Architect Michael Francis Cavanagh, son of John Cavanagh, builder formerly of Tipperary, Ireland, was born in 1860 at Beechworth in Victoria. In 1881 the family moved to South Australia where Michael went to the South Australian School of Art and then worked at the Public Works Department.

In 1885-88 he studied in London under the architect John Slater and design in the atelier of Royal Academicians Millard and Bagallay before entering the South Kensington Academy. Cavanagh returned to work in the South Australian PWD becoming Chief Draughtsman. In 1891 he commenced his own practice in Adelaide, South Australia. Cavanagh served on the board of the Art Gallery, Museum and Library and was a member of the South Australian Society of Arts with whom he exhibited regularly. He was also active in other areas being President of the Australian Natives Association and a rowing champion.

Cavanagh came to Perth in 1895 to set up a Western Australian branch office, but the opportunities were so great he stayed. He was joined by his brother James. Cavanagh and Cavanagh were architects and sworn valuators who undertook much work for the Roman Catholic Church including convents, monasteries, the Bishop’s Palace, Church of the Oblate Fathers in Fremantle, St John of God Hospital in Subiaco and St Mary’s Roman Catholic Church in Kalgoorlie. The Esplanade Hotel was their design.

In 1897 they were listed in practice in Hay Street, Perth and Cliff Street, Fremantle. Michael exhibited Suburban Residence with the West Australian Society of Arts in 1896. He and his brother submitted a number of architectural drawings with designs by M. F. and the drawing by J. C..

In 1897 he married Dorothy Trench of Ballarat. Cavanagh served on the Perth City Council from 1901. He lived at 23 Altona Street, West Perth in 1904 moving to number 15 between 1910-14. Cavanagh also had a pastoral property at Kojonup with a merino stud of Bungaree blood. He hunted and played bowls. Cavanagh was a member of the Society of Arts in 1920 but did not exhibit.

Dr Dorothy Erickson
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