Mary Ogilvy House was built in the early 1850s and was known as Waratah up until 1945. Lavington Roope purchased land on the northern corner of the Old Road from Hobart Town to New Norfolk (today's Pirie Street) and Cross Street in November 1851 for ₤100. Roope was a successful merchant who lived nearby at Wendover (today's 10 Wendover Place), New Town. Roope also had interests in property development and built thirteen cottages in New Town Place (later renamed Roope Street in his memory).
Phillis Seal purchased the land together with the 'Dwelling House lately erected by the said Lavington Roope' in December 1856 for ₤3,420. Phillis was the widow of the late Charles Seal. Charles was a successful merchant, shipowner and whaler who, at the time of his death in 1852, owned the largest whaling fleet in the colony. Over the following years, Phillis extended the Waratah estate by purchasing several parcels of adjoining land.
Waratah was advertised for sale at public auction in January 1864. The notice in The Mercury described: 'The beautiful and perfectly finished stone built house at New Town, known as "Waratah." This handsome residence is shaded by a broad and elegant verandah, is entered by a spacious, lofty, and well-lighted hall, and has fifteen well-proportioned and highly-finished modern apartments, exclusive of kitchen, scullery, and wash-house, with copper, butler's pantry, two store rooms, dairy, &c. The music room, and breakfast parlour (when required), form a handsome room, 35ft x 45ft in length, and the room above it is of the same dimensions. … Considered in arrangement, architectural design, solidity of structure, and mechanical skill, unsurpassed. … The situation of New Town has always been considered amongst the most beautiful in Australia. Waratah enjoys a wide expanse of its choicest views, and to any one desirous of possessing a really complete and elegant modern property, it offers an unusually favourable opportunity.'
Waratah was purchased by Alexander Kissock, Member of the Legislative Council and Captain of the City Guards. Alexander only lived there briefly before his death in May 1866 but his wife, Maria, lived there until 1872. Patrick Irvine, a retired Judge from the Madras Civil Service, was the next owner of the property. Irvine had been attracted to Tasmania by its 'salubrious climate' and he lived at Waratah with his two sisters, two nieces and a nephew. After Patrick died in June 1876, Waratah was advertised for sale and was subsequently bought by Alexander Irvine, Major-General in Her Majesty's Army. Alexander moved to Dunedin, New Zealand in 1883.
William J G Bedford purchased Waratah in November 1883. Bedford only lived there for a few years before leaving for Britain in 1887 where he went on to become a Surgeon Major in the Army. Dr Bedford continued to own Waratah and rented it out to various tenants until his death in the early 1900s. Bedford's executors subdivided the Waratah estate and sold it at auction in December 1906. Waratah was purchased by Samuel P Crisp, a solicitor. May Blanche Hopkins purchased Waratah from the Crisp family in December 1913 and Clara Ogilvy subsequently purchased it from her in April 1919. When Clara died in 1934 the property passed to her brother, Kenneth Ogilvy, who had been a Captain in the Boer War. When Kenneth died in 1943, Waratah passed to his sister, Mary Ogilvy. Mary died in June 1945.
Waratah was subsequently renamed Mary Ogilvy House and the Mary Ogilvy Home Society was created to care for frail aged ladies who did not have a family network capable of caring for them. Mary Ogilvy House still provides accommodation for the elderly.
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