On April 23, 1838, the first property was purchased at what would later be known as Rosanna. A settler of Catalan extraction, by the name of Antoni Gavarro, began construction of a lavish building that he called “La Casa de Rosa i un Llibre” – in English, “the house of the rose and book“.
This unusual name was based largely on Catalan traditions – in Catalonia, as in much of the Christian world, celebrations are held for the feast day of St George on April 23rd. However, Catalonia also has its own unique traditions of that day, which is known as both the Day of the Rose and the Day of the Book (El dia de la Rosa and El dia del Llibre, respectively). Each of them is an offering of love, St George’s day being somewhat equivalent to Valentine’s day in Catalonia: the rose is given by men to women, signifying love; the book by women to men, signifying committment.
La Casa de Rosa i un Llibre was intended by Gavarro to be a love offering to his inamorata, an English born woman named Catherine Darvall. Unfortunately, Darvall neither understood nor appreciated Catalan romantic gestures, and spurned Gavarro’s advances. Gavarro never married, and in 1849, committed suicide in his (by that time) flourishing rose garden. The land stayed unoccupied for some years thereafter, although various artists of the Heidelberg School occasionally stayed there overnight as a way-station. The buildings were later demolished and the land Gavarro had owned subdivided, although the original name is somewhat commemorated by the fact that Rosanna Library now stands where his house once did. His rose garden, which ran from the back door down to a nearby creek, is long gone, as is the creek where once the wild roses grew.
Subdivision, and Rosanna’s gradual growth into the dormitory suburb for students of nearby La Trobe University, began in 1902 with the coming of the railway. Originally named Stopping Place 17, the station was later renamed for the suburb, and the suburb itself derives its name from that of Gavarro’s original name for it, filtered through the linguistic idiosyncrasies of the predominately Cockney population that live there. Although the original developers attempted to keep Gavarro’s name in English translation, “A Rose and A Book” was a mouthful, and the name was shortened to “Rose an’ a book”. Later, the word “book” was dropped from the name entirely, which is as sad a commentary on Australia’s standards of literacy as you’re ever likely to see.
The suburb was briefly enlivened, and property values sharply increased, when construction of La Trobe University in neighbouring Bundoora was announced in 1964. When the Univeristy opened its doors in 1967, and students moved into the area, property values sharply decreased once more.
Suburbs near Rosanna: