"Yooralbyn" a Boom-Style Mansion - Richmond Hill
"Yooralbyn" is a magnificent boom period mansion on the brow of Richmond Hill in Erin Street , in the Melbourne suburb of Richmond.
"Yooralbyn" was built in 1889 for William Harper, a partner in a leading Melbourne merchant and manufacturing firm. The house was one of the many great mansions and elegant terraces built on Richmond Hill by local merchants and manufacturers during the 1880s boom period. The mansion, substantially in-tact, still stands in its original grounds and retains some of its original Nineteenth Century garden layout and plantings. There are several magnificent mature trees in the grounds, including a Moreton Bay fig with a wide canopy and a palm tree which is now taller than the three storey tower of "Yooralbyn" itself! The exterior of the building is particularly impressive, with its central urn capped tower, Ionic portico and flanking verandahs adorned with wrought iron lacework.
When the boom of the 1880s and early 1890s turned to bust, many of the nouveau riche families living in the mansions of Richmond Hill found themselves hit by hard times and either had to parcel off portions of their large estates or sell altogether. When they left, much of Richmond Hill became working-class. "Yooralbyn" is a rare remaining example of a Nineteenth Century boom-style mansion in largely working class Richmond, and reminds us of the opulent lifestyle of Richmond's (and Melbourne's) elite during the late Victorian era.
In 1903, Bethesda Hospital started operating out of "Yooralbyn" (which they renamed "Elim" after one of the places where the Israelites camped following their Exodus from Egypt). It was a pioneering hospital and when it first opened it had private rooms and special treatment for private patients. Intermediate patients were asked to pay what they could afford, whereas poor patients received treatment free of charge. This arrangement worked well until the Great Depression in the 1930s.
In 1998 the Epworth acquired the Bethesda Hospital, and "Elim" is used as the centre for physiotherapy. The original stables have been converted into an indoor heated swimming pool, yet they, and "Yooralbyn" itself, retain much of its original look of 1889.