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The Garage: A Brief History

On the corner of Chrystobel Crescent and Glenferrie Road sits two seemingly unrelated, but clearly historical buildings, occupying numbers 733 and 735 Glenferrie Road. The former is an elegant Victorian terrace branded as Toolangi, complemented with a once-customary white picket fence. The latter is a proudly utilitarian red brick beast, still brazenly wearing its long-ago held title of 'The Garage', while sporting an impressively sizeable archway entrance.

Max Gawn, Richard Donovan, Craig Tate and Matt Jones have turned the Garage into a fine wine bar and bistro

Toolangi was erected in 1905, sharing its birthday with Albert Einstein's first published theory of special relativity, while the first bricks of the Garage were laid as China's last Emperor fell to the new era of republican rule in 1912. Needless to say, these two landmark buildings have seen countless changes and over a century of occupation and repurposing. Most recently, the addition of a 21-apartment complex in 2018, which overlooks the two historic buildings. In December 2021, Toolangi House became the flagship store of Steel, an upmarket fashion brand, who were the first retailer to occupy the site since it achieved heritage listing in the same year. The mansion originally functioned as a general practice, with William Clayton, physician and surgeon living on site. Next door, the former Hawthorn Motor Garage, which was run by Albert Kane and family for around 30 years, proudly lays claim to being the oldest known surviving purpose built garage in Victoria.

In the early 20th century, the practice of selling petrol by the can was commonplace until Hawthorn's Garage introduced the first electric pumps in the area in the 1920's. For the first time, filling up at the petrol station meant conveniently pulling up on the street next to the Garage's entrance instead of lugging around heavy drums of gasoline.

The Garage circa 1991

Based heavily on 19th century horse stable designs, Hawthorn's Garage was the first commissioned piece by architect Chris A Cowper, who went on to become influential in Edwardian and Federation style home design. The building maintained its role as a garage into the 1990's and underwent several facelifts, before finally having its original façade restored.

Since then, the building has hosted traders and services from Paddy Pallin camping gear supplies to a hair salon. In October 2022, Melbourne Demon's Captain Max Gawn along with business partners Richard Donovan, Craig Tate and Matt Jones (pictured L-R, page one) opened a wine bar and bistro in the heritage site, aptly named Motor. The Motor team embraced the building's antiquated features by installing curved seating booths - reflecting the striking entrance - and adorning the walls with historic photos of the site. Craig Tate stated that the building was chosen "on the strength of its character and stature" as a local icon.

The Garage today with Motor co-owners Craig Tate and Richard Donovan

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