The Heritage Overlay – What Does It Mean To You As The New Home Owner?

Chadwick House at 32-34 The Eyrie, Eaglemont

Recently in Bank Street, South Melbourne a Victorian terrace house built in 1858 was sold for a reputedly $2.7M. Until recently the occupant, an elderly widow, had lived there now for nearly sixty years. In the early 1970’s the property was purchased by her and her late husband and he proceeded to render it into a liveable state. Prior to their purchase the stately two storey terrace was uninhabitable and facing a possible demolition order. Peter Downey was an ex-Merchant Seaman from Scotland. He and his wife Maureen emigrated from the UK in the 1960’s as ‘ten pound poms’. The original building itself was structurally sound with a period style slate roof in poor repair, floor boards ripped up or rotting, an original staircase and a miniscule bathroom upstairs. 

With a young family, the Downey’s first consideration was to establish a liveable family home. During the 1970’s there were no Heritage guidelines so a section was constructed to the rear of the original building comprising of a kitchen, meals area, laundry and a small bathroom/toilet. Peter rebuilt the fences, constructed a garage at the rear and removed the old outdoor brick ‘dunny’. He repainted and replastered inside as he saw fit.

The family home is now covered by a Heritage overlay with relatively strict requirements the new owners will be required to abide by. Sensibly, the first action they have envisaged and planned is to commission a full Heritage Architectural Report. In doing so they will ensure for themselves an understanding of the mandatory requirements of the Heritage overlay and what exactly they can and cannot do. 

Two years ago just up the street from this home a beautiful two-storey bluestone property sold for about $2.3M. Smaller and more compact, this property had undergone a series of inappropriate renovations. When it was first built it the 1850’s it  was purposed with the buildings adjoining it as South Melbourne’s first ‘School for Young Ladies’. In 1921 a third of the original building was demolished and a small Victorian style single storey terrace was constructed in its place. The building being discussed features a regular and well cut blue stone frontage pointed in an early stretchy bond pattern. The side wall is more rustic and in need of attention. Internally since 1998 the property has endured three renovations by three separate owners. Unfortunately none of them were anything more than cosmetic. The result? The current owner has been forced to undertake very expensive repairs. Buildings constructed in the early 1850’s are not designed to accommodate under-funded cosmetic renovations. The bathroom leaked very badly, the carpets were poorly laid and had to be removed and there are structural issues yet to be addressed. The current owner stated that she wishes she had availed herself of a properly qualified Heritage Architect prior to purchasing the property or, at least immediately after.

So-called renovations can have multiple disastrous and expensive repercussions years down the track from when they were first carried out. It’s not only sensible from a design perspective, financially it is imperative to obtain expert advice from a qualified Heritage Architect. Builders will often attempt to carry out remedial works in many instances but with a Heritage overlay these works must first be approved at local council level on the basis of both Heritage requirements and structural integrity.

Chadwick House, Eaglemont – interior

Call Balance Architects on 0418 341 443 and speak with Principal Heritage Architect Andrew Fedorowicz with regard to your property and your plans. Arrange for a professional assessment and Heritage Report on your property with a view to creating a liveable, comfortable home yet ensuring the Heritage status of your property is both recognised, respected and restored.

Andrew is a Fellow of the Australian Institute of Architects with a genuine passion for Heritage preservation and refurbishment with many years’ experience. For a prompt response you can also leave your details here. Planning will ensure you are not confronted with major expense and insurmountable problems in the future. Owing a Heritage property in itself is a significant asset. Enhancing and restoring it can only add value to your investment. And the starting point is always a Heritage Report from a competent professional.


Heritage Architecture – The Pathway from The Past to a Better Future. 

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