The history gods have been smiling on Saint Clair as members move their massive collection to make way for a wholesale restoration.
Volunteers at Saint Clair have had their work cut out since September shifting boxes of archives, pictures, furniture and other items to the council’s Bourke Street depot.
The temporary storage was made available in preparation for an estimated $1 million restoration of the 1840s villa, the home of the Goulburn and District Historical Society. It’s expected to take 12 months.
But rather than take up a council offer of temporary office space at the depot for a fee, another opportunity presented itself.
Member Bob Galland contacted neighbouring business, Hudson Home Timber and Hardware about using an old workshop building next door to Saint Clair.
Manager Matt Lawler said he was only too willing to help. The business rents the former Tynan Motors workshop from Paul Donoghue and uses the rear section for storage.
“I wanted to say yes straight away but I had to go through the right channels,” Mr Lawler said.
Thanks to their generosity, the Society will occupy the building’s front section for the next year, free of charge.
Member Bob Galland said the arrangement was perfect, as it was close to Saint Clair.
“Matt has been fantastic,” Mr Galland said.
“From the outset he said ‘yes, we’ll see if we can get approval’ and then within days his staff came in and set it up for us.”
The Society recently merged with the Goulburn District Family History Society. The temporary premises unites much of the two collections, although some of the latter is still kept at Goulburn Library.
In September the council asked the Historical Society to shift from Saint Clair by December to allow the restoration work.
“We moved over 200 boxes of archives, 100 items of furniture, 100 pictures which had to be packed and wrapped and all the Manfred (architectural) plans. It was a massive job,” Mr Galland said.
Everything was itemised in the process.
He estimated $60,000 worth of work put in by volunteers. The Society enlisted Pollards’ Removals for the delicate job, for which the council paid.
The conservation work will address major damp problems in Saint Clair, white ants, repair roofing and other structural issues and make the building compliant with Building Code of Australia standards. In the longer term, a double-storey research and archive centre is planned at the rear of the existing coachhouse.
The council last year made the commitment to conserving the history headquarters. President Garry White said things had changed significantly since the council closed the facility in 2015, due to safety concerns.
“A lot of this has come about because of (council general manager) Warwick Bennett’s proactive thinking. He wanted it to keep going,” he said.
The council has lodged a development application for the work on the State and nationally heritage listed building. However the approval is held up, with the Office of Environment and Heritage requiring more information on aspects such as archaeology and internal access.
But it’s all onward and upward for the Society, whose members are making the best of their situation in the meantime.
“What we plan to do now is to keep the Society active and members engaged, form a series of working groups to look at how to modernise it and make it a more relevant and attractive feature for Goulburn people and visitors,” Mr Galland said.
“We see this as a new beginning. We’ve had enormous support from the council and councillors because they see what we do.”
The Society will remain open on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays from 1pm to 4pm. For more information, contact Mr White on 4821 1156.