Emanuel Neich, who was born in Genoa, came to Australia by mistake. He went to sea at an early age and was in Mauritius when he signed on the ‘Lord Rodney’, bound for New Holland (Australia), believing it was sailing to Holland.
In 1830 he became the licensee of the Black Dog Hotel in the Rocks district of Sydney. His publican’s licence was dependent upon his being a married man, a problem Neich swiftly overcame by marrying Mary Coomer (or Comer). Four years later he moved to Concord to become the licensee of the Bath Arms Hotel (cnr. Parramatta & Burwood Roads), built by his father-in-law, James Coomer. Neich retained this licence until 1890 and during this time became a very prominent and wealthy businessman in the Concord-Burwood area.
Emanuel Neich, in conjunction with Mr. Coomer and others, opened the Burwood Road from the Parramatta Road to the Liverpool Road through Burwood, and from the Parramatta Road to a point in Hen and Chicken Bay, where a wharf was afterwards built for the steamers to moor. It was to this wharf that the Canadian exiles were brought in 1840. The road was originally called Wharf Road but is now Burwood Road.
Neich’s land extended from Parramatta Road to Gipps Street and from Burwood Road to Broughton Street. It was on this estate, in about 1853, that he built a fine sandstone twelve-roomed Georgian house.
The original name of “Lansdown House” was “Ardnaree”, but was later changed to the present name by his widow some time after his death in 1893. It may have been named after Lansdown House, Hyde Park, London.
Thomas Robertson built the house and the wrought iron work was executed by Bubb & Sons, whose company name was engraved at the base of the main wrought iron column on the eastern side of the house.
“Lansdown House” has served several functions in its lifetime. It seems to have been first a private school for girls, for an advertisement in the Sydney Morning Herald of 19th January, 1855, noted that Miss S.E. Lester had a school, listed as Lovedale, for young ladies at Concord. Among its attractions were horse riding – presumably on and around Neich’s land – and saltwater bathing, for the girls were conveyed to a ‘bathing house in the bay’ from the school at Lansdown House. Miss Lester later moved to new premises in Burwood and in 1885 her school there was bought by the Wesleyan Church, to be re-opened as the Wesleyan Ladies’ College in January 1886.
Between 1862 and 1865 Alfred Fairfax, a member of Sydney’s wealthy Fairfax family, leased “Lansdown House”.
By 1887 it had become another girls’ school, run by a Mrs. Ashe. The property remained in the Neich family until at least 1904.