A FORMER orphanage that was home to more than 2000 boys in its time and was intrinsically connected to the Sisters of Mercy, has been proposed for redevelopment into residential units.
The St John's Orphanage, built in Mundy Street in 1912 to a design by one of Goulburn's best-known architects, EC Manfred, has been suggested for refurbishment into 63 units within the existing building and on the extensive grounds.
The development would be known as Glebe Gardens.
A development application is before Goulburn City Council to build the majority of these single-storey units on grounds, which front Combermere St, Bourke St and Mundy St.
Local businessman, John Ferrara, owns the building, however, Queanbeyan-based firm, Madew Developments, is undertaking the development.
More recently Madew Developments constructed townhouses in Major Drive.
The council's corporate and planning director, Chris Berry, said heritage considerations would be uppermost in the assessment.
"Given that it is adaptive reuse, heritage is the single standout issue. That outweighs anything else," Mr Berry said.
Nevertheless, meeting fire safety standards, landscaping and car parking would also figure highly.
Gardens and a swimming pool are planned for the grounds, which have stood vacant for many years.
The redevelopment is a far cry from 1912 when Bishop Gallagher laid the foundation stone of the orphanage which would be home to almost 100 boys.
According to a heritage assessment carried out by Eric Martin and Associates, the Sisters of Mercy had first taken a role in organised social care in Goulburn in 1881 when Bishop Lanigan purchased and renovated the former Hayes Mill at the corner of Bourke and Clinton Sts for an orphanage.
In March, 1912 Sr Mary Benignus Bowe was placed in charge of St John's. It was one of several orphanages built at that time which would later be deemed architecturally and socially significant.
Manfred had also designed the Kenmore Orphanage in 1906, which has been listed on the State Heritage Inventory.
Ironically, St John's has not been included on the inventory, however, a recently completed draft heritage study review has recommended it be placed on a local list.
A feature of the grounds is a brick retaining wall built in 1914.
According to the heritage assessment St John's underwent several later additions, including a west wing and chapel in 1919, an east end and a rear room in the 1920s, a hall in 1932 and modification and extension of the south wing in 1938.
While Martin and Associates acknowledge changes, they conclude that the orphanage "appears to retain a substantial amount of original fabric."
However, they believed a new use, sensitively done, was the best way to conserve the building.
The consultants recommended some 40 building controls, including keeping the front of the complex free of development.
This would take about six units out of the equation. Key interior details are recommended for retention and post-1938 "ad hoc" additions suggested for removal.
The orphanage closed in 1978 and from 1979-1994 Youth with a Mission rented the facility. An occasional caretaker was in place until the Catholic Church sold the building to Mr Ferrara in 1999.
At a recent City meeting, Cr Margaret O'Neill, asked that the DA come before the council rather than a Development Control Committee.
Owner, John Ferrara declined to comment and developer, Peter Madew, could not be contacted.