Last weekend marked a quarter of a century since I moved into my home in New Town. What is now a desirable inner city Hobart suburb was then somewhat disheveled and a bit raffish, with a lot of rental properties in a combination of crumbling colonial mansions, early 20th century cottages (such as mine), between-the-wars bungalows and blocks of 1960s red brick flats.
Much has changed, both in New Town and my home; several minor and one major renovations, interior decoration projects, evolution of the garden; new shops, delis, cafes, bakeries, wine stores and the current ‘beautification’ of the shopping precinct by the Hobart City Council. The old mansion up the road that once served as a home for wayward girls has been deinstitutionalised and reopened as a boutique hotel.
Over coming weeks I plan to make a number of posts charting that evolution – at least, those directly concerning my house – and also some of the many celebrations with family and friends that have occurred within its walls. But for now, here are some photos from the archive reminding me what it looked like when I first became its custodian, way back in May 1994.
This is perhaps a good place to share the story of my buying the house. I had returned to Hobart after a few years living interstate and had been looking for a house to buy for some months.
I first viewed the house at an open day advertised in the real estate guide (as one did), along with dozens of others. It was a wreck having been a rental property for some years, and was suffering years of neglect and accumulated grime, and on that first inspection it did not grab me.
I also recall viewing the house next door, which was more appealing, being cleaner and having had a coat of paint. Unfortunately that care put it out of my bargain basement price range, and the layout was not particularly appealing.
After a few days’ reflection however, I realised that it did have the elements I had been looking for; a full-sized kitchen (not a lean-to tacked on the back), a functional bathroom, two good sized bedrooms and a separate room that could serve as a home office, off street parking, a well-fenced yard with a garden.
So I contacted the agent and went to have another look and this time saw through the grime to visualise its ‘potential’. It had ‘potential’ in spades. Areas closer to the city centre such as North and West Hobart were already being renovated to within an inch of their lives and were out and were out of my price range.
However the property was going to auction, which was a bit scary for me as a first home buyer, so I didn’t think any more about it. The agent persuaded me to attend the auction, even though I had no intention of bidding. I did; the house was passed in as bids didn’t reach the reserve, but there had been several bidders and I assumed the vendors would enter into negotiations with them and seal a deal.
At the time I was sharing a house in North Hobart with a mate (hi Brian!) who had a large dog (a Rhodesian Ridgeback called Zack, if memory serves). I’d often take Zack for a walk in the evenings, and New Town was a regular route. One evening a few weeks after the auction I walked Zack (or did he walk me?) around the corner of the street, where I noticed the ‘For Sale’ sign was still out.
Whist it was grotty, the house did have all the elements I was looking for and could be lived in comfortably for the time being (with a bit of elbow grease and fresh paint), and had potential to be brought up to date when I could afford renovations in future. So I contacted the agent again and put in an offer, which was accepted.
So several weeks later I found myself with the keys to my first home as an owner. That first weekend I spent mostly scrubbing grime and moving my few sticks of furniture in. My dad, bless him, turned to and replaced all the decidedly antique door locks and added window locks, and I make about a dozen separate trips to the hardware shop to get odds and ends needed to make the place habitable.
The only heating was in dubious open fireplaces, plus an old fuel stove in the kitchen – the chimney and fireplace around it half-filled the kitchen and was among the first things to go.
Getting the place rewired was also a priority. There was a switchboard on the front porch which looked like it should have been attached to Frankenstein’s monster and lights flickered every time a truck went up the street. The iron water pipes had mostly rusted up and so they too were replaced early on. The ancient low-pressure water heater by the back door also looked ready to meet its maker, but funds were tight so I put off replacing it until it gave up the ghost, which it finally did nearly a decade later.
There was a lot of rubbish in and under the house and in the outbuildings, the garden had several trees and clearly had once been loved, but had been neglected for years. There was lots to do, winter was coming, my house was far from perfect, but it was mine, and I was happy in it. And it had mountain views!
Stay tuned for further adventures…