This site is dedicated to the life and work of Edwin Hubert Henderson, architect (1885-1939). Henderson was Chief Architect of the Commonwealth of Australia from 1929-1939.
Yarralumla House is renowned as the residence of the Governor-General of Australia. A homestead, “Yarralumla House”, was purchased by the Commonwealth in 1911 to serve as Government House.
It was remodelled in 1927 by John Smith Murdoch for the Federal Capital Commission.
In 1938, Henderson undertook a major extension to the building. The additions were in the stripped classical style, including a large ballroom and long dining room, each with semi-circular end walls. An entrance porte-cochere was added.
The plans were amended to accommodate the needs of the Duke of Kent who accepted appointment as Governor-General in 1939. The Duke had young children and intended to bring a large staff. A proposed smoking room became a private dining room and the roof was covered in tiles rather than iron. With the prospect of war, the ballroom could not be afforded and instead the drawing room was expanded to provide space for public receptions. The Duke did not take up his appointment due to the outbreak of war, and he died in an air crash in 1942.
Ken Charlton praises Henderson’s extensions:
“The strong massing of Henderson’s elegant design, completed in 1939, attempted to balance and draw attention from the homestead’s bulky 1891 three-story wing. The proportions of the two-story additions, and the rhythm of their fenestration exude an impressive air of dignity. The interiors of the dining and reception rooms are equally appropriate for their vice-regal purpose” (2001:21).
This is, indeed, a hallmark of Henderson’s work.
Not everyone is an admirer. David Marr, the acerbic journalist, noted that the extensions made Government House “which by deft renovation had been made to look like a branch of the Commonwealth bank set incongruously in a splendid garden” (1980:140). As if this was a bad thing!