Como is one of Melbourne's last remaining colonial properties and an early symbol of the burgeoning heritage conservation movement in the late 1950s. One of the National Trust's most popular properties, it has retained the original façade and interior, many of the Armytage family's possessions, and a decorative garden designed by William Sangster.
Como was built in 1847 when Prahran was described as 'little more than a dense bush of big trees'. After the first land sales in 1840, the 54 acres (22 ha) that extended from Toorak Road to the Yarra River were bought and sold several times before Edward Williams commissioned a single-storey villa in 1846. Although its name derived from Lake Como in Italy, the property reflects the new colonists' attempt to replicate British parklands.
After the Williams family vacated Como in 1852, it was purchased by stock and pastoral agent F.G. Dalgety, who promptly sold it to wine and spirit merchant John Brown. In 1864, Brown declared bankruptcy and the Como estate was purchased by Charles and Caroline Armytage in the following year.
The ensuing alterations at Como were extensive. A new wing, boasting a reception room, ballroom and billiard room, was added in 1874. Sangster, who had been retained as gardener, resigned to establish his firm, Taylor & Sangster. Charles Armytage died in 1876, leaving Caroline with a vast pastoral empire. The Como property became the main family home, owned and managed by two generations of Armytage women. After Caroline's death in 1909, the property was subdivided into 64 allotments and auctioned in 1911. The main house and surviving garden remained with the Armytage daughters, Ada, Laura and Leila. In 1921, the sisters sold 35 acres (14 ha) of Como's river frontage to Prahran City Council, which preserved 5.25 acres (2 ha) as Como Park.
In 1959 a national appeal saved Como from demolition and the house and its original contents were sold to the newly established National Trust.