Heritage in Victoria – Time for Action.

Over the last few years it has become increasingly obvious that there is a need for a stronger lobby group in presenting the arguments, the cases for retention and protection of heritage buildings in Greater Melbourne and Victoria.

Right now, the Government agencies responsible for such protections are simply overwhelmed with the sheer volume of requests for Heritage protection. The budget allocated to Heritage Victoria and the heritage Council of Victoria seems to be inadequate.

2_11krxp.jpg

‘Forres’ at 9-11 Edward Street, Kew, torn down in July 2016

 

Heritage has become a political football. The public and our grand heritage inheritance are the losers. Countless buildings are demolished whilst Heritage overlays are investigated by the Heritage Council. Without publicity, the problem is hidden and the solution becomes moot – often the building just simply disappears. There are loopholes upon loopholes. The recent events in Booroondara bear testament to this.

currajong-house-in-hawthorn-was-saved-from-demolition-by-planning-minister-richard-wynne-in-may

Currajong House in Hawthorn was saved from demolition by Planning Minister Richard Wynne in May

Beautiful residential dwellings in Kew, Toorak, Hawthorn, Elsternwick, Caulfield North, Black Rock and Beaumaris have been destroyed. Old Hotels built in the 1880s, modified in the 1920s to an art nouveau style have been demolished. Why? Well, because their original architecture was diminished. What about the fabulous Art Nouveau transformations? Look at the Greyhound Hotel in St Kilda and the London in Port Melbourne, both now vacant blocks.

capi_495ccd88141af8d5f001f45dc568a09e_e41f0429b3ebc41d049571dda187cf33.jpeg

Greyhound Hotel, St Kilda

 

At Balance Architecture, we are passionate about Heritage Architecture. The richness of Victorian era opulence engendered by the 1850s Gold Rush, the extraordinary craft and skill in the simple yet intricate details of masonry, tiling, slate roofing, monochromatic brickwork, stained glass windows – the Ballroom and Staterooms. The drawing rooms, the huge and impressive stairwells – the symmetry, the grace.

the-toorak-mansion-bought-for-18.5-million-and-razed.-the-empty-block-is-now-on-the-market-for-40-million.jpg

The Toorak mansion bought for $18.5 million and razed. The empty block is now on the market for $40 million

Over the last few years we have brought you the passing vista of homes and buildings saved and preserved, of those that are derelict and in need of restoration, and of those demolished and gone forever.

screen-shot-2019-09-02-at-3.57.57-pm.jpg

A bulldozer moves in on 368 Auburn Road

We now arrive at a crossroads. It is time for genuine action. We propose the formulation of a new group. The purpose of the group will be to lobby the government (State) to improve Heritage protections, to ensure Heritage Overlays across the entire state are up to date and to commit to the ongoing protection of our precious Heritage assets.

We are aware of other groups operating within the same arena but want to apply a more modern approach utilising online and social media opportunities to not only demonstrate the community depth of feeling on the issue, but to focus the various local groups into a strong voice for Heritage stability and protection.

778_burwood_road_hawthorn_east_w800-h600-2009169359_1_pi_150304_031845_lxwezi.jpg

This house on Burwood Road, Hawthorn East is set to be demolished

Preparing for Heritage Listings can be both a daunting prospect and a set of difficult procedures. Quite frankly it shouldn’t be, and this is one of the objectives we believe we must work towards – a simplification of the processes combined with much increased funding to the state government bodies charged with doing the relevant inspections and determining the Heritage listings or otherwise.

5611556247_3d1def8588_o.jpg

In many cases, the ultimate process will find its way to VCAT or a higher court. Often it is Heritage that is the loser. Time’s up on that nonsense. No more Corkman Fiascos, no more Currajong interventions.

corkman_1__corkman_fb.jpg

The Corkman Hotel, prior to its illegal demolition.

 

Let’s get a clear, open process in place. Let’s call all parties to the table – Architects, Developers, Residents and Bureaucrats, Council officials, Heritage Council officials and the National Trust – and politicians of all persuasions.

this-historic-house-at-55-seymour-road-elsternwick-was-demolished-in-august-despite-outrage-from-locals.jpg

55 Seymour Rd

It’s five past midnight and it’s time to act. Keep watching our page. We will provide details of a new group for those genuinely interested in Heritage protection. You will be able to join up on Facebook and then we can broaden the base from there. We will announce the new page here soon.

Heritage is our history, our persona, our character – the people of Victoria own it. Time to claim it.

balance logo 20150209a

Balance Architecture recognises the importance of Historical Architecture. We specialise in the renovation and restoration of Heritage Buildings.

Heritage Protection – the challenge is financial.

Victoria is fortunate in that State Government politicians have a bipartisan approach to heritage protection. To a major extent political parties, Local Government and the public agree on the majority of established Heritage listed properties being protected. The issue here is the updating and strengthening of protections for those buildings and properties either undergoing Heritage inspection and/or those not currently heritage listed.

capi_c964eb1de6fbf2fbea92de7f5d936dfc_6a0d2f7cf1ea3768d7e783d1b17f8620.jpeg

In Tasmania there is a different problem. Capital is scarce in Tasmania and the value put upon Heritage classification is definitely not uniform. The current Government, as can be seen by its pro-development stance on the Treasury Buildings in Hobart is less than enthusiastic in truly protecting Heritage buildings in the State. Add to that Local Government Councils that seemingly have little or no understanding of Heritage values and you have a disaster in the offing.

executive-council-chamber-small-crop.jpg

From the ABC…

Tasmania is full of heritage-listed sites, but are they worth saving?

8375822-3x2-700x467.jpg

The Hunters Hotel in Tasmania has seen better days

In the heart of Queenstown on Tasmania’s remote west coast stands a forest green hotel, framed with gold trimmings and a grand wooden balcony that overlooks the township.

The Hunters Hotel has a historic past, with its balcony serving as a stage for many speeches throughout its life.

In the early 1900s, workers’ rights advocate and Labor MP King O’Malley spoke from the balcony to the people in the street below.

Then in 1912, amidst the tragedy of the North Lyell mine fire where 42 men lost their lives, the community was given updates from the balcony.

But now this piece of history is facing the possibility of destruction.

The West Coast Council has issued an emergency order for the owners to dismantle the sagging balcony due to safety concerns.

West Coast Mayor, Phil Vickers said the owners have 28 days to make a decision.

“It’s a private property that has a verandah that is built over the top of a council footpath,” he said.

“It’s heritage-listed and we’ve had an engineers report that demonstrates that it needs to be either re-engineered and fixed up or dismantled.”

The owners and concerned members of the community are desperately trying to save the balcony.

One resident has started a crowdfunding page, but only $1,800 of the required $35,000 has been raised so far.

8375986-3x2-700x467.jpg

Ralph Wildenauer says he has tried to do work himself, but health setbacks mean he needs to hire labour

Hotel owner Ralph Wildenauer said he was planning to fix the balcony next year after the rest of the hotel had been opened for business to raise the necessary funds.

“I was doing most of the work and last year I had a major stroke, so I’m not able to do work anymore and it means we have to employ people to finish everything off, which is very expensive,” Mr Wildenauer said.

Heritage sites held together with ‘sticky tape and glue’

Tasmania has the highest concentration of heritage sites of anywhere in Australia.

“Anyone that owns a heritage site knows that you just keep throwing buckets of money at it and that’s just the nature of the beast,” Matthew Smithies of the National Trust said.

11598836-3x2-700x467.jpg

Clarendon House looks good on the surface

Heritage sites held together with ‘sticky tape and glue’

Tasmania has the highest concentration of heritage sites of anywhere in Australia.

“Anyone that owns a heritage site knows that you just keep throwing buckets of money at it and that’s just the nature of the beast,” Matthew Smithies of the National Trust said.

In Tasmania, the National Trust has eight sites ranging from Home Hill, the family home of former Australian Prime Minister Joseph Lyons, to Hobart’s Convict Penitentiary.

However, the cost to maintain and preserve these heritage assets is huge.

Mr Smithies said the National Trust has a bit of a legacy at the moment of maintenance and conservation works that are well overdue.

“We’ve got about $3.5 million worth of conservation works that we need to carry out immediately, and raising that funding is difficult,” he said.

Clarendon House, in the north of the state, is in desperate need of maintenance and restoration — some of the building’s walls being reduced to rubble, issues with the staircase that is no longer straight and a basement that is cracked from a flood that occurred five years ago.

“From an engineers report that we’ve received, we’re actually going to lose the front face of Clarendon in the not-too-distant future,” Mr Smithies said.

The Tasmanian Branch of the National Trust has found its priority list is constantly changing due to the rapid rate their heritage sites have been deteriorating.

11598846-3x2-700x467.jpg

A floor is in ruins inside Clarendon House, a heritage-listed site in Tasmania’s north

Last year, the Launceston City Council told them to close the Franklin House site to the public due to safety issues with a wall.

“The convict-built, brick boundary wall at Franklin House was at the brink of toppling over, causing a lot of occupational health and safety concerns as it was a boundary wall with our neighbours and at the eleventh hour we did manage to get some funding from both Launceston Council and the State Government,” Mr Smithies said.

To minimise the loss of heritage during the wall dismantlement, each brick was numbered, catalogued and photographed as it was removed.

Contemporary foundations were then laid before the wall was rebuilt, with each brick placed in its original spot.
‘Mould everywhere, mushrooms growing on the floors’

The owners of the Hunters Hotel have faced the same problem when it came to the maintenance and preservation of their heritage-listed building.

8375872-3x2-700x467.jpg

The balcony of Hunters Hotel is in desperate need of repair

Mr Wildenauer and his wife took over the hotel more than two years ago, but before that, it had been abandoned for almost 20 years.

“You know, twenty years of leaking roofs and missing windows, there was mould growing everywhere, there were mushrooms growing on the floors, it was really, really bad,” he said.

“If we hadn’t started working on it, by now huge sections would have collapsed, you know ceilings would have come down, roofs would have come down.”

Mr Wildenauer believes if he had used professionals to work on the structure, it would have cost close to $1 million.

He tried to obtain multiple grants to help fund the needed work restorations but has been unsuccessful so far.

Cr Vickers said that small councils could not afford to help everyone, especially when the building is private property.

“It’s a historic building and we have lots of historic buildings that are in private ownership within our district, we can’t help everyone,” he said.

But the National Trust said it was a challenge for people who were custodians of heritage in both the private and public sectors.

“There is a bigger discussion that needs to be had around how we can keep our heritage assets standing,” Mr Smithies said.
What’s worth saving?

Due to limited funding, maintainers of heritage sites within the state have to decide which assets should be maintained.

Mr Smithies said it was hard to put a price on heritage.

“It’s what makes towns and cities and villages different from one another,” he said.

“I’m from Sydney, so the greater western suburbs, where they’ve just built these matchbox houses side by side, they’re absolutely soulless and I don’t think people particularly want to live like that.”

11598856-3x2-700x467.jpg

A staircase at historic Clarendon House near Launceston has visible cracks and mould

Those within heritage management asses value by looking at what stories are linked to the asset.

Mr Smithies said there were some wonderful collections at the National Trust that would fetch a high price at auction, with some even gaining international interest.

But his favourite heritage asset is a 120-year-old kerosene tin that he believes is worth about 50 cents.

“Someone’s cut the front out and put a candle in … it comes from a farm of a well-known agricultural family and it was the kerosene tin that they used to go down to the dairy when there was calving,” he said.

“How do you measure significance? Is it the stories behind it or is it the bean counter? What is its commercial value?”

For Mr Wildenauer, although the Hunters Hotel is expensive to maintain, its history is priceless.

“Once that balcony is gone, it will be gone forever, the history will be gone with it,” he said.

“OK, they might have saved a few beams and a few bits and pieces, but it’s not going to be the same balcony if they rebuild it and the cost of rebuilding is going to be way, way more than the cost of repairing it.

“It’s not always a viable thing to restore these buildings, but to let them collapse is even worse.”

Source: abc.net.au

Heritage protection and Heritage values should not vary from State to State. In Melbourne when one of the oldest remaining buildings in the CBD was in imminent danger of collapse, its inhabitants too old and infirm to take action, the City of Melbourne stepped in and provided reinforcing whilst funding and plans for its restoration was determined. It’s still braced, located at the corner of King St and Latrobe St.

It’s time to evolve a national approach to our Heritage buildings and properties, create a funding model and provide significant education from an early age to enable people to realise the true value of such neglected buildings.

Heritage is precious – protect it.

balance logo 20150209a

Balance Architecture recognises the importance of Historical Architecture. We specialise in the renovation and restoration of Heritage Buildings.