A grand Victorian mansion that was one of the original “super properties” built along the Mornington Peninsula for Melbourne’s elite has hit the market with a $40 million price tag.
The Morning Star Estate, first built as a country getaway for the Gillett family and used for much of the 20th century as the Morning Star Boys’ Home, has most recently served as a 20-room hotel and events venue.
Built in 1867 by Francis Gillett, the property, set on nearly 63 hectares at 2 Sunnyside Road, Mount Eliza and with views to the bay and the Melbourne CBD, was one of the first properties to be built beyond Oliver’s Hill – the first main rise between the peninsula and Melbourne.
“These properties were built for uber wealthy families – if you think of the Melbourne equivalent of Steve Jobs, Jeff Bezos, Bill Gates, this is what they would have lived in back then,” said agent Michael Keating, of Michael Keating International.
The Gilletts would have accessed the property by horse and carriage, but a new buyer can “jump in their helicopter” in Melbourne and fly to the property in minutes, according to Mr Keating, with plenty of landing space available.
Renovations were added in the 1940s by the Franciscans in order to adapt the property for use as a boys’ home, which closed in 1975. It was then used as a horse stud before selling to current vendor Judy Barrett. It has subsequently found fame as an iconic wedding venue and film backdrop.
The hotel featured in the Kath and Kim movie spin-off Kath & Kimderella along with other productions.
Ms Barrett, the vendor of 20 years, transformed the property into a combined winery, hotel and events venue. The hotel and events business has been closed since 2017 when the property was reported to have sold to a Chinese investor, although that deal later fell through.
But it is the vineyard – established by the Franciscans during their tenure running the property – that could prove the main drawcard for a new buyer.
Mr Keating is looking to wealthy expats and Melbourne locals as key buyers for the property, saying many of his clients appreciate the rarity of being able to secure a vineyard with beachfront access on the peninsula.
“We’ve been selling a lot of vineyards at the moment and the Mornington Peninsula, to be able to have something with such an acreage under vine and to do be able to do what you want with it, is an incredible opportunity.”
He said demand for vineyards had ballooned during the coronavirus recession, even extending to wealth funds looking to add them to their portfolio.
“The list of clients wanting vineyards is longer than my arm – we just don’t have enough stock at the moment,” he said.
A new owner could choose to reinstate the hotel and events business or keep the property as a private residence and run the vineyard.
The main residence and hotel, which was added later, will need some maintenance work and a fresh lick of paint in order to bring them up to scratch.
“Whoever buys it is getting a blank canvas, warts and all but there are very few warts,” Mr Keating said.
Having sold property on the peninsula for more than three decades, he said the pandemic was unlikely to dampen interest in a property as rare as this.
“When people are looking for safe and solid investments to put their money into, property and big properties in Victoria, are always a safe haven – they’ve proven that over how many hundreds of years … Nobody has ever done their dough on a property like Morning Star,” he said.
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