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Mentone Coffee Palace

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Kilbreda College has occupied the large tower building in central Mentone for over 100 years. It was built as a coffee palace in the heady land boom era of the 1880s. Sir Matthew Davies, the main promoter of Mentone as a fashionable seaside resort, was a member of the Temperance movement of that time. He built the ornate coffee palace here to provide high-class accommodation for wealthy patrons who desired alcohol-free premises. Thus the huge thirty-room guest house was not licensed to sell liquor.

The Royal Mentone Coffee Palace, as it was called by its backers, was opened in 1887. It brought many important people to Mentone for their seaside holidays. In 1888 the Governor of Victoria, Lord Loch, came by train for a sumptuous luncheon at the coffee palace before being driven in a carriage to Mentone racecourse for the official opening ceremony. For a few years it prospered as a centre for social functions, meetings and classy lodgings.

In the early 1890s Melbourne suffered a severe economic depression as overseas finance dried up. Large numbers lost their jobs and businesses collapsed. Davies was one of those who went bankrupt and the Commercial Bank took over his assets including the coffee palace. It had become unprofitable as those who had patronised it lost their wealth in the crash and cut out expensive holidays. About 1900 it became Como House as new lease owners tried to change its image. By 1904 the Commercial Bank wanted to cut its losses on this asset and it was sold to the Brigidine Sisters who wished to establish a college for girls. It has housed the Kilbreda College ever since, though many additions have been made on an expanded site.

Author

Leo Gamble

Acknowledgements

  • Friends of Mentone Station and Gardens.
  • The Mordialloc & District Historical Society.
  • Poster design by Tara Poussard.

Article Cat. Memories of Mentone
Article Ref. 540

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