Mona House is one of Darling Point’s oldest homes.

Now divided into five beautiful apartments, the property has played a key role in the community from its beginnings. Plus, it was once home to some very valuable art.

A home in Darling Point

In the mid-1830s, Governor Brisbane had granted a 15-acre Darling Point allotment to James Dunlop, his astronomer. But Dunlop never built on the land, instead of selling it in 1841 to Thomas Ware Smart.

Thomas Ware Smart was the son of two convicts, Ann Ware Jones and Thomas Smart, both transported from England in 1808. Born in Sydney in 1810, Smart began his working life in business, then progressed through various positions, working as an auctioneer, estate agent, banker and mill owner.

After amassing a fortune, Smart was appointed magistrate and eventually served as Colonial Treasurer and Secretary for Public Works.

The allotment he purchased from Dunlop in Darling Point looked out over the harbour and across to the growing Sydney town – the perfect setting for a stately home.

Smart wanted to build a home reflecting his rising status in Sydney. He engaged the architect John Bibb to design a Regency-style villa. Typical of the style, the façade was clean and symmetrical, with a large staircase leading to a covered verandah and shuttered windows on both floors.

Open house

Although little is known about Mona’s original interior, we know it contained a valuable art collection.

In 1861 Smart opened Mona’s picture gallery to the public. A newspaper article from the time noted that the gallery contained works from the “Venetian, Italian, Spanish, German, Dutch, Flemish and English schools of painting” and included paintings by Raphael, Rubens, Gainsborough and many others.

The article described the gallery space as a “handsome piece of masonry, 65 feet long by 25 feet wide, lighted in the proper manner by clerestory windows in the roof”.

It is believed some of Smart’s impressive collection is now housed at the Art Gallery of NSW.

The Chapel of St Mark’s

Before St Mark’s Church was completed in 1860, Smart also hosted services for the local congregation at Mona estate’s coach house, which became known as “The Chapel of St Mark’s”.

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Smart and two others – Thomas Whistler Smith and Thomas Sutcliffe Mort, who donated the land on which St Mark’s was built – were the first church wardens and became known as “the Three Toms”. In 1862 Smart donated the church bells, too. They were first heard at the wedding of his stepdaughter, Mary Anne Oliver, who was reportedly attended by 20 bridesmaids.

After the Smart family

Mona House remained the Smart family’s home until Thomas’ death in 1881. It was then leased to architect Thomas Rowe, who lived there until his own death in 1899.

In 1904 the estate was subdivided into 136 allotments, with another twelve allotments added later. These were accessed via the estate’s driveway, which became known as Mona Road. The house itself was converted into flats in 1922.

Mona House today

In 1995 Mona House was redeveloped into the five apartments we see today.

The development ensured elements from the original home – doors, windows and entranceways – remained, and the building’s exterior, meticulously maintained, appears just as it did in 1841.

Each apartment is unique in layout, with varying features and numbers of rooms. Open floor plans, high ceilings and outdoor areas give a sense of space and grandeur. The front of the property still boasts those harbour and city views, while sandstone feature walls lend warmth, texture and a tangible link with the building’s past.

Apartment for sale

Apartment 5 in Mona House, at 38 Mona Road is currently on offer, with a March 2021 auction. It offers 3 bedrooms and 2 bathrooms with house-like proportions, and a glorious outdoor area.

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