Shire's oldest building to be restored with new addition at rear

The historic workers’ cottage Gunyah will be preserved.

Builder Daniel Simpson and his partner Brittany Dutton bought the dilapidated cottage in Evelyn Street North, Sylvania, at auction and intend to make it home.

They have received development approval to restore the original building and build a two-storey addition at the rear.

The rear portion of the cottage, which was an early addition, will be demolished.

The new addition will be “generally concealed behind the existing dwelling house when viewed front on from the street,” the development application (DA) said.

Gunyah, which was built about 1880, is believed to be the shire’s oldest standing building and is on land subdivided from the Thomas Holt Estate around Sutherland House, from which the shire’s name was derived. 

Sutherland Shire Council bought the heritage-listed property in 2003 and, after ruling out various conservation options because of cost, decided last year to sell it.

The cottage has been vacant for 18 years.

Ms Dutton said she “loved it the moment I walked in”.

“It has got character, and I think we can make it a lovely place to live,” she said.

Mr Simpson, who is experienced in restoring heritage buildings, is looking forward to the challenge.

“I’m a carpenter-builder, and this being a predominantly fully timber cladded house, it’s a project you want to do,” he said.

“It’s probably both a builder’s dream and a builder’s nightmare.

“We have worked with the architect, engineer and heritage consultant to preserve the heritage value while also making it a functional home.”

The layout of the tiny original cottage will be reconfigured to provide a master suite with study area, ensuite and built-in robe.

The DA said external changes to the front of the cottage, facing the street, would be minimal.

The original brick chimney would be reinstated.

The DA said the planned changes at the front would ensure the cottage retained a similar appearance to the present when viewed from the street.

“The proposed new addition is to be located at rear of the site, generally concealed behind of the existing dwelling house when viewed front on from the street,” the DA said.

“The proposed rear addition will be two levels in height, and of a contemporary design that is easily distinguishable from the heritage item, yet sits well and complements the dwelling to be retained in terms of colours, materials and scale.”

The last occupant Phyllis Hulse lived at Gunyah from the mid-1960s to the end of the 1990s. Miss Hulse died in 2001, aged 88..

The council purchased the home in 2003 with the intention of heritage conservation and development.

Plans were drawn up for a similar project to what is now to take place – restoration of the cottage with a rear two-storey addition.

However, there was a downturn in the property market and, fearing a substantial loss, the  project was shelved.

An unsuccessful move was made in 2013 to have the cottage demolished.

Last year, the council decided the property was surplus to its needs and decided to sell it after an emotional debate during which Cr Peter Scaysbrook said demolition “would be the equivalent of knocking down George Washington’s house”.