This two roomed, 2.5 metre wide cottage was built at 130 Islington Street following a subdivision in the mid 1870s. Believed to be one of the smallest houses in Victoria, it is known locally as “the Doll’s House” because of its small size. Rate books show that it was one of the smallest in the street and attracted the lowest rates, only a fraction more than those blocks that were land only. Despite its size this tiny dwelling was a home for several families for over a century.
It was first owned by Mrs Mary Barker (occupation, home duties), for ten years or so. James Peddie, a blacksmith, bought the house in about 1886 and lived there with his wife and young daughter, Lilly May. Lilly died at the age of six only a couple of years after moving into the house, but the couple continued to live there until the early 20th century when they moved to Wellington Street. They let the house to a succession of tenants: Margaret Catlin, home duties; Sydney Andrewartha, a woodturner with two children; George Hirst, a laborer; it to the public as ‘the smallest house in Australia.’
When he died in 1984 the Council again wondered what to do with the cottage. Eventually, it was dismantled and stored for some years at the Collingwood Council Depot in Walker Street Clifton Hill while a decision was made as to its future. It was reconstructed in the Depot in 1991 and by 1995 was back in Collingwood at the corner of Cromwell Street and McCutcheon Way in the care of Collingwood College, not far from its original home.
It was cited by the National Trust in 1985 (File no. B2511) and was later registered by the Historic Buildings Council (VHR HO954), significant as the smallest extant house in Victoria.
A colored post card of the Dolls House when it was located in the grounds of Ezy Way Hire, where Mr Neylan decorated it and opened it to visitors. There are three photos: one of the exterior, with Mr Neylan standing at the picket gate and potted geraniums on the front verandah; one of the dining room, with kettles and teapots on the grate, a clock and ornaments on the man telpiece, framed pictures on the walss and china on the table; and the third showing the bedroom with a single brass bed, man’s hat on the bedpost and chamber pot below.
Shows the ‘Dolls House’ after it was moved from its original site at 130 Islington Street to the yard of Ezy Way Hire in Wellington Street. Labelled with the perhaps exaggerated claim ‘Smallest House in Australia,’ the tiny weatherboard cottage was able to be visited by the public through the generosity of owner Bob Neylan who added some furniture and artefacts of daily life to increase verisimilitude.
The Doll’s House at its original site, 130 Islington St, Collingwood 1978 – when its neighbors had been demolished.
Collingwood History Collection, ‘Doll’s House File’. Heritage Victoria www.heritage.vic.gov.au HO954. Rate Books, Collingwood, various years. Sands & McDougall, Melbourne Directories, various years.