Cr ROBIN Saville says the onus is on the St John’s orphanage owner to rebuild the structure.
He, Mayor Geoff Kettle, Deputy Mayor Bob Kirk and general manager Warwick Bennett were undertaking an inspection of the railway yards in Sloane St when they noticed smoke rising from the Mundy St area.
Cr Saville said while he hadn’t seen the full extent of the damage, he decribed the destruction as “very sad.”
“(But) there can’t be a question of demolishing the building,” he said.
“It has been left in a state of disrepair for too long and if it was demolished, a great shame would be carried out on the people of Goulburn.
“It is very much a part of the city’s history and it must be restored. The owner has a moral obligation to do so.”
The orphanage was designed by prominent Goulburn architect EC Manfred and was opened in 1912.
The Sisters of Mercy ran the institution until 1978 when it closed.
During that time they looked after thousands of boys who came to the orphanage in sometimes the saddest of family circumstances.
The old boys have spoken warmly of the care they received from the Sisters.
Since buying the building in about 2000 for $450,000, owner John Ferrara has submitted several development applications to Council.
The first of these was for a 76-unit retirement village, plus houses across seven stages.
The old orphanage was to be restored using land sale proceeds.
These plans were abandoned and a new DA submitted proposing 18 residential lots around the orphanage.
Mr Ferrara also wanted to restore the main building. At that time the Goulburn Heritage Group vehemently argued that the subdivision should not be approved without an ironclad commitment to restore the main structure. Councillors agreed.
Planners called for a schedule of conservation works as part of the construction certificate before anything could proceed. That was in 2013 and Mr Ferrara is still awaiting the construction certificate.
In recent years, the vacant building has been extensively vandalised and neighbours have reported small fires being lit in the premises.
Mr Ferrara could not be reached for comment on his future plans.