Aradale Mental Hospital

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Heath St, Ararat
Ararat Rural City
Primary Nominator: Aradale Mental Hospital is a landmark in Ararat. It has played a strong role in the history of this city and is particularly important architecturally. Although similarly planned and detailed to the contemporary Beechworth and later Kew Asylums, the use of the linking bridges with an arcade on an arched gateway is unique and particularly important. The towers and the detailing of the central block are distinctive. The asylum is an important example of Italianate conservative Classical design.
Second Nominator: As an example of a very large scale government institution, for its posing yet functional architecture and comprehensive planning, for its associations with the evolving provision of mental health services from the middle of the nineteenth century.

(The Commission is in the process of developing and/or upgrading official statements for places listed prior to 1991. The above data was mainly provided by the nominator and has not yet been revised by the Commission.)
Primary Nominator: Aradale Mental Hospital (Lunatic Asylum), Ararat, comprises a large main building and associated structures erected largely between 1864-67 to the designs of the Public Works Department (PWD) of Victoria, the architects being J J Clark and others. Constructed in brick, the structures are stuccoed with slate roofs. An engaged colonnade faces the top storey of the central block, which is linked by double storey bridges to long side wings with towers.
Second Nominator: The Ararat Asylum was one of three (the others were Kew and Beechworth) built to replace the controversial Yarra Bend Lunatic Asylum. The two provincial asylums were closely modelled on the metropolitan one and represented the most recent and the most approved principles of asylum building in Europe. The Ararat Asylum included a billiard room, a library, school, a large multipurpose hall and 2,100ft of verandahs where patients could enjoy fresh air sheltered from winds. The Ararat Advertiser published a justifiably admiring description but had to admit being daunted by its sheer size: 'the result of a single visit is perfectly bewildering to one not intimately acquainted with building and architecture'. But, it added, the merest tyro could not help being surprised 'at the grasp and economy of the design, where not a foot of space is lost in a building which covers an area of five acres'.
The buildings were designed by the PWD, at the time headed by the architect, William Wardell, but G M W Vivian was the supervising architect. The contractors were O'Grady, Glynn and O'Callaghan. The grounds were landscaped in the early twentieth century by Hugh Linaker who had already laid out the grounds of Alexandra Park. In 1886 the recently closed Ararat Gaol was transferred to the administration of the Ararat Asylum. As J Ward it housed the dangerously and criminally insane.
The Ararat Asylum, now called Aradale, sites on the top of a substantial rise about two kilometres east of the centre of the city. The architecture is deliberately imposing and is in an elaborate Italianate style. It is surrounded by large grounds planted out as formal garden, farm and parkland. The main approach is from the south via a serpentine drive starting with a gatehouse in a more picturesque version of the Italianate style. Other approaches are from Grano Street to the north where there are smaller houses built for attendants after World War Two.
The main asylum building dominates the complex, with its wings and towers providing horizontal and vertical axes. There are many other buildings for various functions at the rear to the north. These include a row of residences (or former residences) in a street which runs parallel to Grano Street. Their scale is subservient to the main building.