trust was hatched at the premises. Artist Lisa Roet, who lived in the space briefly after a sojourn in Berlin, described it as “old-fashioned-style artists’ colony.” Well-known musos such as Rosie Westbrook, Spencer P. Jones (1956-2018), Maurice Frawley (1954-2009), and Charlie Owen became regulars and the famed Skyhooks used the space to record their first reunion song in 1990.

Helen Bogdan fully intends to encourage The Lennox, with its rich bricolage of art, music and performance history, to continue as a space of both challenge and entertainment for years to come. “It’s been a wild ride,” she says. “And there’s more to come.”

No one, however, has seen the ghost for some time.

Special thanks to: Writer Ashley Crawford, Photographer and Website Designer Simon Strong, Artists and residents Mark Schaller and Ann Holt, Entrepreneur Gary Geier, Photographers John Gollings and Diana Snape, Editor Ray Edgar, Building Manager par excellence Nellie Sturzaker, Landscaper Andrew Landy and tradesman extraordinaire Nick Danyi – who has been known to fix anything and everything, including desperately needed ventilation for the cellar.