Earthly Pleasures Café is a significant part of Dandenong Ranges history. The beautiful stone building in which the café resides is well known amongst locals as one of the first doctor’s surgeries in the hills and also the family home of the Jorgenson family. Designed by Ole Jorgensen, heritage listed ‘Taunus House’ was built in 1931.Taunus House has a well-established artistic history being the sister building and precursor to Monsalvat, the famed artist community in Eltham. Additional features of both buildings were later created in the Monsalvat workspace.
The café’s main room was once a grand living room and gallery space. The external walls consist of South Belgrave granite skin, with a brick internal skin. What is now the main dining space was known as ‘The Big Room’ and much to contrary belief never had a second floor nor was it plastered. It once featured a bagged finish painted in a neutral muddy green as a non-intrusive backdrop for the display of artworks by Justus Jorgensen, among others.
In the early 1940s legendary Monsalvat artist Matcham Skipper worked with Justus to renovate the previously austere 1920s style ‘Big Room’. Matcham stripped the dark paint from doors, architraves and skirtings, stained the timber, installed a central post to support the balcony, removed plywood facing from the balcony balustrade, and substituted turned timber balusters salvaged from a building wrecker. He made the four supporting corbels for the ceiling by painting plaster castings made from modelled clay.
At one stage the Doctors wife, Madeleine Jorgensen ran a small private home school in the front room of their home distrusting the mainstream school system at the time. Madeleine began home schooling her children and soon took on other local students. Later (from mid 1940s – mid 1950s) she turned the schoolroom into her painting studio.
In the mid-1950s the studio was then converted into the new surgery, and the site was further developed. Justus Jorgensen designed and supervised the construction of a new bluestone studio building for Madeleine at the rear of the property (currently private residence), at the same time renovating the gardens including paving and building retaining walls. The stonework was carried out by two English stonemasons who had previously worked on building the Monsalvat artist community in Eltham. Timberwork was also completed by carpenters from Eltham.