Emulation Hall: Egypt style for sale in Canterbury at old Masonic hall
A former Masonic temple that wouldn’t look out of place on the streets of Cairo is for sale in Melbourne’s leafy east.
The 1927-28 Emulation Hall is sure to catch buyers’ eyes, being decked out in Egyptian motifs including gold-winged scarab beetles, sacred serpents, astrological symbols, lotus flowers, winged discs and “the eye of Horus”.
This “rare and distinctive” Egyptian Revival style saved the Canterbury curiosity from imminent demolition in 2012, earning it heritage status for being of architectural, historical and aesthetic significance to Victoria, according to the Heritage Database.
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Now co-owners Nicole Fraser, Sally Mill and Noel Crombie — a former member of rock group Split Enz — have listed 3 Rochester Rd with price hopes of more than $3 million, after painstakingly restoring it over two years to use as an events venue.
Ms Fraser said the building’s “eccentricity” appealed to her and her partners when they snapped it up in 2015, when CoreLogic records show it fetched $1.4 million.
“There was something kind of odd about a secretive society (the Freemasons) being housed in this audacious building,” she said.
“It couldn’t be more attention grabbing.”
She said the Freemasons’ temple remained intact on the top floor when they took on the building, with other parts leased to a gallery and the Box Hill Chess Club.
The facade was “grey with peeling blue paint” and the interior required “substantial work”.
The trio’s hands-on revamp involved restoring the original colour scheme, revealing extensive woodwork by stripping back paint “with dental tools”, replacing floorboards and installing a commercial kitchen, a bar, lift, new roof, and cobra-themed chandeliers designed by Ms Mills.
Ms Fraser said they had Heritage Victoria’s support throughout the extensive revamp.
She said the building came within 24 hours of being levelled seven years ago. But luckily a Freemason “in his 90s” alerted the local historic society, which managed to delay the demolition until Heritage Victoria could step in.
The Heritage Database likens the property to Egypt’s “ancient temples, such as that of Isis in Philae and Horus in Edfu”.
It also demonstrated “the ideological link between freemasonry and ancient Egypt”.
In recent years, the building’s main hall, Supper Room and Temple Room have hosted weddings, school galas, film and TV shoots (including a recent stint in Channel 10 drama Five Bedrooms), conferences, and even a Radio National live broadcast.
GormanKelly director Nick Breheny said he expected the one-of-a-kind offering to attract interest from caterers, venue operators, church groups, aged care operators, investors and local private schools.
The property’s residential zoning also opened up the possibility of it becoming “a massive residence”.
Its expressions of interest campaign closes November 7.
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