Russell’s Old Corner Shop: Melbourne’s oldest home sells for first time in 100+ years

City Spruce Up

Russell’s Old Corner Shop, Melbourne’s oldest home, sold at auction on Thursday.

Melbourne’s oldest home has changed hands for the first time in 120 years.

Built in about 1850, when modern Melbourne was just 15 years old, the 328-330 King St property is thought to be the city’s longest-standing building.

A former merchandise store for those heading to the goldfields, the 130sq m corner holding in the heart of the city sold for $1.875m at auction on Thursday.

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Lola Russell and husband George Dixon outside their historic home surrounded by Melbourne’s modern CBD. Picture: David Caird

The pair operated a cafe downstairs, known as Russell’s Old Corner Shop.

It had originally been advertised for $2.9m, before being revised to $1.17m-plus during its campaign.

About 40 people turned out to the on-street auction, despite rain, with two main bidders going bid for bid for the historic property, known as Russell’s Old Corner Shop.

Allard Shelton director and auctioneer Joseph Walton said the building, which had been home to Lola Russell and her late husband George Dixon for the better part of the past century, “represented so much” of Melbourne’s history.

Ms Russell, now aged 99 and in an aged-care facility, was born at the property and lived there for most of her life before her husband died in 2017.

The pair, who were both actors, made a home in the original living quarters above and operated a cafe downstairs where they were known to put on a show.

But due to her age and health, and the declining state of the building, Ms Russell’s family put the heritage-listed property up for sale.

The buyer, Melbourne-based private investor Yan Qiu, intends to restore the property to its former glory.

Oldest residence in the CBD, corner of King and La Trobe streets. LaTrobe St. City. House. Lola Russell and husband George Dixon have a cuppa tea under the curious eye of a cyclist on King street.

The couple were known to put on a show for customers.

Ms Russell lived at the property for most of her life.

The property has changed hands for the first time in more than 100 years.

Spokesperson Tony Tai, from real estate firm TT Global, said his buyer “appreciates the location of the property and also heritage significance”.

When asked whether Mr Qiu owned the property next door, Mr Tai said he “could not disclose” that information.

But he added that they were “very excited” about purchasing the prized piece of city real estate.

“There’s only so many CBD corners that you can buy in the City of Melbourne,” he said.

Helen Dixon, Ms Russell and Mr Dixon’s niece, said she had “lots of lovely memories” of the property.

“George and Lola were real creative spirits, they were both actors and teachers and performed plays in the shop and cafe and hold theatrical soirees even when they were quite elderly. They were real characters and I have fond memories of the building when it was very much alive,” she said.

Oldest residence in the CBD, corner of King and La Trobe streets. LaTrobe St. City. House. Lola Russell and husband George Dixon look out of their upstairs window onto King street traffic and the city buildings growing around them.

George and Lola looking out the window of their long-term home.

City Spruce Up

The property will need to undergo an extensive restoration.

Friend Debra Van Ommen, who helped the elderly couple campaign to restore the deteriorating property, said she “just really wanted the building to be kept and restored so that future generations could” enjoy it.

Mr Walton added that the theatrics of the campaign, which was riddled by Victoria’s lockdowns, were “true to form”.

“Given the colourful and wonderful character that Lola is, it’s been filled with the theatre it deserved,” Mr Walton said.

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