​A B O U T   THE MENKENS APARTMENTS

Frederick Bernhardt Menkens 1894 - 1910



Menkens was born Friedrich Bernhardt Menkens in the north German town of Varel, close to the Dutch border and the North Sea.  His academic training in architecture took place at Nienburg in the Province of Hanover, and at Holzminden in the Grand Duchy of Braunschweig (Brunswick).

 

Unable to find a job in Germany, with uncertainty and military conflict all around, he emigrated to Australia in 1876, travelling through a number of cities before eventually settling in Newcastle in 1882 and opening an architectural practice there.

 

In 1885, he married Maggie Downey, a Catholic widow, but the marriage lasted only five months and eventually ended in divorce in 1890.  Thereafter, his chief companion in life was his dog, Mick.

 

Generally judged to be the most significant architect of 19th-century Newcastle, Menkens designed numerous residential and commercial buildings, many of which are still standing today and are considered Newcastle landmarks.  His masterpiece is the 1893 building in Scott Street, Newcastle, originally known as Wood’s Chambers and designed with the elaborate detail and exuberant ornamentation characteristic of the so-called ‘Anglo-Dutch’ style.  Here he opened his architectural studio on the first floor, working from there until his move to Sydney in 1907.

 

A heavy drinker, he died of cirrhosis of the liver in the Sydney suburb of Randwick in 1910. He would fit in well here at The Menkens Apartments.