THE HOUSE WINS
AFTER YEARS OF NEGLECT, HEATHCOTE’S OLDEST BUILDING IS BEING BROUGHT BACK TO ITS FORMER GLORY
A PIECE of Heathcote’s history is about to undergo a painful rebirth.
Rathlin House, the surveyor’s office on the corner of Chauncey St, is having all its woodwork ripped off to reveal its original sandstone splendour.
And that will then be restored to its original state, bringing an important part of the town back to life.
After decades of decay, the dilapidated wooden-clad surroundings are to be torn down due to safety concerns and the town’s oldest building – it went up in 1854 at the height of the gold rush – will emerge from the wreckage.
The building was originally the home of Phillip Chauncy, the surveyor-in-chief for the McIvor goldfield district in 1853.
The house served as home for the Chauncy family with Phillip, his second wife Susan and their eight children living in Heathcote before moving to Dunolly in 1861.
While the gold rush was short-lived, the house and office lasted well beyond other buildings in the original camp, such as the gold office, courthouse and police stables.
Throughout the decades, the home was used as a medical practice and then by a dentist until it was declared unfit for habitation in 1991.
Now the original building is rumoured to become a bed and breakfast and restaurant.
Heathcote McIvor Historical Society research officer Elizabeth Murfitt said the society has been working with the current owners to make sure history is preserved.
“Our main concern was the cottage; it’s our most important piece of the historical building. It was important for the whole area that we had the cottage heritage listed in the ’90s,” Ms Murfitt said.
“All the extra pieces were built on more than 100 years ago when the doctors bought the property. It was in a state of disrepair.
“In 1996 there was someone living in the house. She was living in the wooden part of the house then and there were some bad repairs completed on the building.
“It’s never been painted nor had any upgrades, I got to go inside and have a look at it in 2000. It was eerie with no electricity.”
Ms Murfitt said it is a bittersweet moment for the Historical Society; while the wooden extensions on the buildings will have to be demolished the original sandstone will remain.
“In one sense I’m glad the renovations will be able to highlight the most important part of the building. It plays such an important role in McIvor’s history throughout the gold rush,” Ms Murfitt said.
‘‘It means that people will think twice now when they do take down an old building. Just look at it first, they’re absolutely magnificent. People spent so much time and effort to keep the original building for them.”
“There are a couple of other buildings on the block such as the stable and the coach house and I’m hoping they’ll be preserved.”
The Heathcote McIvor Historical Society is working closely with the current owners to ensure the history of Rathlin House is preserved during the renovations.
The house has been used as a medical practice and by a dentist.
The house was declared unfit for habitation in 1991.
Original owner Phillip Chauncy.