8 September 2023

When something old is new again ... building on constructive criticism

| Sally Hopman
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Goulburn Fire Station

The old Goulburn Fire Station has just gone on the market – although it does look slightly different today. Photo: Goulburn Mulwaree Library.

Have you noticed how many old things are disappearing, and we’re not just talking animal, vegetable or mineral here. We’re talking old buildings. Lots of them. Either been given a new lease on life, literally, by real estate agents, or transformed into something they were never designed to be in the first place.

Like the Old Goulburn Fire Station, for example. Doing a little research about it after hearing it had gone on the market and that expressions of interest had been called, I wondered why no-one had asked me.

My expression of interest would be to leave it alone. Or, if it was falling down, restore it back to its former glory – no, not the one when it was a commercial office or one of a number of restaurants, rather when the fire trucks actually ran on horse power and the price of fuel depended on how good/bad the hay season had been.

Can you imagine the stories it could tell? Too bad we can’t give it a microphone and urge it to let fly. (Same goes for the horses). Both only happen in bad movies.

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Yes, of course money does get in the way of such simple ideas as keeping stuff as it was, but can you imagine if some magnanimous soul funded its restoration just because they could. No ulterior motive, no dream to have their name trump-eted across the top of it in glitzy gold. Just save the thing from crumbling into a heap and, with that, its history.

They could make their money back in a flash if they were tastefully merch-minded, what with snowdomes filled with floating dalmatians and tiny plumes of smoke, or handbag-size fire hydrants – personal name engraving extra.

Old churches, too, are facing an increasingly devilish future. Be holier than thou, the ads tell you, live in a church, specially designed for the modern era complete with (at least one) fancy coloured window, lots of long brown furniture that can seat masses, and even a little stage up the front if you feel showy. Not a lot of room for a kitchen, especially if you need to cook lots of loaves and fishes, but you can guarantee the feng shui will be feng on.

There’s even a website or 50 that list all the deconsecrated churches available for sale between here and heaven, but I’m not going to give you the link because you’d probably be sent in a different direction.

The old Gunning Convent

The old Gunning Convent, commissioned in 1924, went on the market and was sold as a home earlier this year. Photo: McCann Properties.

The thing is, though, many of these churches, particularly those in the the bush, were built by people who lived there. Many of whom who gave up their land, and their weekends to make bricks, to haul walls up, to do all the right things so their communities would have something good to do on a Sunday.

Then, a few decades later, just because so few people went to services there, they closed the door on them. The door usually opened again when it fell down and experts said it had to be sold because it was no longer useful. It would have been had they not closed it in the first place.

Sure, it might well be a blessing to live in a church, and you couldn’t but help feel righteous by so doing, but, for me, there’s something not quite kosher about it.

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Marcia Church6:02 pm 13 Sep 23

I absolutely agree with everything you’ve said…”When something old is new again….”
As someone who loves our old architecture and the design and influence ( as you said) which went into them, I’m constantly questioning why we in Australia do so little to bring them back to life to convey the stories.
So many other countries seem to be able to do so, just not us – to me it’s heartbreaking.
Your words sounded echo mine each time I see another “For Sale” sign go up.

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