Graceful old girl rises from ashes

A MAN who lived in the historic Guy Homestead in Ti Rakau Drive for the first five years of his life was visibly overcome as he took in progress on the ambitious renovation project of his old home.

Principals of the Piccolo Park Family Learning Centre, from left, centre manager Rukshana Kapadia, Riaz Daud and Narisa Daud, are looking forward to opening the historic Guy Homestead’s doors early next year. Times photo Wayne Martin.

“It gets you inside after all these years,” Graham Guy said.

“I congratulate you all for what you have done to make it what it is – thank you.”

Mr Guy was a special guest at a function last Friday, hosted on the homestead site by its new owners JP Singh and his business partner Kuljet Singh.

The event was organised to acknowledge the people who had contributed to the project and to share the restoration journey which has reached its halfway point.

Mr Guy lived in the homestead from 1923-1928 after his father bought half of the original farm originally purchased by his grandfather in 1899.

He still lives on a section of his dad’s half which was sold for development, including Huntington Park, in 1994.

Last January, JP Singh and Kuljet Singh paid close to the $3.5 million asking price for the burnt-out homestead.

They launched a plan to return it to its heritage roots and turn the property into a childcare centre, including two new barn-like structures currently under construction.

It’s hoped that by next January the patter of little feet will once again echo around the homestead, which is being converted to accommodate 20 children under the age of two.

Apart from a sleeping room which will be closed off by a door, the rest of the house is open plan, featuring wall openings rather than doors so the children have flowing access to the facilities.

The balance of 100 older children will share the new structures that are designed to retain the homestead’s rural past and will encompass tactile activities, such as growing organic veggies.

Architect Matthew Davy says so far the project has been a “textbook” operation.

“It’s nice to put the doubts to rest and show that it can be done.

“With the right attitude anything is possible. JP is the visionary while we are the tools.”

As much of the original Guy Homestead structure as possible has been saved.

French doors, some of the veranda posts and about 70 per cent of the original rough sawn timber weatherboards, which have been stripped and repainted, have been retained.

Where retaining is not possible, replicas have been custom-made.

The two brick chimneys were painstakingly manually removed, bricks polished and waxed and returned to the original chimney shape on the roof.

Architraves, cornices and skirtings are being restored to the original style.

Corrugated iron with a deeper trough typical of old villas was specially ordered for the scallop-shape veranda.

Scalloped rafters were recreated and waves of scallops, running under the roof and wall join, add a feature unique to villas of the time.

Some of the charred and smoke-damaged internal timber has been retained.

“We are keeping as much of the original fabric of the house as we can, even if some of it won’t be seen,” Mr Davy says.

Reflecting on progress so far, JP Singh says: “We always expect challenges on these developments, but everyone has been open-minded and taken advice.”

One of the scarier moments, he says, was watching the homestead poised on the back of a truck being shifted eight metres to the north-west.

“The house had been burned and was not that strong, so it was braced.

“But it was a windy day. Yes, it was scary.

“But the most challenging moment was after the demolition work [the rear lean-two was beyond repair] was done and we asked, ‘where do we start to put it together?’”

JP Singh’s wife Normita believes the homestead has come a long way from its original state, reflecting prolonged neglect and lack of interest in it.

“Rest assured the legacy will endure for many more generations,” she says.

Her message is shared by Rukshana Kapadia and Riaz and Narisa Daud of the Piccolo Park Family Learning Centre, who are looking forward to opening the childcare centre early next year.

“It will be so nice to have the little ones here,” Ms Kapadia says.