Basic Biographical Details

Name: Alexander Davidson & Co
Designation: Architectural practice
Started: 1877
Ended: 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. 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 architectural practice:
 AddressTypeDate fromDate toNotes
Item 1 of 6Liverpool London and Globe Insurance Office, Geelong, Victoria, AustraliaBusiness31 July 1882  
Item 2 of 662, Collins Street East, Melbourne, AustraliaBusiness31 July 18821884 
Item 3 of 6O'Connor Chambers/100, Elizabeth Street, Melbourne, AustraliaBusiness18841887 
Item 4 of 675, Chancery Lane, Melbourne, AustraliaBusiness18881888 
Item 5 of 6117, Elizabeth Street, Melbourne, AustraliaBusiness18881893 
Item 6 of 684, Powlett Street, Melbourne, AustraliaPrivate/business18941906 

Employment and Training

Employees or Pupils

The following individuals were employed or trained by this architectural practice (click on an item to view details):
 NameDate fromDate toPositionNotes
Item 1 of 1Alexander Davidson18771908Partner 

Buildings and Designs

This architectural practice 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 391877Ducker's Auction RoomsGeelong VictoriaAustralia 
Item 2 of 391877Ondit Presbyterian ChurchOndit VictoriaAustralia 
Item 3 of 391877Roebuck ResidenceGeelong VictoriaAustralia 
Item 4 of 391877Wickliffe Presbyterian ChurchWickliffe VictoriaAustraliaTower and other works
Item 5 of 391878Bush InnGeelong VictoriaAustralia 
Item 6 of 391878Clarke's StoresGeelong VictoriaAustralia 
Item 7 of 391878Colac Shire HallColac VictoriaAustraliaUnexecuted designs
Item 8 of 391878Eastern Cemetery, Dr Geddie's MonumentEast Geelong VictoriaAustralia 
Item 9 of 391878Hotel, Collins Street  MelbourneAustraliaIn conjunction with E G Ovey
Item 10 of 391878New buildings, Moorbool StreetGeelong VictoriaAustralia 
Item 11 of 391878ResidenceAscot Vale VictoriaAustralia 
Item 12 of 391878Shire HallMeredith VictoriaAustralia 
Item 13 of 391879Convent of MercyGeelong VictoriaAustraliaNew wing
Item 14 of 391879Grand Pacific HatelLorne VictoriaAustralia 
Item 15 of 391879New buildings, LorneLorne VictoriaAustralia 
Item 16 of 391879Robinson and Cullen's SaleyardsGeelong VictoriaAustralia 
Item 17 of 391880Avalon Homestead, North ShoreGeelong VictoriaAustralia 
Item 18 of 391880CottageAppollo Bay VictoriaAustralia 
Item 19 of 391880CottageSouth Geelong VictoriaAustralia 
Item 20 of 391880Double villa, Western BeachGeelong VictoriaAustralia 
Item 21 of 391880New residence, Western BeachGeelong VictoriaAustralia 
Item 22 of 391880Pirra HomesteadLara VictoriaAustralia 
Item 23 of 391880St Paul's Sunday SchoolGeelong VictoriaAustralia 
Item 24 of 391881Golden Age HotelGeelong VictoriaAustraliaAdditions and alterations
Item 25 of 391881Mack's HotelGeelong VictoriaAustraliaAlterations and additions
Item 26 of 391881RC Church, BatesfordBatesford VictoriaAustralia 
Item 27 of 391882Cottage, MeredithMeredith VictoriaAustralia 
Item 28 of 391882Hotel, MeredithMeredith VictoriaAustralia 
Item 29 of 391883Werribee Presbyterian Church and ManseWerribee VictoriaAustralia 
Item 30 of 391885Brunswick Street Engine HouseFitzroy MelbourneAustralia 
Item 31 of 391885Werribee ClubWerribee VictoriaAustraliaAdditions
Item 32 of 391886Johnston Street Engine HouseCollingwwod MelbourneAustralia 
Item 33 of 391886Nicholson Street Engine HouseFitzroy MelbourneAustralia 
Item 34 of 391887Gordon Technical SchoolGeelong VictoriaAustralia 
Item 35 of 391887North Melbourne Engine House  MelbourneAustraliaAttribution
Item 36 of 391888Fitts House, Saltwater RiverKensington SydneyAustralia 
Item 37 of 391888Surbiton VillaWindsor VictoriaAustraliaAttribution
Item 38 of 391889Mechanics InstituteSale VictoriaAustralia 
Item 39 of 391889UrangelineHawthorn MelbourneAustralia 

References

Bibliographic References

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