Antony J. Lucas

Antony John Jereos Lucas (Lekatsas) (1862–1946) was an influential Greek Australian businessman noted for his philanthropic activities and construction of numerous public and private buildings in Melbourne, Australia. Ultimately, Antony Lucas became the Greek Consul General to Australia in 1921 and Consul in Melbourne in 1931–46.

Early years

Born Antonios Ioannis Gerasimos Lekatsas on 18 October 1862, the second child of Ioannis Lekatsas (a priest) and his wife Magdalene Palmos.

Migrating just before his younger brother Marino Lucas (Marinos Lekatsas) from their hometown of Exoghi (Exogi) on the Greek island of Ithaca in 1886, the young man quickly began to build his fortune.

In 1894 Lucas opened the Town Hall Café in Swanston Street, the main thoroughfare of Melbourne. Often employing Greek staff and spanning two floors, the café serviced over five hundred diners at any one time.

Prosperity

Initially residing on the top floor of the café, Lucas purchased the Toorak mansion Whernside in 1918. This property was subsequently owned by Jewish immigrant and business tycoon Solomon Lew.[1] In 1928 Lucas moved to the large property Yamala on the Mornington Peninsula. Here he retained the services of noted American architect Walter Burley Griffin to redesign the house and gardens.[2]

Lucas subsequently opened two more restaurants, the Paris Café, in Collins Street and the Vienna Café (on the site of what is now the Hotel Australia in Collins Street). These ventures prospered under Lucas' keen entrepreneurial skills.[3]

From a December 2016 Sydney Morning Herald/Melbourne Age article by Arnold Zable:

"In 1915, a group of drunken soldiers, incensed that the Vienna Cafe bore the name of the enemy, stoned the premises and threatened its patrons. Lekatsas closed the cafe and hired Chicago architect, Walter Burley Griffin and his wife, Marion Mahoney Griffin, to remodel it. Griffin was in Australia to oversee the building of Canberra. The contract also allowed him to set up private practices in Melbourne and Sydney.

The cafe was re-opened in November 1916 at a gala event attended by prominent Melburnians, including opera singer, Nellie Melba. The guests were stunned by the arched quartz entrance, the piers with reliefs of Greek goddesses, the marble stairway to the grand banquet hall, the murals of Australian pastoral scenes, and the avant-garde design of the furniture, among many other striking features. The renovations arguably marked the beginnings of modernist architecture in Australia. Lekatsas was taking no chances – he renamed his venture Cafe Australia.

Lekatsas, now known as Anthony Lucas, joined forces with the Griffins again to demolish the Town Hall Cafe and build the Capitol Theatre in its place. When completed it was hailed as one of the most avant-garde designed theatres in the world"

Construction of the Capitol Theater was undertaken in partnership with the Phillips brothers and was housed within the ten-storey office building Capitol House. The theatre was opened on 7 November 1924 and both are now registered with the Australian Heritage Commission, the National Trust and Heritage Victoria. The Capitol theater has subsequently achieved heritage status as an Art Deco icon thanks to AJ Lucas' re-employment of the services of Walter Burley Griffin.[4]

With reference to the journal The 200 years History of Australian Cooking, Tess Malos claims that Lucas also ran an open-air restaurant in the public gardens of the inner Melbourne suburb of Kew.[5]

The 1916 'Life in Australia' publication by John Comino had a significant section devoted to AJ Lucas, some of which follows:

24 years have flowed (since his arrival in Australia) and, properly used by a great, capable and audacious man, such as Mr. Antonios Lekatsas is, have resulted in the acquisition of substantial wealth. Three splendid, smart and exquisite buildings, of a commercial nature and part of the property owned by him, together with another building of twelve storeys, the tallest in Australia, standing by Sydney Central Railway Station and bearing the name “Australian Buildings”, sing the praises of the splendid abilities of Mr. Antonios Lekatsas, who is the richest of the Greeks settled in the State of Victoria.[6]

Religious and Ithacan Interests

Lucas helped found and was frequently the head of the Greek Orthodox Church in Melbourne[7] and was also the President of the Ulysses Philanthropic Society of Melbourne ('Antonis Lekatsas' was the first president of the Ithacan Philanthropic Society) from 1916 until 1923.[8]

He was also opposed to the thinking of Archbishop Knitis and Consul-General Chrysanthopoulos in the Greek Church dispute of the 1920s.[9] During the 1920s, genocidal massacres following the dissolution of the Ottoman Empire saw millions of people displaced from what is now Turkey. Thousands of Orthodox fled to Australia during this period. In July 1924, the Greek Orthodox Metropolitan Christoforos Archbishop Knitis of Australia and New Zealand arrived but by 1929 he had been deposed and was exiled to Samos.

Lucas' opposition to Knitis created a degree of conflict with Andreas Papadopoulos, author of the International Directory: O Diethnis Emporikos Odigos, a huge publication of over 600 pages published in 1927 by International Publishers of Adelaide. The compilation of this journal was primarily instigated and financed by Georgios Nikolaidis, who was also the founder of a short-lived Greek newspaper Okeanis in Adelaide and by G. Hetrelezis. Papadopolous had married Angeliki Papadopoulou, also from Ithaca and a niece and god-daughter of Antony Lucas.

War Effort

At the height of World War II, Lucas organised a programme whereby Melbourne's Greeks donated a day's pay to the Greek war effort. On 1 May 1941 an Italian annexation of Ithaca had begun and by late September 1943, the subsequent German occupation commenced, although this lasted just over one year.

Lucas was also an avid supporter of the Lord Mayor's Hospital Appeal.

He personally donated £10,000 to a fund which he organised for Greek and British child war-victims and in 1939 was awarded the Golden Cross of Taxiarchon, an order initiated by Greece's King George I. In October 1944 a special service to commemorate his birthday and the coincident liberation of Athens was conducted in the Greek Orthodox Church in Victoria Parade.[10]

References

  1. "HO117 - 2A Whernside Avenue, Toorak.pdf". City of Stonnington, Victoria, Australia. Archived from the original on 26 February 2015. Retrieved 26 February 2015.
  2. "Yamala, 16 Yamala Drive Frankson". Stage 1 - City of Frankston Heritage Study 1995 - Volume 3. Archived from the original on 15 May 2013.
  3. "History". Australia [Hotel] on Collins. Archived from the original on 19 July 2008.
  4. "Walter Burley Griffin Society - Melbourne". Griffinsociety.org. Retrieved 26 February 2015.
  5. "for the world-wide Kytherian community: Greek cuisine. History of the influence on Australian cooking. Kythera and Kytherians, prominent". Kythera-Family.net. Retrieved 26 February 2015.
  6. "for the world-wide Kytherian community: Mr Antonios I. I. Lekatsas". Kythera-Family.net. Retrieved 26 February 2015.
  7. "Greek Orthodox Community of Melbourne and Victoria". Greekcommunity.com.au. 18 February 2015. Retrieved 26 February 2015.
  8. "Ithacan Philanthropic Society". Ithaca.org.au. Archived from the original on 29 August 2007. Retrieved 26 February 2015.
  9. "for the world-wide Kytherian community: The International Directory. — O Diethnis Emporikos Odigos — A history of the publication of the book". Kythera-Family.net. Retrieved 26 February 2015.
  10. A. E. Lucas. "Biography - Antony John Jereos Lucas - Australian Dictionary of Biography". Adb.online.anu.edu.au. Retrieved 26 February 2015.
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