23 July 2021

St John's Orphanage in Goulburn to be demolished

| Hannah Sparks
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Exterior of dilapidated St John's Orphanage in Goulburn

The dilapidated St John’s Orphanage in Goulburn will soon be demolished. Photo: Robyn MacRae.

The owner of the historic St John’s Orphanage at 52 Mundy Street in Goulburn has been ordered to demolish the main building and three outbuildings that have been severely damaged by fires since 2016.

John Ferrara has 90 days to demolish the three outbuildings.

Goulburn Mulwaree Council will discuss the timeframe for demolition of the main building, and preservation of some of the property’s artefacts and historical elements with Mr Ferrara.

Council agreed the front area of the block, including the masonry boundary wall, driveway, forecourt and remnant trees and shrubs should be retained and restored to conserve the original building setting.

Mr Ferrara will also need to salvage significant features such as the crucifix and foundation plaque.

Meanwhile, the main building will be professionally recorded with drawings and photographs for an archival record.

Mr Ferrara, who also owns Goulburn Airport, had been attempting to build units inside the main building that was home to more than 2500 children between 1912 and 1978.

He received council approval in 2004 to build 75 retirement units onsite, but work never began and now he has plans to increase that number to 150.

Mr Ferrara said he would comply with the demolition order and build a new block of units on the land.

Historical artist’s impression of St John’s Orphanage in Goulburn

An early artist’s impression of St John’s Orphanage in Goulburn. Photo: File.

“It doesn’t worry me – parts of it I had to do [knock down] anyway,” he said.

Mr Ferrara said he has a meeting with council next month to discuss his latest development plan.

During the years, vandals and squatters have accessed the property and caused damage to the buildings and lit numerous fires.

The most extensive damage was caused by a series of fires in 2016, but blazes have been an ongoing issue and the most recent one was in June 2021.

Mr Ferrara said he has been saddened by the fires.

“These vandals have cost me a lot of money,” he said.

St John's Orphanage foundation stone

The St John’s Orphanage foundation stone and other artefacts will be saved from demolition. Photo: Robyn MacRae.

Some of the buildings also contain asbestos and have begun to collapse, posing a health and safety issue to the public and neighbouring properties.

A fence was erected around the property to keep trespassers out, but without anyone living on the site, it’s been easy for people to sneak through in the cover of darkness.

While the orphanage is recognised by council as a building of local heritage and social significance, it isn’t heritage listed.

Former orphanage residents have been upset by the deterioration of the buildings and many of them will be happy to see them go.

“About 90 per cent of us want to see it demolished,” former resident Phil Merrigan previously told Region Media. “It held memories and had a soul at one time, but those were lost in the fires.

“We tried hard to stop the building from falling into a state of disrepair, even trying to clean it up about 15 years ago and acting as a mediator between council and owner at one stage, but we’re over it now.”

Original Article published by Hannah Sparks on About Regional.

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Apart from ensuring preservation of as much architectural history as possible & reuse of materials, Council/the Community need to make developers be respectful of the young lives that dwelled in that place & what may have happened there given the era the orphanage operated in. Near my hometown (Thirlmere NSW) a large unmarked graveyard containing many children’s remains from a children’s/unmarried mother’s home there in the early 1900s was unearthed, at the time of discovery there were still people alive in the community who had memory of it, there were ceremonies and remembrances carried out that put to rest many of those memories and I think perhaps allowed some of those poor souls to at last rest.

Capital Retro2:49 pm 26 Jul 21

I hope they don’t find what is turning up in the back yards of some orphanages in Canada.

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