20 July, 2016

Finding Fritzwilhelmberg

Following on from my last post, I thought I'd look some more at the works of 19th century landscape artist Eugene von Guerard. As mentioned, his iconic painting View of Geelong was based on an earlier sketch made from the home of John Highett - 'Highton House', located in what is now Montpellier Park, Highton.
Another of his better known paintings of the Geelong region which also hangs at the Geelong Art Gallery is Mr Lewin's hut on the Barwon River. Like View of Geelong, this painting was also developed from an earlier pen and ink sketch, in this case, completed in April, 1854. Unlike some of the sketches however, finding the location of this one did not prove so difficult. A short trip down today's Deviation Rd will provide a very similar perspective to that of the painting.
With a little research however, we were able to determine exactly where von Guerard was when he made the initial sketch. At the bottom of the original piece was the annotation "view from Fritz Wilhelmberg, Hern Hill". Who or what was Fritz Whilhelmberg?
At this point, it was TROVE to the rescue. In the Geelong Advertiser and Intelligencer of 9th January, 1855, I found a birth notice. Mrs F. Bauer had given birth to a son at her residence - Fritz Wilhelm Berg, Herne Hill. Another quick search revealed a double block of land purchased by Frederick Baner(sic), on the hill directly above Deviation Rd and perfectly positioned to be the location where the sketch was made. "Baner" must surely be a mis-transcription of "Bauer". A German name.
A section of the 1953 survey map of the Parish of Moorpanyal showing the two
blocks of land purchased by Bauer. Image held by the State Library of Victoria
A little more digging revealed that Frederick Bauer - a German immigrant - had indeed built a house in this location in 1854. It was here that his son Friederich (Fritz) Wilhelm Bauer was born the following January. Frederick Bauer was an importer and merchant who opened a large ironmongery store in Ryrie St, Geelong, also in 1854 - a business he ran until 1862 when financial difficulty forced him to sell the business. At this time he left the district and headed north with his family to Queensland. In 2010, a book detailing his life was written by Peter Croker titled Bauer's road to Bloomfield: the trials and triumphs of a 19th century entrepreneur.
Original sketch drawn by Eugene von Guerard, April, 1854 over looking the Barwon
Valley below Herne Hill

Mr Lewin's Hut on the Barwon River, Eugene von Guerard, 1860
Slightly below von Guerard's view, Barwon Valley, 20th July, 2016
Today, 'Fritzwilhelmberg' still stands as one of Geelong's historic homesteads. Over the years however, it has undergone substantial renovation and had several name changes. In 1881, it was extensively modified according to the design of local architect Joseph Watt. In addition to 'Fritzwilhelmberg', it was also known as 'Malboona', 'Atlantis Heights' and finally the name it bears today - 'Raith'. It remains privately-owned and most recently, was sold in December, 2015 for an undisclosed sum.
'Raith'. Image taken from Property Price History
It seems likely then, that von Guerard was visiting with the Bauers in April, 1854 when he made his sketch of the valley below. Indeed, the dates of various sketches he made in the area would suggest that he may have spent quite some time with them. On 4th April, he drew a view of the Barwon immediately downstream of Queen's Park then, almost three weeks later on 24th April, he penned another two sketches, one looking roughly east towards Lake Connewarre as discussed in my previous post and a second looking upriver in a westerly direction.
The view west from above Levien's farm, 24th April, 1854, Eugene von Guerard
This sketch is noted as being above Lewin's farm. Lewin - von Guerard spelt the name according to his Austrian-German pronunciation - was actually Benjamin Levien who from 1846 ran a punt across the river only a few metres downstream from where the Queen's Park Bridge now stands. In addition to the punt, in 1849 Levien also opened an inn nearby - unsurprisingly known as the Punt Inn - which he ran for several years.
The buildings in the foreground of the above sketch are described as "Lewin's farm" and probably represent Levien's house which may or may not still have been operating as an inn by 1854 (the last reference to the inn I could locate in the newspapers was in 1852).
Confusingly however, the sketch and subsequent painting called Mr Lewin's hut on the Barwon River was made at 'Fitzwilhelmberg' which is around 900m upstream from the buildings indicated as Lewin's farm in the sketch dated the 24th April. Given the later date of the painting - 1860 - had Levien perhaps taken possession of the hut upstream by that time, or was there some confusion or slip of the memory between the drawing of the two sketches in 1854 and the completion of the painting in 1860? The original sketch made from 'Raith' does not mention Levien/Lewin or give a name to the hut in the foreground, yet the painting does.
Finally, just to muddy the waters a little further, by the mid-1870s, Benjamin Levien had purchased the Bauer's former home 'Fritzwilhelmberg'. "Mr Lewin" was now the owner not just of a hut, but of a substantial house.