In 1919, as their fortune accumulated, Kodak Australasia chief managing director Thomas Baker and his wife Alice purchased an extensive seaside estate, 'Manyung', which reflected their status as wealthy industrialists.
Manyung was described by Table Talk in 1927 as standing on "a headland that commands a noble sweep of Port Phillip Bay". The property, located in Mornington, featured a magnificent mansion situated on 300 acres with ocean frontage. The residence was constructed in 1863 and was built in a 'picturesque Gothic' style, with a tall balustraded tower. It was thought to have been designed by Francis Gillett. The property was run as a farm, with livestock such as sheep.
Manyung was a second home for Thomas and Alice Baker, and Alice's sister Eleanor Shaw. They had moved out of their previous house, 'Yarra Grange', which was part of the Kodak Australasia factory site and had long been surrounded by factory buildings. They were now living in a modern apartment at the Melbourne Mansions in Collins Street, in the centre of the city of Melbourne. They planned to spend their weekends at Manyung.
The house and gardens of Manyung were well suited for the entertaining that came with being part of the social elite, as well as for hosting the business and philanthropic activities that the Bakers were involved with. There are numerous examples of the Baker's generosity in opening their home up to share it with others.
In February 1921 the Bakers entertained a group of wounded soldiers at Manyung. They provided transport for the soldiers to and from the Anzac Hostel and Caulfield Hospital. Those still convalescing in beds travelled in the back of Kodak delivery lorries, while others were driven in cars. After being served lunch the soldiers who could move around wandered through the gardens and down to the beach, and some even took in the view from Manyung's tower. Those confined to their beds were attended to by their hosts and were entertained by Mr Baker playing the £2000 electric pipe organ that he had installed at Manyung.
Thomas Baker was part of the Melbourne Rotary club, and in 1928 he became its President. In the years leading up to, and during, his presidency, he and his wife Alice hosted events at Manyung for club members. On one occasion, in November 1927, the Bakers were assisted by Alice's three sisters, Marion, Edith and Eleanor Shaw, in hosting a garden party for about 70 Rotarians.
This event was reported in the social pages of Table Talk, who noted that "Afternoon tea, ices and strawberries were served on the verandah, and in a marquee...". It was remarked that the electric organ "proved a great attraction, whether manipulated by human hands or electric power."
Thomas Baker also hosted conferences for Kodak managers from around Australia at Manyung. There were about eleven attendees in June 1921 and about 20 in June 1925, including the managing directors Mr Baker and Mr Rouse.
In 1920 the Bakers provided a section of the southern part of their property to the YMCA (Young Mens Christian Society) for a Christmas camp. This became a permanent gift in about 1926, with four acres endowed to the YMCA. The camp still operates today.
After Thomas Baker died, Alice and Eleanor drew income from the farm at Manyung until their deaths.
In 1947 Norman Myer, chairman and managing director of Myer Emporium Limited, bought Manyung. He continued the benevolence associated with the property that Baker had started, making it available to Myer staff for holidays and convalescence.
Australasian, 5 July 1919, p.41; 8 December 1928, p.12.
Australasian Photo-Review, 15 March 1921, p.152.
Argus, 13 November 1920, p.23.
Bulletin, 19 Sep 1928, p.46; 30 Nov 1922 p.28.
Heritage Victoria Database, 'Norman Lodge, VHR number H0321.
Table Talk, 24 November 1927, p.65; 27 January 1921, p.7.
Museums Victoria Collection- HT 54031.6, Income Tax Documents - Federal & State Income Tax, Miss Eleanor Shaw, 1933-1934; HT 54031.7, Income Tax Documents - Federal & State Income Tax, Miss Eleanor Shaw, 1932-1933.
University of Rochester, Kodak Historical Collection #003 - Letter from John Sutherland to Mr Speth at Eastman Kodak Company, p.1919; Letter from Thomas Baker to George Eastman 4 Sept 1928.