Samuel Amess, Builder of Willsmere
Samuel Amess was the stonemason who received the contract to build Willsmere, constructed between 1864 and 1872. Initially planned according to the design of G.W. Vivian and Frederick Kawerau of the Victorian Public Works Office, worked was halted almost immediately with reports of inferior works on the foundations. An investigation followed and Frederick Kawerau resigned. Samuel Amess was brought in and continued construction using Vivian and Kaweru's designed.
Born in Scotland, Amess moved to Victoria in 1852 and, after a successful period at the goldfields, was able to work as a building contractor from 1853. Following the designs of John James Clark, he was responsible for building what is now known as the Old Treasury Building on Spring Street from 1858-62. Mr. Clark was also involved in the design of the Old Customs House (now Immigration Museum) with Arthur Ebden, with the primary design by Peter Kerr. This was also built under the direction of Samuel Amess. Initial construction had began in 1855 but was halted in 1858 due to economic decline; it wasn't until 1873 that building recommenced, which was completed in 1876. The foundations of the Victorian Supreme Court were put in by the Amess in 1874-1875. He was also the contractor for the Government Printing Office, many country railway stations, an initially the west facade of Parliament House (in 1883 was involved in a dispute over the facing stone and lost the contract). In 1873 was the first president of the Builders and Contractors Association.
In 1864 Amess was elected to the Melbourne City Council, and became mayor from 1869-70, organising and paying for the ceremonies for the opening of the new town hall, including a fancy dress ball attended by 3000 people. He spent his retirement improving his property on Churchill Island in Westernport Bay. In 1898 he died aged 71 from a short illness, aggravated by his insistence on attending to his public duties. Amess Street in Carlton and North Carlton is named after him.
Today Amess House is a feature of Churchill Island, open to the public. There is a framed plan of Willsmere's old building hanging on a wall in the dining room.