Carome Homestead at Mernda

10 Hathfelde Boulevard, Mernda

The Mint Inc finished works at Carome Homestated in 2011 and it is now open to the public as the produce based and French and Spanish inspired restaurant “Two Beans and a Farm”. Carome has had a long and varied history. It was once the site of one of Melbourne’s early flour mills until the Yan Yean Reservoir, built to provide clean drinking water for the growing township of Melbourne, cut the flow of water to the Plenty River. The region then moved to mixed farming. Later the site was a flourishing dairy and more recently it was used for training trotting horses and as a horse stud.

The current bluestone house built in 1864 had been empty for some years and was in a state of disrepair when acquired by Mint Inc and had no services connected. Mint Inc has now completed the process of connecting water, power, gas and other services and has fully restoring the homestead for use as a café/wine bar/ restaurant. The new facility, called TWO BEANS AND A FARM, will open on 14 November 2011 and be open Tuesday to Friday 9am to 4 pm and Saturday and Sunday 9am to 5 pm. Phone 03 9717 0978 for bookings if required

The gardens have been re-instated and the fencing repaired. A new access road has replaced the old farm track no longer accessible due to the nearby Riverdale Estate layout. One major work has been the restoration of the plaster walls which were badly cracked and the installation of a full commercial kitchen and public facilities.

The shedding across the farm is typical and represented all phases of use from the 1940s dairy to the more modern lunge yards using to train trotters. The marks of original trotting track can still be seen and the paddocks are fenced for horse use. All old wire netting fences have been removed to allow for free access for the native wildlife but the sturdy rails and posts pose no threat and have merely been restored and, in some cases, lowered. Some sheds have suffered wind damage during the recent bad weather and have needed to be either demolished if irreparable or made safe. Others have been left in their original condition although not open for public access.

The Mint Inc has established a community garden in one part of the site which has wonderful loamy soil. With all the sheds hooked up to collect rainwater into the nearby tanks we have no shortage of water for people to use on their vegetables. Beds are available to rent by the year and all tools and equipment is provided. There is also a community library with a good selection of gardening books and a small kitchen for people working on their plots.

It is our hope that our neighbours in the nearby estate will fully utilize the orchard of fruit trees which has just been planted as well as the planned vegetable gardens and the new local school will avail themselves of the opportunity to develop their own kitchen garden once the school is opened. The new car park caters for those visiting the community garden as well as those booked into a special event in the Homestead.

Many of the people who once lived in the Homestead have been back to visit and are pleased to see the house and gardens now being well maintained and used once again. Evidently the house was once used simply to store hay for the horses and suffered a great deal of damage over the years. After the complete restoration it is now a well used facility and an asset to the Parklands area.

Southern Guardhouse

280 William Street, Melbourne

The Southern Guardhouse was built at the same time as the Royal Mint in 1872. It was designed to house the local police constable who lived and worked on site while the Northern Guardhouse housed the military guard. A police constable, and possible his family, lived in the Southern Guardhouse and was paid one shilling a day extra as a special allowance for his responsibilities.

The two sets of gates were closed every night and every person entering the compound was checked in by either the military or the local policeman assigned to these duties. The building had three front offices or rooms facing out onto the verandah. They included the Waiting Room, the Guardroom with its own exterior door and a bedroom with a further three rooms at the rear which included a living room and bedrooms.

The kitchen, washhouse or bathroom downstairs opened onto the lower courtyard. These rooms were more simply built and decorated than that the Deputy Master’s residence within the Main Building reflecting the lower rank of the police.

The only theft at the Mint complex in its entire working life was from the South Guardhouse when it was found that three bars of gold worth seventeen hundred pounds were missing in June 1907. They had been removed from the night safe by persons unknown and despite a rigorous investigation the culprit was never discovered. The policeman on duty was accused of negligence and reducing to the ranks. He is said to have spent the rest of his working life on the beat.

Once the Mint operations were transferred to Canberra the Southern Guardhouse became the office of several public servants who controlled the use of the rear parking area used for government cars only. Later the Guard Room was used as a shoe repair shop for many years and the rest of the building was simply used for storage.

The building was extensively restored in 1998-9 and transformed into usable office space with modern amenities in the downstairs service areas. A cellar was added at that time when Teac Australia was the tenants at their cost. The Southern Guardhouse is now used partly as the office of Mint Inc and partly as the offices of Volunteering Victoria.

Farm Vigano in South Morang

Farm Vigano at South Morang is best known as an important link to Mario and Teresa Vigano, a prominent Melbourne Italian restaurant family.

The Vigano’s owned one of Melbourne’s seminal Italian restaurants, Mario’s, mid last century. The family’s influence on Melbourne’s cuisine continued with granddaughters Patricia (formerly of Mietta’s, Queenscliff), and the late Mietta O’Donnell.

After years of deterioration, Mint Inc has injected significant funds to rejuvenate the two buildings on the property and replant the orchard, vegetable and ornamental gardens. Following considerable conservation works and sustainable development of the site, the home was re-opened to the public in 2012 as the contemporary Farm Vigano Cuccina, continuing the produce based Italian food heritage of the site.


Mario and Maria Teresa Vigano bought the 30 hectare piece of land along the Plenty River in 1934 to provide produce for their famous city Restaurant, Mario’s. More importantly, the Viganós used it as a retreat from the pressures of the restaurant, which also served as their city dwelling. The original small weatherboard cottage was enhanced by its spectacular setting overlooking a sweeping section of the Plenty River, near the Plenty Gorge. By the early 1950s, the cottage was extended and rebuilt in at least seven stages into a three-storied, imposing brick and weatherboard residence, reflecting an understanding of their approach to hospitality and family life.

Starting out in a small dining room, Mario’s restaurant quickly grew to become Australia’s largest and most prominent Italian restaurant. Here, in the early days, guests could savour a glass of red wine and a fine Italian meal cooked by some of Italy’s best chefs for 2/6. Mario and Maria Teresa, by introducing new ways of dining and entertaining based on good food and music from Italy and elsewhere, helped Melbourne shake off its dowdy social scene and legacy of ‘wowserism’ forever.

The Viganó’s passion for hospitality, fine food and the arts continued in their children and grandchildren. This generation of restaurateurs have repeated the profound impact on the cuisine and cultural life of Australia. Mietta O’Donnell, with partner Tony Knox and support from sisters Patricia and Robin Moser, opened the first Mietta’s restaurant in North Fitzroy in 1974.

At Farm Vigano, several distinctive Italian cultural references were incorporated, such as the stone walling on the drive, similar to mountain roads in Italy, and the boarded chalet style gable ends. The French doors and iron balustrades overlooked the formal garden terraces below and spectacular views of the valley. The garden gates were one of the first major commissions for noted metal craftsman and engineer Gio Batta Stella, who later established a large workshop in Carlton. The impressive terrazzo bathroom provides and example of Maria’s superb colour sense, also used throughout the house.

The size and design of the suite of entertainment areas of the house also has a strong European character, recalling the grandeur of the lounge rooms of a modern Italian ocean liner of the time.  Under Ferdi’s influence, the property was developed into a model farm, with sprawling fruit and vegetable gardens, a piggery, a prize Fresian dairy heard and stables for horses.

The house and garden overlook a hairpin bend of the Plenty River, with bush land rising from the steep hills opposite. Originally the house was approached along a straight drive from Plenty Rd, followed by a curved section with an avenue of trees announcing the complex of farm buildings and dairy cottage. A sense of formality was established by a stone wall and large pine trees that marked the descent to the house, where an entrance terrace greeted visitors.

The garden was landscaped with formal terraces relating to the house and the property’s sweeping, sloping lawns.  The tennis court and row of pencil cypresses were added sometime in the late 1950s or early 60s. At the bottom of the drive an axial path connected the terraced and lawn areas with the formally laid out productive gardens, which contained a variety of fruit trees and vegetables extending down almost to the river.

Together Mario and Maria Teresa Viganó created ‘The Farm’ as both a focus for family life and as a salon for influential and progressive people in Melbourne society, the visual arts and music. It functioned as an extension of Mario’s restaurant, providing hospitality and a venue for many memorable social functions and community fund-raising throughout the late 1940s, ’50s and ’60s, especially for the Italian auxiliary of the Royal Children’s Hospital.

For Maria Teresa, the farm provided her with not only a chance to enjoy quality family times, but a place where she could indulge in her life-long passion for painting. The Milan-trained artist, an important Post Impressionist painter in her own right, had several studios, one attached to the lower cottage and another in the house with a dramatic view over the Plenty River and its bush landscape, which she grew to love. Many of her landscapes, for which she was renowned, were produced at South Morang.

The property provides a tangible link with a now almost vanished era when immigrant Italians established restaurants that brought a more diverse culinary experience to everyday Australians. A handful of venues – Florentino’s, Pelligrini’s, The Italian Waiters Club, The University Café and possibly The Latin – survive yet Farm Viganó is unique in that it was deliberately created for entertaining as an extension of Mario’s restaurant.

Former Royal Mint

280 William Street, Melbourne

The main two storey building is a rendered brick structure on a heavy rusticated base. Unlike the Palladian norm, the piano nobile is on the ground floor. The first floor features paired ionic columns, while an attic storey features oval windows. The perimeter wall is an imposing brick construction with large wrought iron gates and iron lamps.The Former Royal Mint was designed by John James Clark of the Public Works Office and built during 1869-72 by contractors William Murray and Company of Emerald Hill, and Martin and Peacock of West Melbourne. The complex originally contained coin production facilities, administration and residential quarters and associated structures, but all that remains now are the two-storey office building and residence, two gate-houses, perimeter walling and palisading.

The Former Royal Mint is of historical significance because of its important role in the economic, financial and political development of Victoria for nearly 100 years. Lobbying for a mint to be established in Australia began soon after the discovery of gold. Such an institution was considered by its proponents not only as an efficient way of providing currency for the colonies, but as an important sign of colonial independence and maturity.

As such it reflects the growing wealth and confidence of gold-rush era Melbourne. As a branch of the Royal Mint, London, it initially bought gold and minted only gold sovereigns until 1916. The first Australian silver coins were minted in 1916, after the Federal Constitution gave the Commonwealth sole powers in the minting of coinage. The first Australian pennies and halfpennies were produced in 1927. When the Sydney Mint closed in 1926, the Melbourne Royal Mint became the only mint in Australia until it ceased operations in 1968.

The administration building was styled after Raphael’s Palazzo Vidoni-Caffarelli in Rome (1515). Its restrained ornamentation and dignified portico reflect the prestigious yet functional nature of the Mint. It is one of the finest examples of conservative classicism in Australia.

Clark (1838-1915), who had a distinguished career in the office of the Colonial Architect (later Public Works Department) from 1852, when he was 14, until 1878, was responsible for designing a number of important colonial government buildings including the Government Printing Office (1856) and the Treasury (1857). He later went on to design major buildings in Sydney, Brisbane and Perth.