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Olive Hills Estate

Olive Hills Estate, Rutherglen, Victoria, Australia

Olive Hills Estate at Rutherglen is a unique, substantially intact historic homestead complex of grand and imposing proportions that sits high above the undulating hills of the Rutherglen wine growing region of northern Victoria. It’s tower can be seen from the Murray Valley Highway. The single storey mid-Victorian Italianate homestead and farm buildings were built in 1886 for Hugh Fraser, a Scot and baker.

Property History

Hugh Fraser became an early pioneer of the Rutherglen district and later elected first president of the local Shire and served seven terms as a Councillor. At one stage, Fraser controlled 2350 acres in the Rutherglen Shire of Indigo. Fraser’s pastoral fortunes did not survive the depression of the 1890s and in 1898 he sold Olive Hills four years before Phylloxera which destroyed many commercial vineyards in Victoria. In 1898 Hector McKenzie purchased Olive Hills and farmed wheat, oats, Lucerne, cattle and vines. Since 1938 Olive Hills was owned by Mr Richard Knight, a prominent Rutherglen identity who lived there until he passed away in 1989.

Architectural Features

Olive Hills is listed on the Australian Heritage Council and registered with Heritage Victoria No HO175 and the National Trust of Victoria. The homestead is substantially intact and includes extensive subterranean living quarters to protect against the perishing hot summers. The homestead’s tower is a striking feature of this well sited, skilfully detailed and finely constructed homestead by J R Kemp, with an inscription above the front door “J R Kemp July 1884″  The majestic polychromatic brick tower was cleverly integrated into the existing homestead fourteen years later in 1898.

Additional elements of the homestead complex include, the smithy, coach house, winery, still room, workmen’s hut and established trees which add to the importance of the homestead compound. A distinctive feature of Olive Hills is the buff-coloured ruddy-red polychromatic brickwork to the window and door quoining and iconic tower. The homestead has rendered cement facings to the semi-circular tower windows and bracketed roof pediments, parapet urns, balustrading and bracketed tower consoles. The main homestead is encircled by extensive cast iron concave verandahs and gutters. Once again, polychromatic triple brickwork forms 460mm (18”) thick external walls. Olive Hills has 15 foot (4.6m) high ceilings which ensure all principal rooms have grand proportions. Wide sweeping heavily oxidised rooves and cast iron finials with towering cement rendered chimneys blend in perfectly with the existing habitat of old pines, eucalypts and vineyards.

Special Comments from Chris Wilmar, Architect

The present owners, Ross and Kay Perry have painstakingly restored the homestead and have enriched the picturesque nature and importance of Olive Hills as an outstanding Australian vernacular homestead. They have also re-established the vineyards to offer Chardonnay, Shiraz, Sirius, du Cluse, Durif, Cabernet Savignon and Sangiovese Nebbiolo wines. Additionally, the Perry’s operate Olive Hills Estate as a highly sought after country wedding destination of immense character.

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