After five years spent painstakingly restoring Gundagai’s Old Bridge Inn to its former glory, the owner’s deteriorating health and COVID-19 lockdowns have meant the doors have never reopened.
Owner, former paramedic Neil Griffiths, has instead made the heartbreaking decision to sell the historic property, cutting short his dream of owning and operating a country function centre.
Neil purchased the property in 2005 and said, while it was “quite dilapidated, it still had a beauty about it – as old things do”.
“When I first drove past it, I could see how we could bring this lovely old lady back to her glory.”
Neil and his partner Joanne operated the watering hole in its run-down state before deciding to embark on a complete renovation of the inn, the managers’ residence and the grounds five years ago.
Following a heart attack and an autoimmune disease diagnosis, Neil said progress was slow, but the couple persevered and, with help from family and friends, were finally ready to throw open the doors in early 2020, just as the country went into lockdown.
“When COVID hit, we were absolutely devastated. It stopped us in our tracks,” he said.
“I had a dream, but with COVID and my health issues, it was like the rug was being pulled out from under my feet.”
Neil decided to purchase the inn after taking weekend breaks in Gundagai to escape the stress of his job as a paramedic.
His plan was to semi-retire and own a “happy place” where the community could come together and share good times celebrating birthdays, weddings and family reunions in a beautiful old building.
Originally called the Bridge Hotel, the inn was built in the 1860s and was owned by Mr Fuller who also operated a punt across the Murrumbidgee River.
Neil said the property had an interesting history and, a few years back he met a 92-year-old man who was born in a room upstairs when his mother went into labour during a journey.
The inn has been a popular stopover for travellers between Sydney and Melbourne and also a community gathering place.
Neil would love nothing more than to see the inn purchased by a family or group of people who share his dream of creating a unique venue that’s a focal point of the Riverina district.
“I would even love to get there and be part of the opening celebration as a guest,” he added.
Located on a 6000 square metre block in Tumut Street on the south side of town, the property overlooks the ruins of the rail bridge and the road bridge that was the longest wooden bridge in the Southern Hemisphere until it was pulled down in 2021.
Sales agent Rachelle Barnett from Elders Young says the inn is a “rare gem” that is on the market for $1.8 million, walk-in, walk-out.
The sale includes all the equipment and period-style furnishings in the restaurant, coffee lounge and upstairs accommodation, including antiques and silk artworks.
Rachelle says the property also comes with a “quirky” heritage drive-car train carriage which Neil had planned to convert into a dining space or guest accommodation.
She says there has been loads of interest in the property which ideally would suit someone seeking a tree change or semi-retirement with a good income.
Neil’s heartbreaking story has also generated interest in the inn, and Rachelle hopes the new owner will continue where he left off.
“This is an opportunity to walk in and own something absolutely spectacular,” she said.
“It’s a one-in-a-million type property and there’s just nothing like it in that town. It’s so hard to come by a property of this era that is in such good condition. It’s a chance to secure a piece of history that’s ready to operate.”
Downstairs in the main building is a fully licensed function centre with luxury style cocktail bar and restaurant area that can comfortably seat 80 guests, including an atrium room overlooking the outdoor garden and seating area.
The fully fitted-out commercial kitchen, storeroom and cool room have direct access to the restaurant, bar and dining area, while an intimate coffee lounge, private meeting room and outdoor dining rooms are perfect for small group gatherings and meetings.
Comprised of four bedrooms, two bathrooms and a shared kitchenette, the upstairs accommodation is wrapped by a stunning wide verandah with ornate balustrade and offers panoramic views.
Attached to the Old Bridge Inn is a comfortable two-bedroom managers’ residence which could be used as bed and breakfast accommodation.
Rachelle says Gundagai has had a “huge flush” in recent years as city folk seek the country lifestyle.
“The main street is alive and vibrant and full of shops. It’s an absolutely buzzing hub,” she said.
Contact Rachelle Barnett and Elders Young on 0487 397 213 for more information about the Old Bridge Inn.
Original Article published by Katrina Condie on About Regional.