Julie Matheson

Business Specialist CFP | Local Government Expert | Political Adviser

The historical life of Ruby Hutchison House

I have been blessed with the opportunity to own and renovate this beautiful house that has a remarkable history attached to her. She was built by Robert William Prior Gulley as a Federation Queen Anne Gentlemen’s Villa in 1904.

Some of the features of Queen Anne designs include:

• One room projected creating a gable end with others projected sideways from the body of the house and bay windows
• Decorative fire places
• Displaying Mock English Tudor timber and render to gables and dormer windows
• White painted window frame, front verandahs and decorative timber features
• Tiling on patio floor and entry paths
• Brickwork is deep red or dark brown with a mix of the two finished with tuck pointing
• Roofs have decorative gables, motifs, timber features, tall chimneys and fretwork
• Decorative leadlight windows as well as circular windows known as bulls-eye windows
• In Australia detailing often depicted native flora and fauna such as Kookaburras and Kangaroos together with the Rising sun of Federation.
• White or cream picket fencing

Who was Robert Gulley?

Robert Gulley built this Gentlemen’s Villa with 4 entries, 5 rooms, bathroom, a grand hallway, and ornate plaster ceilings, plus outdoor dunny.

Not long after completing the build he nominated for the Subiaco Municipality elections to be Councillor for the East Ward with Herbert Casley in January 1907.

Robert decided to take a different tack in life after building houses in Subiaco area and he brought land down in Gosnells where he was a dairyman. Unfortunately luck was not on his side and he was declared bankrupt on 30th March 1915

First resident

The first known resident of this Gentleman’s Villa was the Reverend William Lewis of the newly formed Subiaco Congregational Church, who lived here until c.1907.

Another interesting fact connected to the Subiaco Congregation Church is a Family by the name of James and Edith Masterson who had brought their children up as parishioners. One of their children was Hazel Masterson who met her soon to be husband whilst playing the organ at the church and at a church camp when they were 18. His name was Bob Hawke who was a Pastor’s son and the rest is history.

April 1909 the house was sold to a goldfield’s butcher and pastoralist, Joseph Digby Willis.
Joseph (‘Joe’) Willis (1865-1945) moved into the house with his wife, Elizabeth, and their four children, and remained here until his death in 1945.

After Joseph Willis had died the house was sold and used as a rental property, with an architect, Samuel Rosenthal, living here from c.1947-53. I suspect this family made the additions to the house adding another room, hallway extension, and kitchen.

Here is a engagement announcement of Samuel Rosenthal‘s Daughter Maxine Helen to Andrew Gifford Clinton in 26th December 1951.

From what we know, after the Rosenthal’s moved out the house was sub-letted for bed sitting rooms/flats.

In 1965 the house was donated to the WA Epilepsy Association and opened by the Governor of Western Australia Sir Douglas Kendrew. The Queen Anne features were boarded up, removed or damaged with an office fit out.

This beautiful house was named after a very influential lady called Ruby Hutchison as she was the first woman Member of Parliament (1954) in the Legislative Council, representing the Labor Party. Ruby founded the Choice Magazine (1959) which campaigns for consumer rights, product testing and unbiased advice, and the Epilepsy Association WA in 1963.

By 2002, Ruby Hutchison House was trapped in a 1960s time warp as a LUNCH BAR FOR THE LOCAL WHITE ANTS with 4 fireplaces boarded up, office cabling, carpet nailed on to the fire place tiles, asbestos sleep out and laundry, and asbestos garage.

My late husband Andrew Neal and I started restoration and renovations in 2002 firstly restoring the 11 foot ornate ceilings and replacing jarrah floor beams and 12 footing posts. So far restoration and improvements have cost about $300,000. Before Andrew passed away in April 2012, he requested that I seek heritage listing of the house so that future generations can enjoy her. While I was on Subiaco Council I applied for heritage listing and it was approved on 15 October 2013.

Heritage Grant

In October 2020, I applied for a Heritage Grant and it was approved by Council in December 2020 to continue the restoration of this Grand Lady to her full glory.

The new works for the $5,000 Heritage Grant include:

  1. Repairing or replacing the bullnose roof sheeting due to rust caused by water build up in old gutters.
  2. New carpentry work to make the existing timber structure of the roof compliant to building codes
  3. Repair damage to existing timber frames with new carpentry work.
  4. New gutters to prevent water penetration to the wooden frame and posts of the verandah
  5. New binding and tuck pointing required to front brick work to prevent further loss of mortar.
  6. Painting of the wooden frame work and posts to protect from further environmental damage.

Estimated quote for the cost of works $15,909

The Original roof is in dire need of replacement to fit the style of this home.
To Tuckpointing is needed to restore her.

Without the necessary repairs and restoration of the front verandah and brickwork, the building and timber framework will further decay from water penetration from leaking roof and gutters.

If you own a beautiful and historical home and need guidance as to how to apply for a Heritage Grant I am more than happy to assist you. If you live in Subiaco here is the link about applying for a Heritage Grant.

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