Formerly known as The Heritage House (and before that as The Manager’s Cottage) this graceful old home is the oldest building in the Ecovillage. It was completed in 1916 using a simple but sturdy weatherboard and fibro-cement design with a metal roof and a generous verandah for shade on all four sides.
It was in a sad and mouldy condition when the village purchased the site in 2012 but has been transformed by a major restoration by current owners Mark & Nicky which has also retrofitted a substantial range of environmental upgrades.
It was originally built for the Mr Jenkins, the Superintendent of the Gosford Farm Home School (a reformatory) where the 10 boys studied forestry. It is likely that the tallowwood weatherboards and tallow and hoop-pine floor boards were locally harvested timber from the Strickland forest next to the house.
During Mr Jenkins’ tenure 1915-16 was one of the driest years on record, with only 25” rainfall (600mm).
Harry George White was Superintendent for 20 years, from 1919-1939, with wife Lydia and four children. During his tenure, he was instrumental in developing the phylloxera resistant wine stock for grapes.
Notwithstanding the problems with floods and droughts, occasional hailstorms and frequent fungal infestations, the Narara Viticultural Nursery was to produce vast quantities of disease-resistant grafts over more than forty years, making a major contribution to the success of the wine and table grape industries in NSW. The site was eventually sold by the Dept of Primary Industries to Narara Ecovillage in 2012.
The house is listed on the Central Coast Council Heritage Register and is little changed from its original form since the demolition of the dilapidated old boys dormitory and laundry in 1986 on the Northern side of the house. There are some delightful photos of the manager with his family and staff in 1929 at the house showing how little has changed.
Before restoration it was baking in Summer and dark and very cold in Winter. The challenge was to bring more light inside the gloomy home and make it more liveable in 2020.
We received 3 grants from Central Coast council to help replace the entire verandah deck which was falling apart. We also had to rewire and replumb the entire house to meet current standards and now have dual-water supply using reclaimed water for suitable appliances and the garden (like all other village homes.)
Along the way we have also removed much of the asbestos, lead paint and internal wood stain (which is high in arsenic and heavy metals!)
Insulation: the biggest challenge was the lack of thermal mass and poor or no insulation. The roof was well insulated, and we’ve installed incredible insulation inside the walls by pumping in polystyrene granules (asbestos panels meant we could not remove them to install conventional batts) and we have insulated under the entire floor space. With ceiling fans and lots of seals around doors and the lovely old sash windows, this has made a massive improvement to comfort and sustainability.
Energy efficiency: we have installed LED lights throughout, a solar tube in the living room brings in natural light, and we gained heritage permission to add a new double sash window to match original ones. We remediated the chimney and installed an efficient firebox in the original fireplace. We also installed ultra high efficiency ducted reverse cycle airconditioning/heating which runs for about 10 cents/hour. When we install solar panels this will reduce our carbon footprint even more.
Recycling: Since we couldn’t build from scratch using sustainable materials, we have entirely furnished and equipped the house with 2nd hand appliances and furniture and even repurposed the old kitchen cabinets. Only a few taps and the kitchen benchtops are new.
What next? You’ll probably see us painting the exterior for the next few years and improving our garden to return it to its original charm and grow a stack of veggies too. That is unless resting on the shady verandah and chatting to passers-by is not more enticing than restoration work!