Historical information

In 1857, tanner John Pearson purchased three and a half acres of land in Little Eltham, at the western end of Pitt Street, with a 70-foot frontage to Maria Street (Main Road) and stretching down to the Diamond Creek for £100. He contracted Benjamin Oliver Wallis to build house for him. Wallis, a mason by trade who originated from the Cornish village of Newlyn, migrated to Melbourne in 1853 and was shortly engaged by Richard Warren to build the Eltham Hotel, which opened in 1854. When Warren fell into financial difficulty in 1858, Wallis purchased the hotel. That same year, Pearson constructed a tannery below the house with access to the water in the Diamond Creek. When Pearson became bankrupt in 1867, Wallis similarly acquired the house from Pearson’s creditors in 1868 and lived there until his death in 1896. For some of this time the house was in the name of Wallis’s son Richard but following his death in 1888, ownership reverted to his father. It was purchased by retired teacher Richard Gilsenen in 1899. Gilsenen was made acting head teacher at the Eltham State School in 1906 following the sudden death of head teacher John Brown. In the 1950s the house was bought by retired engineer Dr Alfred Fitzpatrick and his wife Claire who made various modifications to house goats and poultry as well as structural modifications to the house.

In the early 1970s, Eltham Shire Councillors Frank Maas and Don Maling proposed an extended communities’ activities program be set up and the Commonwealth Grants Commission was approached for financial assistance. In 1974 a $50,000 Commonwealth Grant was received by the Shire Council to acquire the Fitzpatrick property as part of the planning to establish an extended communities’ activities program. The Fitzpatricks moved next door and Claire taught at the new Living and Learning Centre, which began in 1975, one of the first community education centres in Victoria.

Covered under Heritage Overlay, Nillumbik Planning Scheme.

Published: Nillumbik Now and Then /​ Marguerite Marshall 2008; photographs Alan King with Marguerite Marshall.; p59


This collection of almost 130 photos about places and people within the Shire of Nillumbik, an urban and rural municipality in Melbourne's north, contributes to an understanding of the history of the Shire. Published in 2008 immediately prior to the Black Saturday bushfires of February 7, 2009, it documents sites that were impacted, and in some cases destroyed by the fires. It includes photographs taken especially for the publication, creating a unique time capsule representing the Shire in the early 21st century. It remains the most recent comprehenesive publication devoted to the Shire's history connecting local residents to the past.

Physical description

Born digital image file