It was proclaimed to be the “greatest mutual office in the Empire” when built, exuding Goulburn’s prosperity and status.
AMP building owner, Matt Howe and his family agree wholeheartedly with the assessment.
“It’s a majestic piece of history. I think it’s the most beautiful building in Goulburn. We have some iconic buildings here but I think this one’s the best,” he said.
That’s why his family and previous owners, the Stamatellis and Waugh family trust, invested some $500,000 into its restoration over the last nine years. Along the way, it’s revealed the most surprising features.
“We always suspected there was something underneath the carpet (on the top floor),” Mr Howe said.
“We found lino and then this lovely terrazzo marble underneath, so we restored it to its former glory. It was not an easy process and there was a fair bit of work involved.”
The $30,000 project complemented the same investment in rear car park improvements, including a security gate.
A makeover of the facade is next off the blocks. Mr Howe said iron ore had been leaching into sandstone, causing discolouration. He successfully applied for a $5000 council heritage grant for the project, worth “six figures.” The work will be undertaken over several years.
A Greek-style rooftop terrace is also planned.
Paul Stamatellis said his family trust also spent $150,000 restoring the unique internal lift after tree roots busted plumbing, causing it to flood, several years ago. In addition, the trust enlisted local stonemason Jon Greaves to replace “aged and crumbled” handles on sandstone urns on top of the building.
Wrought iron was removed, sandblasted and powder coated, timber doors and windows restored, a counter on the ground floor stripped back and French polished and parquetry flooring addressed. Internal painting, carpet replacement and modern amenities were also completed in sympathy with the original form.
“We didn’t want to modernise everything, just to address the neglect. It was a significant project money wise,” Mr Stamatellis said.
“The middle floor had morphed into add on after add on of modern decor and we pulled it back to a shell and made good. In some rooms we installed false ceilings to install air-conditioning.”
The neo-classical Italianate building was designed by architects Wright and Appleby and completed by builders Kell and Rigby in 1928. It cost 25,000 pounds, according to a March 13, 1928 Goulburn Evening Penny Post report.
Tazewell’s Grand Goulburn states that the AMP Society had agencies in the city from at least 1850 but constructed its first large premises in Montague Street in 1881. The EC Manfred designed structure was a block of offices, with the upper floor rented. Manfred himself had an office in this section.
But by the mid 1920s, the Society had expanded to such an extent it commissioned the Auburn Street building. By that stage, its annual income had grown from 278 pounds when it started to assets exceeding 65,000 pounds, the Goulburn Evening Penny Post reported.
The newspaper described it as a “noble monument.”
“Modelled on exquisite lines, the structure represents one of the finest architectural additions to the city of Goulburn in recent years,” the report stated.
It was officially opened by AMP chairman and Member of the NSW Legislative Council, Sir Alfred Meeks. Civic representatives, including Mayor A Goodhew, and prominent citizens attended the ceremony. During his address, Sir Alfred said he was deeply impressed by Goulburn’s war memorial on Rocky Hill and wished other towns would emulate its grandeur.
The AMP Society sold the building in the 1980s after bank competition ate into its market share, a 1997 Goulburn and District Historical Society bulletin stated.
Prominent local jeweller Ange Zantis owned it for many years. Mr Stamatellis’s family trust bought it almost nine years ago, before selling it to the Howe family in 2014/15.