Coolart Wetlands & Homestead has been a working farm, a grand coastal retreat for Melbourne society families and, since the 1970s, a heritage estate for the public to enjoy.
The Homestead was constructed late in the 19th century. The earliest Homestead photographs are from 1896, when it was commissioned by the Grimwade family for whom Coolart was a country estate and stud farm.
Coolart was declared a Sanctuary for Native Game through an Act of Parliament in 1937. The owner at that time, Tom Luxton, had a great interest in birdlife; his passion and foresight meant the wetlands were preserved. Today they provide a home for many species of birds and much pleasure for bird watchers.
In 1977, the Luxton family sold part of the Coolart estate to the Victorian Government, who purchased the 87 acres that comprise Coolart today.
Families of Coolart
To visit Coolart is to enter the world of yesteryear. The story of the families of Coolart has been lovingly preserved in pictures, portraits and memorabilia dotted throughout rooms in the Homestead.
Amateur historians can enjoy the stories of two of the more significant owners, the Grimwade family and the Luxton family, both left a lasting imprint of their time at Coolart. Despite its grand appearance, Coolart was clearly a much-treasured home to these families and the people who lived with them, supporting and running the estate and farm lands.
The Grimwade Family
Frederick Sheppard Grimwade purchased 2000 acres of land in 1895, as a stud farm for cattle. He commissioned the building of the Victorian mansion that is the homestead in 1896. The Grimwade family used Coolart as a holiday destination, often arriving by boat, and these photos are a testament to their days at Coolart. They give us a glimpse of the life of this family. Coolart was sold to grazier Thomas Shaw Armstrong in 1907.
The Luxton Family
Thomas Luxton purchased the Coolart estate from John Feehan in 1937 and the Luxton family occupied Coolart until 1977, the longest period of single ownership for the estate. The Luxtons, owners of the hardware chain – McEwan’s, made significant improvements to the grounds and land at Coolart. The most notable and far-sighted initiative was to lobby for Coolart to be declared a nature reserve through an Act of Parliament in 1938.
As a family, the Luxtons had a happy and adventurous life at Coolart, the launching place for long-distance road trips in the 1940s, and long-distance flights, from the private airstrip that was built by Peter Luxton, Tom’s son, in the 1960s. The family sold Coolart to the Victorian Government in 1977. The government retained eighty seven acres in public ownership, the remainder of the estate’s farmlands were sold to private owners.