Tower House in Frankston

Barcelona Park better known as Tower House in Frankston was one of the more interesting buildings the Parer’s built. It started the families connection down the Peninsula of Port Phillip Bay that continues even to this day with many descendants still residing there now. We can’t admire the tower as it was demolished in 1988 to make way for the new John Paul College buildings.

Josep Francisco Andreu (Joseph) Parer y Bosch better known as Joseph Parer born 3 December 1829 in Alella, Barcelona, Catalonia, Spain was the first Parer to leave Catalonia. He and his brother Francis arrived in 1855 in Sydney and later set up the hotel empire in Melbourne.

Not long after arriving in Melbourne Joseph married Caroline “Minnie” Ferguson, one of the early native born Melbounians. When Minnie was born Melbourne was seven years old with the entire population of Port Philip of 11,738. They had seven children together, but Minnie died in 1875. In 1880 Joseph married his second wife Mary Anne Pinckney, they had one child together.

In 1882, Joseph bought a 97acres of land along the peninsula in central Frankston and designed and had built ‘Barcelona Park’ on McMahon’s Road, a two storey property with a four storey tower. The book Frankston and Mount Eliza Sketchbook by Arno Roger-Genersh and Russell Frost describes the tower as, “typical of those seen on many pretentious houses of the high Victorian period but is constructed of timber with ‘mock stone’ effects”. This became popularly known as Tower House.

Stella Maris Convent built by the Parer Family SKETCH.jpg
Sketch from the book Frankston and Mount Eliza Sketchbook by Arno Roger-Genersh and Russell Frost, published in 1976.

It was built the same year the train line from Caulfield was extended from Mordialloc to Frankston. Frankston was far from the developed place we see today. The building would have been a prominent building with its tower jutting up from the small rise where it sat inland approximately 1.5km from the main beach.

According to Bernard Parer’s unpublished manuscript on the Early History of the Parers, “When the structure was partly erected a strong wind blew it down and he rebuilt it.”

It was built under the supervision of Mr Peter Matthews, architect of American lumber and built on brick and cement foundation with a hall, eight rooms, tower, summerhouse, fernery and more. The outbuildings included stable, coachhouse, two men’s room, harvest room and large loft. The nine acres surrounding the house were tastefully landscaped largely with flowers, vines, fruit trees and vegetables all supplied with spring water.

On the 3rd October 1887, Joseph bought the Grand Junction Hotel in Traralgon. With his eldest son James “Jim” he set about refurbishing the establishment and setting a much higher standard establishment with musical entertainment and a renowned chef. They started and sponsored many entertainments in music and sport including cricket, football and cycling.

The land boom was running away during this time and finally burst. The Traralgon expense plus the Parer Bros big land speculation at Yarraman Park, in what is now Noble Park, further stretch Joseph’s finances.

On the 2nd of April 1890, according to the Traralgon Record, page 3, Joseph produced a mortgage for his Frankston property to his brothers Steven, John and Phillip for £3,900.

Barcelona Park, Frankston was advertised for auction for 13 April 1892 including the residence and 97 acres. It was to be auctioned along with household furniture, horse, trap and two cows. The advertising in the Mornington Standard described it as an insolvent estate, “within ten minutes walk of station, and occupying the most elevated, and commanding position in Frankston, overlooking the Bay”

Bernard Parer says, “later he sold it and the 100 acres with it to Johnny Parer and Inez, Mark and the twins lived there until the twins were ready for school, when they bought a place in Surrey Hills near his brother Philip and sold the Tower House and land.”

The Parer’s sold the property to the golf club for £25,000 in 1922. So the building and land passed out of the families hands, but it wasn’t the end of the story.

Frankston and Mount Eliza Sketchbook says:

Later Tower House, was sold together with 200 acres in about 1919 to Mr W A Towler, a dealer in real estate, who for a time let the building as a schoolhouse. Interested in increasing his land value, and since it was good golfing country, Towler conceived the idea of creating a golf course on the property. A native of St Andrews in Scotland, Gordon Oliver, was commissioned to lay out the initial eighteen-hole course for which Towler acquired a further 600 acres.

Most of this large course was purchased by the Peninsula Country Golf Club in 1922. The original home was added to extensively and progressively until it provided facilities and accommodation for members from Melbourne and their friends. A bedroom once occupied by Sir Donald Bradman is still known by his name.”


The Australasian on Sat 22 Dec 1923 Page 38 as described the opeing of the golf course as:

Very continental in appearance is the new “Tower Golf House” at Frankston, with its quaint high tower, dull grey walls, and deep green woodwork, while the surrounding countryside makes a picturesque setting, where smooth, green lawns and bushy trees meet the vivid orange soil of the country roads. Inside, the golf house is even more surprising, for it is furnished and fitted with every beauty and luxury that modern taste can desire. The spacious lounge with its pale beige carpets and wood panelling is lit by Oriental lamps and decorated with great palms, while opening out on either side is an equally fascinating dining-room and a small drawing-room, furnished in tones of dull blue and silver. All the windows are curtained with almond green net and cute little cretonne valances and side hangings, while the smoking-room is a model of comfort. The golf house is residential, and its long corridors are all carpeted with the same beige and blue carpet, and the pretty bedrooms (offering accommodation for about 100 guests) are all supplied with hot and cold water, as are the many bathrooms.

The Peninsula County Golf Club website says, “The purpose was to acquire 450 acres at Frankston to create an 18-hole course plus a 9-hole course for women! The house on the property was called the Tower House, a painting of which hangs in the lounge. In the early 1960s a decision was made to build a new clubhouse at the present location, and to create two 18-hole courses. This new clubhouse was officially opened on 22 July 1967.”

In 1965 the Faithful Companions of Jesus, a French Order, purchased Tower House and the adjacent grounds and turned them into the Stella Maris Ladies College. The clubs bars became classrooms, the dining room, a chapel and the board room, the school dining room.

The Stella Maris College was opened in 1968 after a few conversions to the buildings as a boarding and day school. In 1979 John Paul College was formed with the merging of Stella Maris College (girls) and Marianist College (boys).

There are two road names in Frankston which are relevant. Tower Road which runs up from the beach and presumable to Tower House where it intersected at one time with McMahon Road, though the Frankston Freeway has meant this is now stunted. The other road is Parer Street.



Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s