John CochrEIN Smith
Born: 1869, Ballarat, Victoria
Died: 27 October 1937, Perth, Western Australia
Hometown: Perth, Western Australia
John Cochrein (sometimes Cochrane) Smith was the oldest child of eight born to John Cochrane and Annie Smith (nee White), of Ballarat.
It’s not known where he trained as an architect but he was said to have registered with the Royal Victorian Institute of Architects in 1891 at the age of 22.
He married Emma Cooke in 1896 and in 1897 they had a son. For a few years Smith seemed content and there was little to indicate he was living beyond his means, but he remortgaged their Ballarat home, in Emma’s name, and after his father died in 1901, borrowed money against his share of his father’s estate, not yet realised. All was not as it appeared.
In March 1904 Smith told Emma he was going to Adelaide for work. A few months later he wrote that he was going to Western Australia and suggested she sell the house and contents and keep the proceeds for herself. To her dismay, there was no suggestion she and their son join him in WA. Because of the mortgage Emma only realised £95 (about $14,000 today) from the sale of their home. She wrote to ask for his support, but he claimed he had no means.
Smith arrived in Perth, Western Australia in late 1904 and was a member of Royal Perth Yacht Club before the end of the year (made a Life Member in 1925). He immediately designed some alterations to the Clubhouse which were made in 1905, opened a ‘bachelor’s establishment’ in Suburban (now Labouchere) Road, South Perth, rented offices in Lombard Chambers on St George’s Terrace and began working as an architect. He never mentioned his wife or son and it was a surprise to many when prominent coverage of his abandonment of them in Ballarat appeared in newspapers during Emma’s divorce proceedings against him in 1908 and 1909.
Smith’s reputation no doubt a little damaged, a welcome helping hand in the form of fellow Ballarat-born Charles Oldham and his partner Alfred Cox was extended and he designed, in conjunction with Oldham Cox, a three-storey extension and alterations for the Esplanade Hotel in 1910. He also designed several buildings and private homes in Mount Lawley, Claremont, Crawley and South Perth, and Millstream Homestead, further afield in the Pilbara in 1919, which owners reported was thought to be “the best house in the North West.”
Smith never remarried and retained his offices at Lombard Chambers until the then-historic building was demolished for the construction of the CML Building in 1936.
He died two years later, aged 68.