View historic press clippings
The Life and Times of Blue Waters
The story of Blue Waters is a story of love, and war, and great dedication to a dream.
It began before the Second World War, when a young Mabel , and her then boyfriend Keith Perron, were inspired by the illustration of a striking Florida art deco house design in “Pix” Magazine.
Mabel marked up the Florida design with some of her own adaptations, framed it, and would proudly share with visitors that this picture on the wall would be the home for she and Keith one day.
Sadly, the Second World War was to intervene – and so construction of the thirties design of Blue Waters was delayed until 1954. Keith’s contracting business was going very well - but even for a tremendously successful family such as the Perrons, building materials where strictly rationed. And the design for Blue Waters called for a much greater quantity of brickwork and glass than the quotas allowed.
The solution for the determined was to have your own brickworks – and so it was that Keith used his own brickyard to supply the materials which allowed Blue Waters to be built.
The design was by K D’alton – with the architect’s original water colour perspective prior to the construction shown below, (kindly provided by the Perron family in 2009). This design still remains contemporary today. Technical challenges such as the huge curved glass windows on the frontage could not be met in Australia – with the windows and window frames shipped complete from the UK. For the builder, it would be his proudest work, which he would refer to throughout his life (as his daughter told me recently).
For 1950s Perth – Blue Waters was a sensation. Tour buses would regularly pull up in front of the house, standing proud on top of the hill with panoramic views over the Swan River (hence the name Blue Waters) to Kings Park, to the city and extending back around to the hills. It was the talk of the town, featured heavily in the press of the day, and formed a social hub for Perth Society.
The Perrons hosted fabulous parties at Blue Waters, including many charity functions for causes such as the Royal Society for the Blind. Also entertaining on their 50 foot launch “Midstream”, the Perrons where a prominent family in Perth society, with Keith’s brother Stan continuing on to become one of the State’s first billionaires and a noted philanthropist.
The impact of the house extended beyond WA, with Blue Waters included in national reference books on Australian architecture, “ A Pictorial Guide to Identifying Australian Architecture – Styles and Terms from 1788 to the present” for its striking sculptural interwar design features. Design features noted include asymmetric massing, simple geometric shapes, long horizontal balcony, “ribbon” windows, roof concealed by parapet, cantilevered balconies and hoods, semicircular wing, rounded corners, metal framed windows, and the very distinctive curved glass windows – shipped all the way from the UK! Together with the famous “Burnham Beeches” in Victoria, built at a cost exceeding $20 million in today’s terms, “Blue Waters” was the only private residence in Australia chosen to illustrate this style – and its outstanding architectural merit has been noted in several other publications since, notably “Looking Around Perth – A Guide to the Architecture of Perth”by Ian Molyneux and the Royal Australian Institute of Architects. A hand dug swimming pool added in 1956 together with a full size billiard room added to the entertaining possibilities, as shown in the photo album.
The Perron family had happy years at Blue Waters, with the boys and daughter Judith growing up here in and around the pool in summer. Their cousin Marshall Perron, later famous as Chief Minister for the Northern Territory, also lived here for a time.
The Perron boys certainly had a sense of adventure, as shown from the picture below, a crocodile featured on the front page of The West Australian. The Perron lads had brought two baby crocodiles down on the flight from Darwin in a shoe box, as pets. A small pond was set up for the crocs in the back yard, and all was well for a time. As they grew, however, the reptiles became more inquisitive – and ventured down the back laneway and beyond. It took quite a search to locate one of them, which was them duly donated to the Perth Zoo, where it probably remains to this day. Rumours of a second crocodile, living in the lake at a local park, continued for some time...
Judith grew to become a young beauty, commencing modelling in her late teens. Her mother admitted to being somewhat surprised when she saw the pictures in the newspaper of her daughter modelling on a US Aircraft carrier, in one of her first assignments! Some pictures of Judith modelling fashions of the fifties at Blue Waters are shown below:
Judith was courted by Murray Stannard, a dashing young man with a passion for speed – he was to become the Australasian speed boat champion. His reputation was such that he was contacted by the team organising Donald Campbell’s Australian world speed record attempts in the 1960s, so Donald could have the advantage of Murray’s local knowledge during the water speed trials on Lake Dumbleyung. The pictures below show Stannard’s boat during the trials at the lake with Bluebird on the trailer. Following many trials and tribulations, Campbell’s Australian efforts were ultimately rewarded in fine style, capturing both land and water speed records with the same year.
Pictures of Judith’s wedding day show the distinctive furniture custom made for Blue Waters:
Subsequently Blue Waters was sold to the Lillingston family - very keen sailors at Royal Perth Yacht Club who cherished the elevated position at Blue Waters, which allowed the progress of the racing fleet to be determined from the upstairs lounge room. Eric Lillingston famously brought the superyacht “Yeulba” to Western Australia, as shown in the press articles, following its ownership by Australia’s Governor General and the Victorian Governor. Likened by some to the “Phar Lap” of Australian yachting, “Yeulba” competed on the river and in the major ocean events such as the Naturaliste race with considerable success, with crew including none other than John Longley, project manager and crew member for Australia II, winner of the America’s Cup. Subsequently Eric sailed a 49 foot yacht “Sandra”, and was winner of the Governor’s Cup in 1962, defeating Panamuna (later owned by Allan Bond) and Eunamarra. Sailing rivals like Commodore Bill Lucas (later Sir Lucas) were also great friends, and many a Sunday evening would be spent together back at Blue Waters after the weekend’s sailing. Son Graham started sailing on his father’s yacht at the age of ten, and went on to be World Champion and WA Sports Star of the year in 1984 for his sailing skills. The Lillingston family ran a very successful automotive business on Adelaide Terrace, which allowed then to purchase Blue Waters for the enormous sum of 12,500 pounds in 1961, many times the price of a normal house. Joy and Eric purchased Blue Waters complete with all the furniture which was custom made to the original owner’s choice, and even the piano upstairs remained. The purchase was a major feature in the newspapers of the day.
In 1965 Blue Waters was sold to the Bodica family – Mr Bodica ran a bookmaking business, taking his calls in a booth discretely located underneath the stairs. The Sowden family were later owners – great Rolls Royce afficianados hosting functions at Blue Waters, and later President of the Rolls Royce Club, Mr Sowden combining a role as Deputy Mayor of Fremantle, long term friends of the Bonds, and the family business using a cut down 1933 Rolls Royce for deliveries.
Blue Waters was owned subsequently by the Norvilas family for over thirty five years. The family were known for their major hotel and property interests in Perth City and Cottesloe. I purchased Blue Waters privately from the Norvilas family after getting to know them and waiting patiently for twelve years.
Over the last five years Blue Waters has been lovingly restored to her original glory.