Basic Biographical Details

Name: Alexander Davidson
Designation: Architect
Born: 17 May 1839
Died: 2 January 1908
Bio Notes: Alexander Davidson was born 17 May 1839, the son of Samuel Davidson of 9 Rose Street, Edinburgh and later of 6 William Street, Edinburgh and of Mary Kennedy. An RSA student, he was recommended to the Trustees' Academy by Walter Carmichael. He entered on 23 June 1856 and left on 30 June in the same year. He was articled to John Henderson in whose office he met and befriended the young George Henderson, also an articled clerk. After Henderson's early death in 1862, Davidson was persuaded by Rev John Cooper, related by marriage to the Davidson family, then on a visit to Edinburgh in mid-1864, to emigrate to Australia to undertake work there for Cooper's congregation. Davidson, accompanied by his young cousin and future wife, Eugenia Cooper Davidson, departed for Australia in the autumn of the same year. (They were married the following year). Within a few months he designed a church for Cooper's Presbyterian congregation at Rokewood in Victoria. After a dispute with his congregation over the payment of his stipend, Cooper left Rokewood, though Davidson remained there, gaining the patronage of local families, in particular Scottish émigrés.

In May 1867 George Henderson arrived in Australia, presumably persuaded by his friend Davidson and by the promise of colonial work. At first he acted as an unpaid associate to Davidson, though before long both Henderson and Davidson were able to send money home to assist their respective families, a number of large commissions coming their way in late 1868 and in early 1869 and the practice moved to Geelong in Victoria. A partnership was formalised in late 1869, with Davidson receiving 2/3 of the profit and the younger partner 1/3. In early 1870 the partners won the important commission of Geelong College in Newtown and in line with stylistic developments in Britain used for the first time 'constructional polychromy'. A venture in the field of speculative building in Geelong was however not a success and a series of unfortunate episodes of losing jobs to other architects and disputes with contractors (relating to a clause written by the practice in their terms of agreement about their right to be the sole judge of quality without arbitration) caused them financial difficulties. Moreover in the early 1870s there was a short depression in the wool industry and some sources of work temporarily dried up.

The first partnership ended in December 1873 and although a new one was formalised in July 1874 with Davidson now receiving 5/9 of the profits, by this time Henderson who had lived with Davidson and his wife since his arrival in Australia found this arrangement a strain. Moreover he was becoming disillusioned with the work. Henderson largely fulfilled the role of office manager and was responsible for the costing of the jobs. It is unclear how much hand he had in design work. Only occasionally did he make site visits. In December 1875 he received an offer of work from William Hay in Edinburgh and the Davidson/Henderson partnership was terminated on less than friendly terms in April 1876, Henderson sailing home later that year.

In the later 1870s Davidson, now trading under the name Alexander Davidson & Co, ran into personal and financial difficulties. Two of his children died of diptheria and he created ill feeling in Geelong when standing for election to the Town Council in Geelong by denouncing another candidate, a rival local architect. After a short-lived association with the Melbourne architect E G Ovey, formed for the construction of a hotel in Collins Street in East Melbourne he announced that he intended to conduct offices at Temple Court in Melbourne as well as at Malop Street in Geelong. A short-lived partnership with George Raymond Johnson in 1881 in the venture to reconstruct the Geelong Exhibition Building was disastrous when he failed to win the contract. A major commission for the Colac Shire Hall commission was postponed. In July 1882 he closed the Geelonmg office and left finally for Melbourne. Between June 1885 and March 1887 he held the appointment of Architect for the Melbourne Tramway Trust. He remained in Melbourne until his death from an asthma attack on 2 January 1908. In his later years he reverted to using the Jacobean style he had used as an apprentice in John Henderson's office though he always retained a passion for Medieval sources and in particular those illustrated by Viollet-le-Duc.

Private and Business Addresses

The following private or business addresses are associated with this architect:
 AddressTypeDate fromDate toNotes
Item 1 of 10Rokewood, Victoria, AustraliaBusiness18641869 
Item 2 of 10Geelong, Victoria, AustraliaBusiness1869  
Item 3 of 10Hope Street, West Geelong, Victoria, AustraliaBusinessAfter 1877  
Item 4 of 10Brunswick, Melbourne, AustraliaPrivatec. 1881  
Item 5 of 1062, Collins Street East, Melbourne, AustraliaBusiness31 July 18821884 
Item 6 of 10O'Connor's Chambers/100, Elizabeth Street, Melbourne, AustraliaBusiness18841887 
Item 7 of 1075, Chancery Lane, Melbourne, AustraliaBusiness18881888 
Item 8 of 10117, Elizabeth Street, Melbourne, AustraliaBusiness18881893 
Item 9 of 1084, Powlett Street, Melbourne, AustraliaBusiness18941906 
Item 10 of 1011, Madden Grove, Albert Park, Albert Park, Melbourne, AustraliaPrivatec. 1908  

Employment and Training

Employers

The following individuals or organisations employed or trained this architect (click on an item to view details):
 NameDate fromDate toPositionNotes
Item 1 of 3John Henderson  Apprentice 
Item 2 of 3Davidson & HendersonLate 1869April 1876Partner 
Item 3 of 3Alexander Davidson & Co18771908Partner 

Employees or Pupils

The following individuals were employed or trained by this architect (click on an item to view details):
 NameDate fromDate toPositionNotes
Item 1 of 2George Henderson1867Late 1869Assistant 
Item 2 of 2J Hill KaysAfter 1884Before 1886Assistant 

Buildings and Designs

This architect was involved with the following buildings or structures from the date specified (click on an item to view details):
 Date startedBuilding nameTown, district or villageIslandCity or countyCountryNotes
Item 1 of 1061865Kurac-a-Ruc HomesteadRokewood VictoriaAustraliaAdditions
Item 2 of 1061865Rokewood Episcopalian ChurchRokewood VictoriaAustralia 
Item 3 of 1061865Rokewood Presbyterian ChurchRokewood VictoriaAustralia 
Item 4 of 1061866House, GalaLismore VictoriaAustralia 
Item 5 of 1061867Residence, Barunah Plains StationInverleigh VictoriaAustralia 
Item 6 of 1061867Wesleyan ChurchMortlake VictoriaAustralia 
Item 7 of 1061867WurrockRokewood VictoriaAustralia 
Item 8 of 1061868Common School, OnditOndit VictoriaAustralia 
Item 9 of 1061868Kuruc-a-Ruc, Overseer's HouseRokewood VictoriaAustralia 
Item 10 of 1061868Mechanics InstituteRokewood VictoriaAustralia 
Item 11 of 1061868Residence, Watch HillColac VictoriaAustralia 
Item 12 of 1061869Barwon ParkWinchelsea VictoriaAustralia 
Item 13 of 1061869Episcopal ChurchColac VictoriaAustralia 
Item 14 of 1061869Homestead EilyerLake Bolac VictoriaAustralia 
Item 15 of 1061869National Insurance Company BuildingGeelong VictoriaAustralia 
Item 16 of 1061869Victoria Woollen and Cloth Manfacturing CoGeelong VictoriaAustralia 
Item 17 of 1061869Wesleyan ParsonageAshby VictoriaAustralia 
Item 18 of 1061870BellevilleGeelong VictoriaAustralia 
Item 19 of 1061870Geelong College, Newtown HallGeelong VictoriaAustralia 
Item 20 of 1061870Honddu double villasGeelong VictoriaAustralia 
Item 21 of 1061870Oddfellows HallColac VictoriaAustralia 
Item 22 of 1061870Presbyterian ChurchCeres VictoriaAustralia 
Item 23 of 1061870Residence, Myer StreetGeelong VictoriaAustralia 
Item 24 of 1061870Titanga Residence and Station BuildingsLismore VictoriaAustralia 
Item 25 of 1061871Erskine ChurchCarlton VictoriaAustralia 
Item 26 of 1061871Grandstand for Geelong Racing ClubGeelong VictoriaAustralia 
Item 27 of 1061871Mooleric ResidenceMount Gellibrand VictoriaAustralia 
Item 28 of 1061871Presbyterian ManseShelford VictoriaAustralia 
Item 29 of 1061871Prsebyterian ChurchSkipton VictoriaAustralia 
Item 30 of 1061872Excell Lonargon & Co warehouseGeelong VictoriaAustralia 
Item 31 of 1061872Geelong Hospital, Lunatic WardsGeelong VictoriaAustralia 
Item 32 of 1061872Larra Homestead, stable and officesLismore VictoriaAustralia 
Item 33 of 1061872Monument to Thomas AustinGeelong VictoriaAustralia 
Item 34 of 1061872Narrepumelap HomesteadWickliffe VictoriaAustralia 
Item 35 of 1061872Presbyterian ManseLismore VictoriaAustralia 
Item 36 of 1061872Residence, Mount MercerMount Mercer VictoriaAustralia 
Item 37 of 1061872Sydney HotelGeelong VictoriaAustralia 
Item 38 of 1061873Dwelling House, Myers and Fenwick Street cornerGeelong VictoriaAustralia 
Item 39 of 1061873Eastern Cemetery, lodge and gatesGeelong VictoriaAustralia 
Item 40 of 1061873EurackMount Hesse VictoriaAustralia 
Item 41 of 1061873Geelong Infirmary and Benevolent AsylumGeelong VictoriaAustraliaArcaded verandahs
Item 42 of 1061873House, GalaLismore VictoriaAustraliaAdditions
Item 43 of 1061873Mooramong HomesteadSkipton VictoriaAustralia 
Item 44 of 1061873Residence, Cooinda Elliots HillBellarine VictoriaAustralia 
Item 45 of 1061873Residence, Newtown HillGeelong VictoriaAustralia 
Item 46 of 1061873Residence, Victoria ParadeGeelong VictoriaAustralia 
Item 47 of 1061873United Methodist Free ChurchGeelong VictoriaAustralia 
Item 48 of 1061873Yeo HomesreadColac VictoriaAustralia 
Item 49 of 1061874Barwon Woollen MillGeelong VictoriaAustralia 
Item 50 of 1061874George Street WoolstoresGeelong VictoriaAustraliaNew store
Item 51 of 1061874Glen AlvieColac VictoriaAustralia 
Item 52 of 1061874Synnot and Co Wool WarehouseGellong VictoriaAustralia 
Item 53 of 1061875Geelong Free LibraryGeelong VictoriaAustralia 
Item 54 of 1061875Victoria HotelGeelong VictoriaAustralia 
Item 55 of 1061875Wesleyan ParsonageChilwell VictoriaAustralia 
Item 56 of 1061876Fernside Villa and stablesGeelong VictoriaAustralia 
Item 57 of 1061876Homestead EilyerLake Bolac VictoriaAustraliaAdditions
Item 58 of 1061876Mountside HomesteadMount Hesse VictoriaAustralia 
Item 59 of 1061876Tuppal Station BuildingsDeniliquin VictoriaAustralia 
Item 60 of 1061876Two storey hotelSouth Geelong VictoriaAustralia 
Item 61 of 1061876Wesleyan ChurchNewtown VictoriaAustralia 
Item 62 of 1061877Barwon Woollen MillGeelong VictoriaAustraliaFurther minor work
Item 63 of 1061877Bruce ResidenceSouth Yarra VictoriaAustralia 
Item 64 of 1061877Ducker's Auction RoomsGeelong VictoriaAustralia 
Item 65 of 1061877Glendinning ResidenceGeelong VictoriaAustralia 
Item 66 of 1061877Hall's HotelBalranald VictoriaAustralia 
Item 67 of 1061877Narrepumelap HomesteadWickliffe VictoriaAustraliaOutbuildings, gates and gate lodge
Item 68 of 1061877Ondit Presbyterian ChurchOndit VictoriaAustralia 
Item 69 of 1061877Residence, La Trobe TerraceGeelong VictoriaAustralia 
Item 70 of 1061877Roebuck ResidenceGeelong VictoriaAustralia 
Item 71 of 1061877Wickliffe Presbyterian ChurchWickliffe VictoriaAustraliaTower and other works
Item 72 of 1061878Bush InnGeelong VictoriaAustralia 
Item 73 of 1061878Clarke's StoresGeelong VictoriaAustralia 
Item 74 of 1061878Colac Shire HallColac VictoriaAustraliaUnexecuted designs
Item 75 of 1061878Eastern Cemetery, Dr Geddie's MonumentEast Geelong VictoriaAustralia 
Item 76 of 1061878Hotel, Collins Street  MelbourneAustralia 
Item 77 of 1061878New buildings, Moorbool StreetGeelong VictoriaAustralia 
Item 78 of 1061878ResidenceAscot Vale VictoriaAustralia 
Item 79 of 1061878Shire HallMeredith VictoriaAustralia 
Item 80 of 1061879Convent of MercyGeelong VictoriaAustraliaNew wing
Item 81 of 1061879Grand Pacific HatelLorne VictoriaAustralia 
Item 82 of 1061879New buildings, LorneLorne VictoriaAustralia 
Item 83 of 1061879Robinson and Cullen's SaleyardsGeelong VictoriaAustralia 
Item 84 of 1061880Avalon Homestead, North ShoreGeelong VictoriaAustralia 
Item 85 of 1061880CottageAppollo Bay VictoriaAustralia 
Item 86 of 1061880CottageSouth Geelong VictoriaAustralia 
Item 87 of 1061880Double villa, Western BeachGeelong VictoriaAustralia 
Item 88 of 1061880New residence, Western BeachGeelong VictoriaAustralia 
Item 89 of 1061880Pirra HomesteadLara VictoriaAustralia 
Item 90 of 1061880St Paul's Sunday SchoolGeelong VictoriaAustralia 
Item 91 of 1061881Golden Age HotelGeelong VictoriaAustraliaAdditions and alterations
Item 92 of 1061881Mack's HotelGeelong VictoriaAustraliaAlterations and additions
Item 93 of 1061881RC Church, BatesfordBatesford VictoriaAustralia 
Item 94 of 1061882Cottage, MeredithMeredith VictoriaAustralia 
Item 95 of 1061882Hotel, MeredithMeredith VictoriaAustralia 
Item 96 of 1061883Werribee Presbyterian Church and ManseWerribee VictoriaAustralia 
Item 97 of 1061885Brunswick Street Engine HouseFitzroy MelbourneAustralia 
Item 98 of 1061885Werribee ClubWerribee VictoriaAustraliaAdditions
Item 99 of 1061886Johnston Street Engine HouseCollingwwod MelbourneAustralia 
Item 100 of 1061886Nicholson Street Engine HouseFitzroy MelbourneAustralia 
Item 101 of 1061887Gordon Technical SchoolGeelong VictoriaAustralia 
Item 102 of 1061887North Melbourne Engine House  MelbourneAustraliaAttribution
Item 103 of 1061888Fitts House, Saltwater RiverKensington SydneyAustralia 
Item 104 of 1061888Surbiton VillaWindsor VictoriaAustraliaAttribution
Item 105 of 1061889Mechanics InstituteSale VictoriaAustralia 
Item 106 of 1061889UrangelineHawthorn MelbourneAustralia 

References

Bibliographic References

The following books contain references to this architect:
 Author(s)DateTitlePartPublisherNotes
Item 1 of 1Willingham, Allan1983Two Scots in Victoria: the architecture of Davidson and Henderson   

Periodical References

The following periodicals contain references to this architect:
 Periodical NameDateEditionPublisherNotes
Item 1 of 1Argus25 November 1865 Melbourne 

Archive References

The following archives hold material relating to this architect:
 SourceArchive NameSource Catalogue No.Notes
Item 1 of 1Courtesy of Mark Turnbull, Clive Lucas Stapleton & Partners, SydneyInformation sent to Dictionary