Our History

The ancestry of Melbourne’s premier reception venue


HawthornGarden1926Leonda’s successful history began in 1970 during the year that John Gorton was Prime Minister and seatbelts became compulsory in cars throughout Victoria. Previously known as the Hawthorn Tea Gardens, the property that Leonda now occupies was a popular destination for boats to dock and ladies to socialise whilst sipping on teas and nibbling on scones, gazing over the beautiful surroundings. When the Hawthorn Tea Gardens fatefully burnt down, partners Leon Jolson & David Walker bought the land and built Melbourne’s leading reception centre. The name bestowed upon the stunning reception centre was Leonda, a fusion of the names Leon and David.

river-club-restaurantLeonda was originally built as a large 500 guest function room with an adjoining room called the ‘River Club Restaurant’ which catered to 132 guests.


Since it’s founding days, Leonda has been in the hands of few fortunate Melbourne based entities, including:

  • Qintex (Christopher & Pixie Skase)
  • Vi & Bernard Greenhalf (Vi was a flamboyant socialite who was both a radio and TV personality)
  • Horst & Anne Niece
  • Spotless Services


Whilst there have been countless memorable occasions held at Leonda, there are a few that stand out above the rest, some of which include:

  • A public riot took place as the Governor General arrived at Leonda after sacking Gough Whitlam in 1975
  • The Dalai Lama was a keynote speaker at a conference held at Leonda in the 1980’s
  • Brownlows and Logies have both been held at Leonda
  • In the mid 1980’s a Romanian heavy weight lifter was competing in the World Heavy Weight Lifting Championships in Melbourne and came to a function at Leonda. During the night he disappeared. There was a huge police search as it was believed he was seeking refuge here in Australia. This was publicised heavily in the media.
  • A grand lunch was held for one of the Popes Cardinals in the mid 1990’s in Leonda’s grand ballroom. He was being groomed to be the next pope but did not get the top job.
  • On separate occasions both Prince Phillip and Prince Charles have dined at Leonda.


As Leonda continues to forge history, there have been many celebrated faces that have graced the Leonda premises in the past, some of which include:

  • John Howard (Ex PM)
  • Tony Abbott (Federal Opposition leader)
  • Sir Zelman Cowan (Ex Gov General of Aus)
  • Josh Frydenberg (Liberal MP)
  • Bill Shorten (Labor MP)
  • James Morrison (Musician)
  • Maggie Beer (Chef)
  • Dipper (Ex sportsman)
  • Ronald McDonald
  • Tom Gleisner (TV personality)
  • Ed Kavalee (Radio personality)
  • Jo Stanley (Radio personality)
  • Con the Fruiterer (TV personality)
  • Linley Frame (Olympic swimmer)
  • Pattie Newton (TV personality, wife of Bert Newton)
  • Gary Lyon (Ex sportsman, TV personality)
  • Gabriella Cilmi (Singer)
  • Peter Hitchener (Newsreader)
  • Andy Lee (Radio/TV personality)
  • Megan Gale (Model)
  • Max Walker (Ex sportsman)
  • Jeff Kennett (Ex premier of Victoria)




Turning old to new: watch the video


In 2006, Leonda was sold by Spotless to a family business. The venue was renovated inside and out, restoring Leonda to its former beauty. Under the new management, the focus has been to bring Leonda back to its roots as the ‘place to be’ in Melbourne.

Video credits:
Architect: Foong + Sormann www.foomann.com.au
Builder: Malin Constructions www.malinconstructions.com.au
Music: El Perro Productions www.elperroproductions.com.au



As we celebrate our incredible history as a true landmark of Melbourne city, we urge you to celebrate with us by browsing through our archive of images to see how Leonda has transformed, while at the same time remained loyal to its roots.To truly formulate our timeline, Leonda is searching for couples that were married at the venue around 1970, during its early years of operations. If you were a bride, groom or know of any weddings held during this time, please
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. We would love to speak with you.

We are also curious to hear of any interesting or amusing stories that have taken place at Leonda over the years. We love our history and ask you to celebrate with us with your personal stories and memories.