I researched this incredibly unusual house a few years ago as part of my Brisbane Retro project and discovered that it was a former Mater Prize Home Home. Even more amazing was that it is a complete time-capsule inside, as very little has been altered since the day it was built. The current owner even had a copy of the original flyer advertising the prize home!

The Sisters of Mercy and the Mater Misericordiae Hospital

The Sisters of Mercy were a religious order dedicated to helping those in need. One of their achievements in Brisbane was the establishment of the Mater Misericordiae Hospital (Mater Misericordiae being Latin for Mother of Mercy). Initially established in 1906 at ‘Aubigny’, an 1860s residence at North Quay, in 1910 a grand Hall and Dods designed building was officially opened as the new Mater Misericordiae Hospital at South Brisbane. The site continued to expand over the next decades, including the construction of a new maternity hospital (Mater Mothers' Hospital) in 1960. Although the hospital site has been redeveloped continuously ever since, it has remained at the same location. The 1910 building survives at its core and is now named "Aubigny Place" in tribute to the original location of the hospital.

The first Mater Hospital at "Aubigny", North Quay, c1905 (State Library of QLD)

Mater Misericordiae Hospital, Stanley Street, South Brisbane, 1924 (State Library of QLD)

The interior of the Mater Misericordiae Hospital, 1914 (State Library of QLD)

Mater Misericordiae Hospital, 1961, with the new maternity block on the right (National Archives of Australia)

Mater Prize Homes

Running a hospital as a charitable institution was expensive and the Sisters of Mercy were constantly fundraising through various means, including auctioning or raffling off donated works of art (this common money raising technique  is also the origin of the term "art union" as another name for a lottery). In the 1950s, they began purchasing land and building houses, which were then raffled off as prize homes to raise money for the hospital. The first of these Mater Prize Homes (and in fact Queensland’s first real estate art union) was raffled off in 1954. First prize was a two-bedroom fibro house in Surfers Paradise, valued at £4,150. These prize homes proved incredibly successful and continue to this day, making them one of the longest running  art unions in Australia. The majority of houses were built in Brisbane and many people remember visiting the homes on weekends as a popular family outing. The houses varied in style, but were generally very modern designs with all the latest fittings and furniture.

Ads for the very first Mater Prize Home in 1954 

The Tarragindi House

The house I researched at Tarragindi was the 22nd Mater Prize Home to be raffled. The Sisters of Mercy already had building approval from the Brisbane City Council to construct a new dwelling when they purchased the block of land in June 1964. The home was built shortly after, to a design by architect, John Dawson. Dawson designed a large number of Mater Prize Homes, dating from about 1960 until about 1975. 

The record of the building approval issued to the Sisters of Mercy by Brisbane City Council, for the construction of a new dwelling worth £12000

The Certificate of Title for the Tarragindi land, issued to the Sisters of Mercy in 1964

The design of the house at Tarragindi is incredibly unusual and would have been revolutionary amongst the generally rather conservative houses of Brisbane at the time. Indeed the advertising brochure for the lottery describes it as “delightfully different”. The house still stands out dramatically alongside its more traditional style neighbours. The lottery was drawn on 21 December 1964 and was won by  Mario and Loris Balestrieri.  The property was officially transferred to them on 4 January 1965, however they only remained at the house for three months. It has only had three other owners since.

The advertising flyer for the house, Mater Prize Home No. 22

The house as it looks today


All photos copyright. Taken by  Matt Williams Photography and with the permission of the owner. This is a private residence and is not accessible to the public.

This is only an extract from the full history I uncovered for this house. References citing the sources of  the information contained in this report have been omitted from this online version to make it easier to read. Some images and maps have also been cropped to show details more clearly. Please contact me if you would the details of any references, or if you want to know where to find the full size versions of the images and maps.

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