Medley Hall is a landmark in a street full of beautiful Victorian homes. It has a fascinating history as well as its beautiful architecture, and is recognised as being of national significance.
Medley Hall stands on the traditional lands of the Wurundjeri People.
The first European building on the Medley site was a timber structure, the Wesleyan Methodist Immigrants Home. In 1853 it was offering shelter to up to three hundred people, some newly arrived immigrants and others simply down on their luck. By the 1880's, The Immigrants Home had been demolished to make way for grander housing at a time when Drummond St and Carlton had become the centre of Jewish life in Melbourne.
Completed in 1892 at 48 Drummond Street for Leah Abrahams, Benvenuta, meaning ‘Welcome’, was designed by architect Walter Scott Law in an Italianate Victorian Baroque style. Mrs Abraham's husband, Henry, a small arms manufacturer in Melbourne, had died in 1886. For the building’s construction, Scott Law imported the materials from Italy — stained glass and over 15 tons of marble and steel — and craftsmen to create the ornate interior.
Mrs Abrahams, a widow with 12 adult children, lived in the mansion until 1914. After her death the house remained the property of the Abrahams family until purchased by the Victorian Government for the University of Melbourne in 1950. For much of that time Benvenuta was leased; first to the Commonwealth Government in 1922, which transformed it into Arbitration Court Offices and then offices for the Federal Attorney-General's Department, then in 1935 to an Italian social club together with ballroom, orchestra and Sunday boxing matches, and finally in 1938 as a boarding house.
Rosaville was built at 46 Drummond Street in 1884 for Abraham Harris, owner of an emporium in Elizabeth Street. The architect Nahum Barnet designed the stucco detailing of the building in the mannerist style. Harris occupied the house until 1900 and from that time until its sale to the Victorian Government it was leased to tenants. The Australian artist, Frederick McCubbin, lived there in 1901 and 1902 and another Australian artist, James John Robertson Tranthim-Fryer was in residence during 1903.
The shortage of student accommodation for the rapidly growing University encouraged the State Government to purchase 46 and 48 Drummond Street in January 1950. The two houses were renovated and connected by the Public Works Department and the “Drummond Street Hostel”, which first accommodated about a dozen students, came into operation under the direction of the Students' Representative Council in 1951. The SCR quickly found difficulties in running the hostel and requested help from the University Council in 1952.
The University Council took over the management of the Hostel in 1953 and the first Warden was appointed in 1954. A year later the hostel became Medley Hall, named after the recently retired Vice-Chancellor of the University of Melbourne, Sir John Medley.
In 1969 women were admitted to residence, making Medley the first co-educational College of the University and in the same year, the neighbouring terrace at 52 Drummond Street was purchased. In 1970 an extension linking all three buildings was constructed which greatly increased Medley's capacity to accommodate students.
In 2011, an extensive refurbishment was completed which replaced the previous extension, linked all parts of the College with a new public space and upgraded the buildings to the highest standards of sustainability.