For a town founded nearly two centuries ago, it’s little wonder Queanbeyan is rich in heritage. But over the years, many of the original landmarks have made way for the new and sparkly, making the ones that have survived extra special.
One of these, 4 Alice Street, received a badge of honour as part of this year’s Heritage Festival. Owner Joanna Nikolic and her husband took home the ‘Restoration of a Residential or Commercial Heritage Building’ award on Saturday 30 April.
The annual Queanbeyan-Palerang Heritage Awards recognise ongoing contributions to the conservation, education and promotion of built and human heritage in Queanbeyan and beyond.
But the accolade didn’t come easy for the Nikolic family.
“My husband and I knew we wanted to purchase a family home in Queanbeyan,” Joanna says.
“We liked the older style and Queanbeyan has a few of those dotted around, including one particular cottage on the beautiful tree-lined Alice Street.”
The cottage in question was a two-bedroom ‘California Bungalow’, an American style of house common in suburbs worldwide from about 1910 to 1939. Typically timber, but occasionally brick, main features include a front porch and balcony overlooked by a single dormer window in the storey above.
Age hadn’t been kind to 4 Alice Street, but Joanna knew that no matter how dilapidated it might appear, there was “huge charm and potential” held within.
The couple rented it out for a couple of years before work began in 2016.
“It was in a pretty poor state. Restoration involved pulling every single one of the bricks down, cleaning them up, rescuing the ones we could, and putting them back the way they were. We also re-laid the foundation and made it all structurally sound again,” Joanna says.
“Fortunately, there is already an architect and bricklayer in the family. That’s the only reason we were able to do it.”
Inside, there are stained glass windows, skirting boards and a fireplace, while several of the garden features were restored, including the woven-wire fence.
The house is heritage-listed, which meant they had to liaise with the Queanbeyan-Palerang Regional Council (QPRC) every step of the way. But they did receive permission for an extension, adding a new open-plan kitchen, living and dining area, main bathroom and master bedroom with en-suite. A glass walkway connects both sections.
By 2019, it was resplendent in its former glory and ready to move into, much to the appreciation of the neighbours.
“I think people are very appreciative of heritage these days, and this home has such connection to the past we have to look after as best we can,” Joanna says.
She says passers-by frequently comment on the beauty of the work.
“They’re glad we maintained its look and didn’t knock it down and build a McMansion,” Joanna says.
“A lot of the other homeowners in the street are looking at doing their own renovations as well and look to ours for a bit of inspiration.”
Joanna says she feels “very privileged and grateful” for their work to have been recognised in the heritage awards.
“It was a nice nod to everyone who had contributed to the build and the project. It was quite a challenging project,” she says.
Elsewhere in Queanbeyan, Douglas Taupin won the ‘New Heritage Building or Adaptation of a Heritage Building or Heritage Garden’ award for his colonial-inspired garden at 71 Cameron Road.
The property dates back to 1887 and was originally much larger than it is today, but when Douglas bought it in 2010, he says the garden had largely been overlooked.
“So we got a designer involved, known for his work on formal gardens. His focus was on improving the aspect from the road by adding hedges, garden beds, a pond and 100 m of original-style stone wall,” he says.
The design was finalised in 2014, and Douglas has been slowly but surely putting it together ever since. In addition to looking stately, he says two other requirements were for it to be “water-wise” and “low-maintenance”.
He says it never fails to draw a “very positive” reaction from passers-by, with many neighbours having lived in the area for years, watching the transformation with vested interest.
“One even remembers when aeroplanes used to land on Cameron Road in the 1940s and ’50s,” he says.
The last award for ‘Promotion or Contribution to Heritage’ went to Create Collaborate Collective for the exhibition Connee-Colleen – Queanbeyan Character.
Other names who made it into the ‘highly commended’ categories include Jamie Raynolds and Bonnie Daniel for The Royal Hotel in Braidwood, Jeffrey Roy Burnell for his garden at 5 Albert Street in Queanbeyan, Daniel Evans for his celebration of heritage-focused building work, Tim Adams for his thesis including stories from Riverside Cemetery and Katrina Blazey for her Instagram page ‘coolqueanbeyan’.