Lola Russell and George Dixon got a happy outcome for their nightmare of losing their home when a development company offered to fully restore their hundred-year-old house.
Lola and George’s problem started last month when the City of Melbourne demanded that they prevent their historic home from falling down into LaTrobe St.
The couple, both in their 90s, live in Russell’s Old Corner Shop – one of Melbourne’s oldest structures – on the corner of King and LaTrobe streets.
Lola’s grandmother, Valetta Azzopardi, bought the property in 1899. She moved there when she was one month old and had been there ever since.
In late June Lola and George received a building order from the City of Melbourne, which was followed a day or so later with an emergency order – resulting in the bracing of their northern wall and the unfortunate removal of a west-bound lane of traffic in LaTrobe St.
But being without the financial or administrative capacity to respond and the state’s heritage organisations refusing to help, Lola and George threw themselves on the mercy of the council.
On July 4, George addressed the council’s Future Melbourne Committee (FMC).
“The subject is survival,” he said. “We’ve been in this old place for a long, long time. She (Lola) and her forebears handed out largesse to the travellers, the gold seekers, who stopped there on their way to the gold fields.”
“We’ve kept the little place there – the shop and the dwelling – and plan to do so for as long as we live.”
“The point of my little oration is that we need help of some sort. I’m unwilling to put my hand out,” he said.
Lord Mayor Robert Doyle responded: “Rest assured, without promising that we can provide that financial assistance, we are very sympathetic to your needs.”
“We know you are not putting your hand out to us but we know also that you have limited means to do the works that may be required to make good use of our historic structures.”
George’s little speech attracted the attention of the daily press reporters covering the council meeting and resulted in stories in both the Herald Sun and The Age.
On July 25, a large development company confirmed they would fund the full restoration of Russell’s Old Corner Shop.
It also led to sympathetic interest from television personality Shaynna Blaze, who immediately started a crowd-funding page and later offered to restore the interior of the house.