Villa Alba Museum

The House - History and Preservation

The house and the original grounds of about 1/3 hectare (over ¾ acre) was originally placed in trust for Anna Maria McEvoy by her family on her marriage to William Greenlaw in 1862.

About 1882 the Greenlaw family apparently demolished the existing single-storey house whose name had changed from Studley Villa to Villa Alba in 1870. This resulted in the two-storey Italianate mansion we see today. The house was elaborately decorated by Paterson Brothers, who introduced realistic and illusionistic elements into their work which included grand scale murals. To complement the decoration the house brimmed with the latest Aesthetic and Artistic furnishings and luxurious bric-a-brac.

William Greenlaw, the General Manager of the Colonial Bank of Australasia from 1877 to 1892, was hit in the crash of the 1890s and declared insolvent in 1893. As Villa Alba was not in his name, the family’s occupation of the property was not initially affected by their reduced circumstances. Following her husband’s death in 1895 Mrs. Greenlaw sold the contents of the house in a two-day sale in 1897 and leased the house until her death in 1918, when it became the property of Samuel Fripp. In 1950 Villa Alba was purchased by the Royal Women’s Hospital. It was initially used as a home for nurses and much of the major interior decoration was over-painted. By the mid-1950s the Henry Pride Wing of the Women’s post-natal hospital for mothers and babies gradually covered the site.