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Australian Dictionary of Biography

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Milne, Frank Kenneth (1885–1980)

by Rosemary Francis

This article was published in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 15, (MUP), 2000

Frank Kenneth Milne (1885-1980), architect, was born on 18 July 1885 at Tusmore, South Australia, seventh of eight children of Adelaide-born parents John Milne, land agent, and his wife Lucy Edith, née MacGeorge. Sir William Milne was his grandfather. Educated privately, and at Glenelg and North Adelaide state schools, Kenneth was introduced to drawing by Miss Mary Overbury at Mrs Kingston's school, New Glenelg. A bachelor uncle, William Milne, paid for his secondary education and provided the £350 necessary to have him articled (1903-06) to the Adelaide architect William Alfred Wells. He came under the tutelage of Stuart Clark, the firm's chief draftsman. In 1906 he joined G. B. Robertson & T. J. Marks in Sydney as an architectural draftsman; he claimed that he learned more there than he might have 'in thirty years' in Adelaide.

Returning home 'full of ideas' in April 1909, Milne set up a practice in Grenfell Street. His designs became increasingly eclectic, using idioms as diverse as Art Nouveau, beaux-arts classicism, bungalow, Art Deco, Gothic, and Italian renaissance. He prepared designs for banks, hotels, churches, houses, woolstores, swimming-pools and picture-theatres. Among his early commissions were the Hampshire Hotel (1910), Grote Street, and the South Australian Cricket Association scoreboard (1911), Adelaide Oval.

At Chalmers Church, North Terrace, on 12 March 1913 Milne had married Hazel Muir Fotheringham (d.1968) with Presbyterian forms. One year earlier he had contracted with the South Australian Brewing Co. Ltd to supervise construction on its properties. This work constituted a large part of his operations until 1920, and he was retained by the company until 1946. As business expanded, he was joined in partnership by J. R. S. Evans (1920) and C. A. Russell (by 1929). During the 1920s many of the firm's principal commercial buildings were commissioned, including the Edments building, Rundle Street, and Lister House, North Terrace. Early in 1930 the partnership of F. Kenneth Milne, Evans & Russell was dissolved.

On a study-tour of Britain and Europe in 1933-34, Milne renewed an interest in Georgian architecture, in particular the work of the Adam brothers. This style was reflected in Arbury Park (1934), Bridgewater, a house he designed for (Sir) Alexander Downer, in his own home, Sunnyside (1936), North Adelaide, and in offices for Goldsbrough, Mort & Co. Ltd (1935) and H. C. Sleigh Ltd (1955), both in Adelaide. Milne considered these buildings his best work. He was president (1937-39) of the South Australian Institute of Architects and received its award of merit (1944) for Sunnyside.

From the late 1940s a number of associates had joined Milne in partnership: L. C. Dawkins and R. V. Boehm (1946), R. S. Ellis (1947), F. P. Bulbeck (by 1957), J. R. N. Twopeny (1960) and James Hodge (by 1964). Milne promoted his profession by giving public addresses on architecture and by helping to establish a school of architecture at the University of Adelaide. In 1955 his firm donated £1000 to the university; in 1958 he gave £5000 for the Kenneth and Hazel Milne travelling scholarship in architecture. In semi-retirement from 1957, he continued to undertake alterations to buildings he had previously designed and other work for established clients (such as the Angas and Kidman families) until he retired in 1973. He was made a life fellow (1970) of the Royal Australian Institute of Architects.

Active in the English-Speaking Union and the Liberal and Country League of South Australia, Milne was small in stature, physically fit and mentally alert. He belonged to the Adelaide Rowing Club, the Amateur Sports Club and the South Australian Rugby Union. To celebrate his ninety-first year, he stroked an A.R.C. VIII on the River Torrens, with three family members in the crew. He died on 3 October 1980 at Calvary Hospital, North Adelaide, and was cremated. His only child Kenneth Lancelot, founding president (1977) of the South Australian division of the Australian Democrats, sat in the Legislative Council in 1979-85.

Select Bibliography

  • D. L. Johnson et al, F. Kenneth Milne (Adel, 1984)
  • South Australian Master Builder, July/Aug 1975, p 23
  • Advertiser (Adelaide), 24 Sept 1924, 2 Apr 1937, 5 May 1939, 21 July 1959, 4 Oct 1980
  • Daily News (Adelaide), 4 June 1970
  • F. K. Milne collection (Architecture Archives, University of South Australia).

Citation details

Rosemary Francis, 'Milne, Frank Kenneth (1885–1980)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published first in hardcopy 2000, accessed online 8 August 2020.

This article was first published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 15, (MUP), 2000

View the front pages for Volume 15

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