Over the hill and not too far away sits a beautifully haunting house in the middle of Newtown. The historic mansion has been transformed into a much-loved and well-known student flat, currently occupied by a bustling group of creatives. Megan Dieudonne and her flatmate David Tappenden have been enjoying the expansive house since early last year, while new additions Ema Richards, Thom Kelly, Jeremy Hunter and Josephine Jelicich joined the ranks in 2014.
The house — dubbed ‘The Crossroads’ by a wooden sign on the front door — is three storeys high, with seemingly countless rooms, six of which are occupied by the flatmates. In the early 1960s, the spacious house was used as a nurses’ hostel due to its close proximity to the Wellington maternity hospital. The Crossroads brings out the best in its community and was lucky enough to have a local Berhampore carpenter offer to restore the door and staircase using old recycled wood.
The first thing you notice when walking down the short path towards the house is a huge man-made amphitheatre, dug into the bank of the front yard. Although it hasn’t had much use in recent years, Megan recalls bands playing in the space at the bottom, surrounded by twinkling fairy lights. The 2013 flatmates decided to get resourceful and build a rope swing from one of the trees overhanging the bank, with mixed results, explains Megan: “It was super unsafe at parties — there were cut heads, all sorts. One girl went flying and was limping for weeks!”
The flatmates have backgrounds in fine arts, photography, textiles and music, so it is no surprise that there is always something interesting going on. The lounge area is hardly a lounge at all, as it’s used to store home-brew beer containers, drying racks, a $1 piano and amplifiers left behind from previous flat parties. Countless local bands have played in the lounge, including Thom’s psychedelic rock band, Oligocene Drowning, and Melbourne band Pales. The room is a great spot to host bands as the windows open out to face the front yard. [I can vouch for this as these guys are my next-door neighbours — Ed.]
The house has a fantastic vibe, one of the many reasons Megan wanted to move in — plus it’s in a great location for the six students, who like to ride their bikes into the city. Lucky for her, the previous flatmates were looking for another girl to join the flat, so she got the last spot! Handy to bus stops and shops, the Newtown house is also close to the Saturday markets, which provide a great opportunity for fresh and affordable local produce. Exterior renovations are gradually underway, one side of the house at a time, so there is no doubt that this historic flat will be loved by students for years to come.