Much has been written about the homes Melba leased, owned and stayed in as she travelled throughout Europe, America and Australia.
Often her accommodation was a hotel suite taken for the season or the home of friend.
This section will trace and list the places she called home in the hope of answering some of the numerous inquiries made each year about houses the famous diva was supposed to have lived.
If you have information about her homes, please contact us and if verified, we will add it to the list.
Melba House, Marian, Queensland
(Courtesy Melba House, Marian Queensland)
House was built in 1882/83 as the residence for the manager of the
first Marian Plantation Sugar Mill, Mr Charles Armstrong who married
Helen (Nellie) Porter Mitchell, the daughter of Mr David Mitchell.
Mr Mitchell was contracted to build the Marian Plantation Mill and arrived in early 1882 with his daughters Nellie and Annie.
Armstrong and Nellie Mitchell married in Brisbane on December 22, 1882
and moved into the house in April 1883. There is some doubt about Mr
Armstrong’s position with the mill, since Nellie, in her memoirs, refers
to him as manager of the mill plantation, yet the mill records the
house as being the mill manager’s residence. Their son (and only child)
George was born on October 16, 1883. Nellie separated from Charles in
February 1884, taking her son with her back to her father’s home in
Richmond, Victoria, ending her connection with the Mackay district.
Charles followed Nellie to Victoria three months later.
1886, David Mitchell was appointed Commissioner for Victoria to the
Indian and Colonial Exhibition in London. He was accompanied by
daughters Annie and Bella as well as Nellie, Charles and George. After
being unsuccessful at finding singing engagements in London, Nellie
convinced her father to advance her the money to allow her to study with
Mathilde Marchesi in Paris for 12 months. Before the twelve months was
up, Nellie Melba was being acclaimed all over Europe.
was originally erected on a site in the Mill grounds. In a letter
written in 1964 by Mr A.J. Coyne M.B.E., chairman of the Marian Mill
Company, he notes that the house was moved to the western side of the
mill property to become the chief engineer’s home, and a new Mill
Manager’s residence built on the original site. Some confusion was
caused by a concrete slab with the word “Melba” picked out in white
stones, which was left at the original site after the house was moved.
its life as a mill residence, the building was altered both internally
and externally, although the pitch of the roof remains as it originally
Community saves house
In 1994, the group of
mill houses including Melba House was put up for sale and removal to
make way for expansion of the mill. As the house did not sell, and would
have been demolished, community members, concerned that an important
part of Marian’s heritage would be lost forever, requested Mirani Shire
Council acquire the house, move it to Edward Lloyd Park (approximately
2.5km east of the original site) and restore it.
aspect of the house was returned as near as practicable to how it
looked in 1883. Whilst some photographs exist showing the house in the
early 1900’s, we have no sure record of its appearance when built. There
are a number of houses in the Mackay district which appear to have been
built to the same design. In order to restore the building to usable
condition, some compromises had to be made on the interior, to repair
damage resulting from the house being left unoccupied for some time
before it was relocated.
In 2000, Mirani Shire Council granted a
lease on the house to Pioneer Valley Tourism and Development Association
Inc. to operate the house as a Melba memorabilia display, visitor
information centre and craft shop. Following the council amalgamations
in 2008, Mackay Regional Council renewed the lease and are major
sponsors of Melba House.
Melba House, Marian, near Mackay, Queensland.
For more information about Melba house go to Melba House Facebook.