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Australian Dictionary of Biography

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Marks, Theodore John (1865–1941)

by Martha Rutledge

This article was published in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 10, (MUP), 1986

Theodore John Marks (1865-1941), architect, was born on 4 June 1865 at Terragong, Jamberoo, New South Wales, elder son of John Marks, farmer from Ireland, and his Sydney-born wife Elizabeth Preston, daughter of William Moffitt. In 1876 his father moved to Sydney and bought Glenrock, Darling Point. Theo was educated at C. T. Norton's school at Double Bay and at Sydney Grammar School, before being articled to the architect G. A. Mansfield. Completing his apprenticeship in 1890 he travelled overseas for two years.

On his return Marks, with G. B. Robertson, formerly managing clerk for Mansfield Bros, set up in practice in 1892, establishing the architectural firm, Robertson & Marks, in O'Connell Street. He helped to plan and construct important commercial premises including the original Challis House (1908, now demolished), buildings for the Daily Telegraph (1916), the Perpetual Trustee Co. (1917), Farmer & Co. and Prouds Ltd (1920), the head office of the Bank of New South Wales, Martin Place (1924-29), the Prince Edward Theatre (1925) for E. J. and Dan Carroll, the Mercantile Mutual building, Pitt Street (1929), and additions to Sydney Hospital. He also designed private houses, such as Llanillo, Bellevue Hill (1902), for his friend (Sir) Colin Stephen, which featured stained glass round the front door. He visited country friends to plan alterations to their houses.

His wide business interests brought commissions to the firm—Marks was a director of Carroll, Musgrove Theatres Ltd, the Mercantile Mutual Insurance Co. Ltd, the Australian General Insurance Co. Ltd, City Freeholds Ltd, and W. H. Paling & Co. Ltd, and chairman of Timberlands Woodpulp Ltd and of the Australian board of Whakatane Paper Mills Ltd.

Much of his architectural work was connected with racing. Marks was a member of the Australian Jockey Club from 1893, an original shareholder in the Victoria Park Racing and Recreation Grounds Co. Ltd for pony-racing, and chairman of the Rosehill Racing Club in 1919-41. He designed many of the buildings and alterations suggested by C. W. Cropper at Randwick, Warwick Farm Racecourse for the A.J.C. in 1922 and the Leger Stand (now demolished) at Rosehill (1920). In 1922 he was commissioned by the Western India Turf Club to design three stands and improvements (estimated to cost over £500,000) to its courses at Bombay and Poona. He was also responsible for Canterbury Park Race Course and stands at Moorefield and Victoria Park, as well as at Moonee Valley and Flemington racecourses in Melbourne. As 'Mr A. Fuller' he first registered his colours, purple with white cap, in 1909. Later his horses were trained by Fred Williams at Randwick. His winners included Pixie Ring (a brilliant two-year-old), Herilda (imported), Tom McCarthy, Leura, Brank and Newry. Always poker-faced he was a well-known punter and 'as a racing commissioner, handled colossal sums for other people'.

Tall and spare, with dark hair and beautifully waxed moustache, Marks was regarded by many as the most handsome man of their acquaintance. Well-liked by both women and men, on 14 January 1913 at the King's Weigh House, London, he married a divorcee Dorothea Mary, née Mair, former wife of D'Arcy Osborne; they lived at Woollahra. Before his marriage and after her death Marks lived much at the Australian and Union clubs. He died childless at Potts Point on 23 November 1941 and was cremated with Presbyterian forms. His estate was valued for probate at almost £22,000.

Select Bibliography

  • Cyclopedia of N.S.W. (Syd, 1907)
  • Sydney Morning Herald, 20 Nov 1922, 25 Nov 1941
  • I. G. Little, The Practice of Robertson and Marks, Architects 1892-1941 (B.Sc. (Arch) Honours thesis, University of New South Wales, 1975)
  • private information.

Citation details

Martha Rutledge, 'Marks, Theodore John (1865–1941)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published first in hardcopy 1986, accessed online 25 October 2020.

This article was first published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 10, (MUP), 1986

View the front pages for Volume 10

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