Born in Florence, Italy on 22
April 1852, the son of Enrico Catani, merchant and Augusta née Geri,
and educated at the Technical Institute of Florence. Young, eager and armed
with a civil engineering diploma Catani migrated to Melbourne in 1876 via
New Zealand; the astronomer Pietro Baracchi (Melbourne General
Cemetery) and engineer Ettore Checchi (d 1946) made the trip together.
Catani soon joined the Department of Lands and Survey (1876-82) as a
draftsmen and later with the Public Works Department (1882-1917), he was
employed with Checchi as an engineering draftsman, preparing plans for
harbours, jetties and coastal works. In 1892 he was head of the section and
among the projects was the draining of the Koo-Wee-Rup swamp using to great
effect unemployed married men who were provided with small farms on the
drained land; the township of Catani is named after him. “Always courteous
and unassuming”, Catani’s greatest contribution was the project to widen the
Yarra river at South Yarra (1896-97) as a means of reducing flooding in the
area. Through his urging, the project was enlarged to include the
construction of the Anderson Street bridge; he personally oversaw the newly
formed Alexander Avenue and its paradise of elm, oak and poplar trees. He
was also involved in the re-design of the St. Kilda Esplanade and Red Bluff
as an original member of the St. Kilda Foreshore Trust (1906-18);
George Billson (q.v.)
was a fellow member. Other projects that Catani was involved in were the
development of the Mount Buffalo tourist resort and works at Arthur’s Seat,
Mount Donna Buang and locally the draining of the Elster Canal. Naturalised
in 1892, Catani died on 20 July 1918 at Wyndham - 39 Blessington
Street, St. Kilda after suffering a seizure a fortnight before while
superintending the erection of additions to his home. In
May 1886 he married Catherine née Hanley; their second born son,
Lieutenant Eric (Enrico) Frederick (Ferdinando) Catani was killed in action
on 29 July 1916 during the Great War whilst serving with the 21st Battalion.
(above) Charles Catani
(seated second from left) and the St. Kilda Foreshore Committee
Phillip City Collection SK0513. Image not to be reproduced without
(above) Monumental Headstone (enlarge
ADB Volume 7 1891-1939 (A-Ch).
Smith, J. (ed), “Cyclopedia of Victoria”
Prahran Chronicle 27 July 1918.
The Prahran Telegraph 27 July 1918.
The Argus 22 July 1918.
The Herald 22 July 1918.
The Age 22 July 1918.
Cooper, J., “The History of St. Kilda”
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