The first houses built in the Port Phillip District were simple structures. Building materials were scarce and home builders had to rely on imported weatherboards, doors, windows and ribbed iron roof tiles. Some early settlers lived in tents or slab huts. Others, such as William Lonsdale and Governor Charles La Trobe, lived in prefabricated houses. These houses were brought to Melbourne by ship as packages of parts and assembled on arrival. Home was, by necessity of circumstances, a simple affair.
As Melbourne grew so too did the demand for different housing types. Solid houses of brick and stone were built to accommodate government employees. For those immigrants who had arrived and had nowhere immediately to live, temporary structures such as tents and wooden barrack buildings were erected. As the new suburbs of Fitzroy, Collingwood and East Melbourne were planned, land was subdivided into small housing blocks. Tiny workers cottages and rows of terrace houses were built with service lanes behind. Timber pickets, curving corrugated irone verandas, handmade bricks, and little hipped roofs were now the familiar signs of home in Victoria.
The Port Phillip District and environs were recognized as the Colony of Victoria in 1851. That same year, gold was discovered in Victoria. The houses changed dramatically. Towns such as Ballarat and Bendigo grew rapidly as miners built humble cottages or sumptuous villas according to their success. As the major ports of the state, Geelong and Melbourne expanded. There was money now to decorate one's home. Iron lace and parapets, stucco mouldings, cast iron fences and columns and formal gardens were included in the home.
Large and lavish country homesteads were built as agricultural wealth accompanied the prosperity of the gold rush. The boom years of the 1880s witnessed the grand houses of Ripponlea (1868-87), Illawarra (1888-89), and Labassa (1890). Home for some could be a grand folly, an extravagant mansion or a country seat. For others it could be a terrace house in the city or a dimple double fronted house complete with verandah and veil of iron lace.