Originally a four room cottage, it is not known when the oldest parts of the house were first built. However there is some evidence which suggests that a house may have existed on the site before 1854. Records do reveal that by 1854 the land was occupied by a four - roomed cottage with detached iron outbuildings, known as "St Leonards Cottage". It was located on a new subdivision of the Wollstonecraft estate, a large area of land granted to Edward Wollstonecraft in 1825, extending from what is now the suburb of St. Leonards to the harbour foreshores.
From 1854 until the early 20th century the house underwent many extensions and renovations. The iron buildings were incorporated into the house and later removed. An iron roof was placed over the timber shingles. Rooms were added on either side of the older four roomed cottage. The cottage was transformed through these changes into a substantial house and by the turn of the 20th century it had acquired a form similar to the one it has today.
The name of the house also changed over time from St. Leonards to Don Bank. It appears this change took place sometime around the turn of the 20th century for reasons which still remain unclear today but may relate to the White family's time of ownership.
The changing styles and fabrics of the house are illustrated in the permanent display panel in the Don Bank room. In other parts of the house, particularly the two rear bedrooms and the hallway, they are evidenced by the original floors, fabric on the walls and the ceilings, the timber slab construction of the walls and by interior fittings such as windows and fireplaces.
The colour scheme for the drawing, dining room, kitchen and hallway has been designed on paint scrapes and interpretation returning Don Bank to the transitional period between late Victorian and early Edwardian. Different colours for the drawing and dining rooms were chosen to demonstrate a time when these rooms had distinct uses. The drawing room, as the entrance to the house, is a warm Allendale Brown and represents a softer informal feminine approach whilst the dining room, finished in Apple Green, is the stronger, more formal colour. The light fittings throughout were chosen to match the rooms they illuminate. In the drawing and dining rooms the lights are replicas of gaslight fittings. During the process of electrification of lighting in the early 1920s many homes economised and used their gas fittings to house the new electric light. The lower level of light from these pendants reflect the way homes used to he lit as opposed to our brighter approach today. In the hallway, paint scrape evidence revealed the original colour on the walls and the colour is based on this evidence. The kitchen features traditional colours complete with a dado line and lime wash around the old fuel stove.
Only a few of the original plantings survive today. The most outstanding feature is the fine magnolia grandiflora which dominates the garden directly in front of the house. Due to the surrounding large-scale developments the garden is constantly under pressure, but with careful tending and plant selection we have maintained it as a Victorian-style garden. The grounds are open daily from 7:00am to 7:00pm and used regularly as a place of rest and relaxation in an otherwise busy and crowded central business district.
Captain Benjamin Jenkins
Captain Jenkins bought the house after he retired from sea life in the 1870s. For a short time he lived in the house with his wife; but after her death he shared the house with his niece, Ethel, and her husband, Albert Lester, a dentist. Following his retirement from the sea, Jenkins worked as a marine surveyor and became a Mayor of the Borough of St. Leonards between 1886 and 1889.
Robert Thomson came to live in the house with his wife Mary in the late 1850s. He was prominent in the establishment of the insurance industry in Australia and was instrumental in the drawing up of the A.M.P. Act. Their first child, Anna, was born in the house.
Without historical evidence it is difficult to piece more together about the lives of the people who lived at Don Bank. It is apparent that most of the men who lived there were either professionals, public servants or businessmen. The women residents were listed as domestics or housewives and much less is known about their working lives except for their domestic chores and responsibilities.
Volunteers assist with guiding and other tasks associated with the management and promotion of Don Bank and its activities. If you are interested in becoming a volunteer please contact the Historical Services Department at Stanton Library.
Monday: 1:00 - 4:00pm
Wednesday: 1:00 - 4:00pm
Other Times: By Appointment (Phone Stanton Library 9936 8400)
The garden is open 7 days a week from 7:00am - 7:00pm.
Appointments outside these hours can be made for group tours and class visits.
Minimal fee and concession prices available.
DON BANK AS A FUNCTION VENUE
Don Bank and its garden setting is an ideal venue for group meetings and special functions such as wedding ceremonies and receptions, book launches, small seminars and cocktail parties. For function hire charges and further enquiries please contact the Historical Services Department at Stanton Library.
DON BANK MUSEUM
6 Napier Street
North Sydney NSW 2060
Telephone: 02 9955 6279
HISTORICAL SERVICES DEPARTMENT
234 Miller Street
North Sydney NSW 2060
Telephone: 02 9936 8400