Dorney House - Fort Nelson - Porter Hill

Dorney House Main.jpg
The City of Hobart is delighted to provide the Hobart community with the opportunity to experience an icon of Tasmanian modernist architecture. Historic fort, modernist interior with sunken lounge and spectacular views over the Derwent Estuary, this Esmond Dorney House is available for public bookings.

If you would like to make a booking you can complete the Dorney House booking application form online or fill in the form(PDF, 67KB) and return it in one of the following ways:

  • email:
  • post: City of Hobart, GPO Box 503, Hobart Tasmania 7001
  • in person: Customer Service Centre, 16 Elizabeth Street, Hobart.  

Dorney House Booking Conditions and map(PDF, 659KB)

Note - bookings are carefully chosen and managed to be compatible with site values and constraints.

No smoking

   Dorney House - Porter Hill is a smoke-free venue. Smoking is not permitted anywhere within the house or grounds.

The Dorney House atop Fort Nelson, Porter Hill (looking north)

 About the site

The Dorney House was the family home of the late architect J.H. Esmond Dorney.  Built in 1978 it is believed by some to be one of the great modern houses of Australia.  The City of Hobart acquired the house, including the remnants of Fort Nelson and 35 hectares of hill top bush land in 2006 as a response to the communities desire to preserve the Sandy Bay skyline and the city’s landscape values.

The site’s cultural importance is recognised by its inclusion on the Tasmanian Heritage Register.  Contributing factors are the architectural significance of the Dorney House itself and the historical context of the Fort Nelson remains (1909 - 1949) which extend throughout the site.

 Who was J.H Esmond Dorney?

James Henry Esmond Dorney (1906–91), usually referred to as Esmond, was a highly original figure in post-WW2 Tasmanian architecture.  Professor Philip Goad, Australia’s foremost scholar of modernist architecture, believes Dorney’s buildings stand out for their experimental style, their daring, and set him apart in Tasmania and Australia as a committed and highly inventive architectural individualist.  The site’s significance is further enhanced by Dorney’s contribution as a pioneer of Australian modernist architecture.

 The Dorney’s and the Fort Nelson house site

The Dorney House was the family home of Esmond Dorney who bought the site in 1949 and constructed family homes at Fort Nelson over the top of gun emplacements in 1949, 1966 and 1978.  The 1966 house was destroyed in a 1978 bushfire and subsequently rebuilt (the house in which you stand).  The Dorney family lived at the Fort Nelson site until 2006.

 Dorney House - Fort Nelson - Porter Hill - What is happening now?

The site is located within Bicentennial Park and as such is subject to biodiversity and fire management regimes. The most recent management burn undertaken in October 2017 is part of a mosaic of burning being implemented across Porter Hill to deliver ecological regeneration and asset protection for the heritage house / fort atop the hill.

The house is available for public bookings for a prescribed fee. The City of Hobart has developed a program to provide community access to the site. This work has been informed by detailed investigations including advice from the Robin Boyd Foundation, discussions with key stakeholders and trialling various uses. 

A range of public uses of the house are possible such as small group workshops, events, performances and general public visitation. The uses and bookings are carefully chosen and managed to be compatible with the site’s constraints.

The Dorney House provides a new niche venue for the City and further enhances the exciting growth of its cultural life.

Further information

An article by James Jones from Houses (Issue 84) – February 2012 is available from the following website:  ArchitectureAU website


22 Gardenia Grove, Sandy Bay 7005  View Map

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