Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Fairy House, Bardon

There is a house for sale on MacGregor Terrace at Bardon that I first came across in a car rally many years ago where, because of its unique features, it was one of the navigation points. The for sale sign in the front yard today calls it "iconic", but my word would be "idiosyncratic" - and I mean that in a good way.

Click here to view the real estate advertisement which also includes a gallery of photographs of the house's interior.

We looked at Russian immigrants recently, and the Fairy House was designed by Russian-born Grigoriy Mikonoshin (NB - I have seen his name spelled several different ways, but this seems to be the most likely), who was involved in some major projects in Brisbane such as Cloudland, for which he designed the clever funicular railway. He also designed the Cathedral of St Nicholas at East Brisbane, but probably because of problems regarding his qualifications, the final professional preparation of plans was done by Brisbane architectural firm Cavanagh and Cavanagh. Mikonoshin established an office in Ann St, and much of his work was done under the Anglicised name of Gregory Meek.

He designed this house for himself, his wife and daughter to live in. As well as its design, Mikonoshin also did much of the construction himself, and for that reason as well as the post-WWII shortages of material, the house took quite some time to build. The following image was taken in 1951, and here is the description attached to the picture at the JOL:

"The image shows architect G. Meek's house in Bardon, still under construction. The house, designed to suit the land, stands at 43 feet above ground level at the back and only 15 feet above footpath level at the front. A concrete catwalk leads from the street into the lounge and vestibule, situated in the peak of the high pitched roof. On the floor below are the kitchen, dining room, bathroom and maid's room, while the next floor down contains three bedrooms and a sleep-out. The pitch of the roof was so steep that the tiles had to be fixed by hand from the inside and pinned with special clips. The estimated final cost at the time the photograph was taken was £3, 500."
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(Photo & text: State Library of Queensland and John Oxley Library; #115678)
It is an unusual three level A-frame structure on a steeply sloping block. It has been dubbed the Fairy House because of the numerous sculptures on the house and fences. The likenesses include composers Beethoven and Wagner as well as characters from fairy tales, and were designed and fabricated by Mikonoshin himself, no doubt as a result of having studied art in his native Russia.

The house last changed hands in 1997, and the sale price at that time was $187,500. A few years ago there was a "save the Fairy House" campaign when the state government of the day wanted to widen MacGregor Terrace - an act that would have meant the demolition of this residence as well as 27 others and a couple of wonderful mature Moreton Bay figs. Thankfully that never eventuated - we need more whimsy in our lives. The house is now on the Brisbane City Council Heritage Register.

(Photos: © 2012 the foto fanatic)

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  1. Love this place - I drive past it all the time and noticed it was for sale. The interior is not what I expected! So interesting to hear some of the history behind it, thanks for a great post. :)

  2. I agree with you - the interior is a surprise. But it is an interesting residence and it would have been a shame to lose it.

  3. My family came from Russia at the same time as Mehonoshin, so I understand his need to learn English, get his qualifications accepted and earn a living. And I am particularly impressed with his Cloudland connection.

    Do you know what architecture Fairy House was modelled on?

  4. That is really beyond my pay grade, but someone has described it as:
    "Twentieth Century Immigrant Nostalgic"

    Does that have any real meaning?

  5. Yes I also like this sort of whimsy. Great post.

  6. I had a look on realestate.com, it definitely isn't what I expected inside! Love it.

  7. Loving this blog. I saw you had a label for Bardon and had to click on it. This was the first thing that came up!

    My Dad grew up in Bardon - his parents owned a house in Accession Street for many years and the area is very familiar to me. I felt rather overcome looking at the picture of the Fairy House.

    Love your work and I look forward to exploring in here more often!


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