By 1838 George Miller had built adjoining houses Forsyth Cottage and Avon House on William Dumaresq’s Boissier Estate in an area “unsurpassed for salubrity of air and beauty of situation”. Miller and his new wife Sarah lived in Forsyth Cottage and rented out its neighbour (comprising seven rooms and servants’ quarters, a detached kitchen, coach house and stables).
George Miller had arrived from Scotland in 1822. He worked as a clerk in the Commissariat Department before switching professions to become an “oracle in colonial banking”. He petitioned for the erection of the Scots Church in the city and was active in bodies including the Gas Light Company, the Sydney Mechanics’ Institution and the Auxiliary Bible Society. In 1854 Miller took out mortgages on his Blackwattle Bay properties. The next year he died while visiting Edinburgh, and his widow returned to Sydney. Sarah lived briefly at Avon House before moving to Manly where she died in 1884.
Lessees of Avon House included ironmonger Charles Younger, architect Henry Ginn (designer of the Garrison Church) and Kent Brewery’s Stephen Butts. Two of Alexander McArthur’s sons were born there before the family settled at Strathmore.
In 1860 Avon House was sold for £2000 to merchant Arthur Hill Coates Macafee who married into George Allen’s family. After Macafee’s death in 1878 renamed Avona was put up for auction. Now a three-storey 15-room edifice, it featured a croquet lawn, bowling green, rosarium and glasshouses where Macafee had cultivated ferns and orchids. Unsold, it was leased until 1899 when the estate was subdivided.
Like other Glebe mansions Avona became an institution. It was converted into an Anglican Rescue Home for girls. Demolished in the 1960s, the old house is recalled by Avona Street and Avon Avenue and the high-rise Avon Tower.