Iconic St Clair villa is March’s featured building in the Goulburn Post’s 2017 Calendar.
The 1843 Georgian homestead is one of the oldest surviving buildings in the city and thus it is fitting that it houses the Goulburn and District Historical Society.
The building is now listed by the National Trust as in considered essential to the heritage of Australia. It was saved from demolition by the council in 1970 and has been held in trust with the Historical Society ever since.
It has certainly had a few ups and downs and been used for many things over those 174 years. At one time it was used as a school, at another as a doctor’s consulting rooms and also for a period for guesthouse type accommodation.
Architect and prominent businessman James Sinclair built it in two or three stages from 1843 until about 1849. He originally acquired a large block of land that extended from Sloane Street to Auburn Streets and he also built a row of terraces (demolished in 1950) on the Auburn Street frontage to the block.
Sinclair arrived in Goulburn from Scotland in about 1839. Apart from St Clair, he also designed other prominent buildings in the city including the old courthouse (still standing), the city’s second jail (which was located behind where the Post Office is now), and the impressive three-storey Sinclair’s Mill, that stood on the corner of Clinton and Sloane Streets.
Sinclair built St Clair for his wife Christina and family, but tragedy struck almost as soon as they moved in, with the death of his two brothers – Peter in 1844, and then Alexander in 1847. His wife died in 1848 and then his finances began to wane.
In 1851, he left for the Victorian Goldfields to try and rekindle his fortune but he dissapeared, believed to have been robbed and murdered near Ovens. So despite leaving such a grand legacy in the city, Sinclair and most of his family were dead within 12 years of arriving here.
The Goulburn City Council purchased the house in 1970
“It houses important local archives and museum collections including textiles, domestic items, photographs and newspapers from early pioneer families of Goulburn and surrounding districts,” Goulburn Mulwaree museums officer Claire Baddeley said.
Ms Baddeley said St Clair is to undergo conservation works this year, in light of a Conservation Management Plan that was prepared last year.
“The building operates as St. Clair Villa Museum and Archives, housing the collection of the Goulburn District Historical Society,” Ms Baddeley said.
“In conjunction with each exhibition I organise a series of public programs at St Claire as part of my role.”