Heritage horrors: When renovating uncovers more than creaky floors and mildew
Stumbling across broken dolls with body parts missing, poisonous paint and fields overrun with rabbits are some of the stories to come from unsuspecting heritage building owners in Tasmania.
In theory, restoring a historical building sounds like a developer’s dream, but it can come with its drawbacks.
Tasmania has a number of revamped heritage sites, from the world famous Agrarian Kitchen housed in New Norfolk’s old mental facility, to Shene Estate, which occupies an old colonial site in Pontville in the state’s south.
Winemaker John Pooley recently spent $5 million restoring the iconic Prospect House in Richmond.
He said the 188-year-old estate had been off limits to the public for a decade.
“Everything we’ve done we had to run past heritage [approval process],” he said.
“Having a property that is heritage, that’s in a bushfire zone, and access is also another issue.”
The investment looks likely to pay off – a night in one of the 13 rooms will cost between $900 and $1500.
Tradie’s brush with the other side
Engineer Mark Gardner bought the old Maylands Salvation Army home for Girls in New Town and transformed it into a 12-room boutique hotel.
“It had a lot of really poor cosmetic decisions made. It had a lot of things that were stuck on walls and damages to doors that required a lot of repairs,” he said.
Even with his extensive experience, Mr Gardner said restoring the building was not easy.
“It was good to know what challenges would come up [but] they still took longer to solve and cost more than we expected.”
And the building wasn’t the only problem.
“One of the tradespeople who was working late at night, packed up and ran off and wouldn’t come back without someone else,” Mr Gardener said.
“He swore he saw a ghost.”
But neither natural nor supernatural factors have scared away Tasmania’s prospective developers, who are jumping on board the state’s booming tourism industry.
Have a plan – and deep pockets
Alex Heroys of Southern Destination Tasmania said heritage tourism was a real drawcard.
“Heritage is part of the key mix of our brand messaging, so people are travelling to Tasmania for food and beverage, for nature and also for heritage, as well,” he said.
Jennifer Nichols of the Australian Institute of Architects said she expected to see more of the state’s forgotten “old pubs and hotels being reinvigorated”.
“We have a real appreciation in this state of our natural state, our primary industries, our food,” she said.
“That, coupled with our enthusiasm for our heritage and our built environment, is creating a really thriving industry.”
For those looking to take on their own heritage project, Mr Gardner had some advice.
“It is costly. It certainly takes longer than you think. Have a good plan and probably a little bit of contingency,” he said.
“If you have the passion for it as well, then by all means, if there’s a property around I’m sure it could get some tender love and care, that’d be great.”