OLD TOBACCO KILNS FIND NEW PURPOSE
For decades tobacco kilns punctuated the thriving tobacco industry across the North East, but a decade on from the local industry’s demise, some are now finding a new purpose in life.
The demise of the local tobacco industr y a decade ago left tobacco kilns idle, but some have found a new purpose in life.
FOR nearly three quarters of a century corrugated iron tobacco kilns have been a distinctive feature of the Ovens Valley.
Tobacco for a long time was one of the region’s major industries and kilns scattered the tobacco growing properties of the area.
The first tobacco cultivated in the Ovens Valley was by Chinese, Americans and Europeans who had come for the Gold Rush.
However, during the 1920s many Italian migrants arrived in the district and established themselves in the industry which eventually boomed following a second influx of Italians after World War II.
While many of those kilns still stand almost 10 years after the industry ceased when shareholders accepted an industry pay-out on October 26, 2006, their use now is for nothing more than storage.
However, there have been those like Clare and Jim Delany who have taken the iconic structure and made something of it.
In 1998 Clare, an academic at the University of Melbourne, and Jim, a Melbourne QC, bought a former tobacco growing property in Porepunkah to establish their Alpine Angus cattle stud.
However, it would be years later that the two would have the idea to build luxury accommodation inside a kiln structure.
Clare said seeing the old kilns and other farm sheds up close was the inspiration for the design of their three houses.
“Because we had these structures on the farm we were able to go inside them, look up, and think wouldn’t these make a great space for living,” she said.
“When we first bought the farm most of our attention was toward getting the cattle stud up and running but we had three titles to build on and we eventually thought we better use them before we lose them.”
The first, Cavedon’s Kilnhouse - named after the property’s previous owners - was built in 2006 and includes two tobacco kilns as separate living spaces.
Three years later Chinaman’s Kilnhouse, distinctive by its Chinese hat which is perched on top of the one kiln, was completed.
And finally after 10 months of work The Sorting Shed was finished in 2012.
While not a kiln structure, it is instead based on the shed used to sort the tobacco after it was cured - and is comparable to a warehouse apartment.
“We were thinking about what type of house we could build and this was a point of difference...i think if we had only looked at the kilns from a distance we might have never decided on the idea,” Clare said. >>
Just 15 minutes up the road in Myrtleford is where the kiln design is also being used in a different way.
The Lupo family, like many Italian families, made a living off tobacco.
And when Ermanno and Michelle Lupo decided to open a café that looked different to most, a kiln was the answer.
With tobacco kilns on their property behind the café the idea to build something that represented the town’s history was quickly settled on.
Even more interesting is how other old farming materials have be utilised to complete the venue.
Tables are made with irrigation pipes as legs while the bottoms are old ploughing disks.
Even wooden boxes used to hold tobacco seedlings are mounted on the wall to house glassware.
And then on the outside decks mist sprays give an effect similar to steam leaving a tobacco kiln during the curing process, something Michelle says makes the building even more authentic.
“We obviously had planned most things but the mist sprays were something we didn’t intentionally mean, it certainly provides a little nostalgia though,” she said.
SEEING OPPORTUNITY / Michelle and Ermanno Lupo have turned their old tobacco kiln into a vibrant and interesting cafe.