Exhibition explores life John Harry Grainger, designer of Princes Bridge and Georges Building
According to architectural historian Professor Philip Goad, who recently launched the exhibition, Life Under a Shadow: John Harry Grainger, Architect and Engineer, the senior Grainger though regarded in the past as the “syphilitic, alcoholic and estranged father of Percy and husband of Rose has, in recent years, been given due recognition as a gifted and skillful designer”.
Curator of Exhibitions and Public Programs at the Grainger Museum Brian Allison said John Harry Grainger’s legacy went well beyond his notoriety as the absent father.
“As an architect and engineer, JH Grainger was responsible for the creation of some great Australian buildings, including the iconic Princes Bridge over the Yarra River, which he designed as a very young man, demonstrating skills one would expect in a much more established designer.”
JH Grainger also designed the gracious Georges Building in Collins Street and the ingenious swinging bridge near Sale, which created a road over the La Trobe River which could be swung with a pulley to open passage up or down river.
“For a relatively short career, John Harry Grainger was prolific,” Mr Allison said. “He designed buildings in every state in Australia as well as Colombo in Sri Lanka and Auckland in New Zealand”.
He was also employed as senior architect in the Western Australian Public Works Department, signing off on the designs of numerous public buildings and conceiving the elegant ballroom at Government House in Perth.
JH Grainger died a pauper, crippled with arthritis, and is buried in an unmarked grave in the Box Hill Cemetery, an ignominious end for someone who contributed much to his city’s built environment.
Other buildings designed by JH Grainger include: New Masonic Hall, Collins Street; Masonic Hall Company building, Lonsdale Street; St Michael’s Catholic Church, North Melbourne; State Savings Bank and Collins House (both now demolished); the Northern wing of the Melbourne Town Hall; and an extension to Nellie Melba’s house Coombe Cottage at Coldstream.
For more information, http://www.grainger.unimelb.edu.au/.