Grand old lady of Kogarah, Sunnyside, for sale

Labour of love: Neil Bown has restored Sunnyside, the oldest house in St George, and now plans to sell it. Picture: Lisa McMahon.
Labour of love: Neil Bown has restored Sunnyside, the oldest house in St George, and now plans to sell it. Picture: Lisa McMahon.

ONE of Kogarah municipality's grand old characters will come under new ownership after 18 years at the hands of its current custodian.

Neil Bown is set to sell Sunnyside, a sandstone mansion at Beverley Park, regarded by some as the oldest property in St George and Sutherland Shire.

The house was built before 1870 and was a run-down men's boarding house when Mr Bown started a restoration that spanned 18 years.

"It would have taken five years to build it," he said.

"It's very solid. If a plane crashed into it, the plane would come off second best.

"I don't have time to manage it now."

Mr Bown stripped cladding from the outside of the property to reveal its original stones, and transformed the interior into a usable home office.

Unhappy meal: A McDonald's restaurant had been proposed for the Sunnyside site in Beverley Park, but fell through because of a lack of community support.Picture: Kogarah Historical Society, Burcher Property Group.

Unhappy meal: A McDonald's restaurant had been proposed for the Sunnyside site in Beverley Park, but fell through because of a lack of community support.Picture: Kogarah Historical Society, Burcher Property Group.

Asked whether he would do it again, he was not sure that he would commit to the project once more.

"Part of you says run a mile away and part of you says I'd do it again in a heartbeat," he said.

"It was a labour of love."

Sunnyside might have survived for 150 years, but no documents show when it was built.

Kogarah historian Beverley Earnshaw said Carss Cottage in Carss Park was older on paper, but possibly not in practice.

She said the building should be in public hands.

"Sunnyside would be a marvellous building for Kogarah Council to acquire," she said.

"It's a lot of money, but if it's $3 million that would be cheap for what it is."

The council's director of governance and corporate services, Evan Hutchings, said there were no plans to buy Sunnyside.

"It's not on the list of properties identified for acquisition," he said.

MANSION HISTORY

Sunnyside has a rich history as a mansion, school and boarding house.

1848: Irish immigrant Matthew Carroll bought 179 acres of land for Sunnyside in ‘‘Koggorah’’ for £178.

1860-1870: Sunnyside was built as a two-storey sandstone farmhouse with slate roof on a property with horse stables.

1906-1923: Master horsewoman Mollie McWilliam gave riding lessons and Fred McWilliam bred bulldogs on the property, including Sunnyside Cestus, a ‘‘British bulldog’’ featured on WWI posters.

1937: The house was converted into flats, with the ground floor rented out as a Church of England rectory.

1941: Sunnyside sold for £1400, so that Sherwood kindergarten and primary School could use the property.

1959: The house served for decades as a boarding house for men, with boxed-in verandahs and basic timber cladding. Rooms were rented out in the early 1990s for $46 to $80 a week.

1993: McDonald’s proposed to turn the sandstone building into a restaurant. The proposal failed after public protest.

1995: Current owner Neil Bown purchased Sunnyside for $450,000.

Details extracted from Sunnyside, An Old Kogarah Residence, by Beverley Earnshaw.

Should the council buy Sunnyside?

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