Melbourne buildings

Iconic Melbourne buildings: A dark and tawdry tale of two city townhouses

PHOTO: The Louis Vuitton building in Collins Street, now listed for $50 million, used to be the home of ‘Diamond Jim’ Beaney. Photo: Justin McManus

Dirty Dr James Beaney would love the idea that his repurposed 1886 Melbourne townhouse was currently on the market for $50 million.

The suspect surgeon, who wore diamond rings and served champagne to guests he invited to witness him carve up patients, would adore that you can buy a diamond necklace ($72,000), or a wealth-signalling trunk ($54,000) through the Louis Vuitton outlet that occupies the downstairs front room of his once-fantastic Collins Street home.

Flashy and with an equatorial girth, “Diamond Jim” Beaney lived the lavish lifestyle his practice afforded through the era when Melbourne was one of the world’s richest cities, and when London journalist Richard Twopeny noted many of the town’s leading merchants and Land Boomers lived in veritable palaces.

Many medicos resided at the desirable upper end of Collins Street. But while Dr Beaney’s three-storey corner Cromwell House was one of the biggest, he was ostracised by colleagues appalled by his self-promotion and chancy surgical methods.

They and the media mocked his distinctive hairstyle as making him appear to have horns.

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