Set on five acres sloping down to Blackwattle Bay and directly opposite Toxteth Park, Strathmore was built in 1857 for Alexander McArthur, a gold exporter and woollen goods importer and sonin- law of Wesleyan minister William Binnington Boyce. Four of the ten children of Maria and Alexander McArthur were born at Strathmore.
After the McArthurs moved to London in 1863 Strathmore became the Sydney home of William Butler Tooth, a nephew of the founder of Kent Brewery. Coowner of a Darling Downs sheep station, he invited potential buyers into Strathmore to inspect samples of its fine wool. Tooth aped the manners of an English squire, and when he died his widow and nine surviving children were left with huge debts.
By 1869 George Wigram and Marian Allen had moved from nearby Lynwood to Strathmore. Their two youngest sons were born in the house which in 1880 was draped in flags to welcome 300 guests for their daughter Adeline’s wedding reception. Wigram Allen had the money to add a third storey to Strathmore as he did to Toxteth Park.
Journalist and parliamentarian Andrew Garran and his suffragist wife Mary bought Strathmore which until the depressed 1890s doubled as a girls’ boarding school run by their five daughters. Wesleyan teetotaller Garran played awkward host at Strathmore to heavy-drinking Robert Louis Stevenson on one of his trips to Australia.
Expensive to maintain by 1892, the estate was rented out as a women’s college before being subdivided and put up for auction in 1894. In 1899 the house was finally bought, with neighbouring Avona, by the Church of England and subsequently used to accommodate unmarried mothers, homeless families living on the dole, and boys in trouble with Child Welfare authorities.
Strathmore finally succumbed to the demolisher’s hammer. A Malabar congregation arranged for the stone to be recycled for a new church, but it was delivered by the contractor as useless rubble.