5 December 2023

Gunning’s grand Federation home inspires will to win

| John Thistleton
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woman and dogs sitting on house steps

On the steps of Eulacre with her two Bernese mountain dogs Basil and Billie, Lotte Walker loves the space around her. Photo: John Thistleton.

Eulacre, a smartly performed two-year-old filly, changed the lives of a Gunning family when it sent hearts thumping with excitement in 1915, winning the Gimcrack Stakes in Sydney.

This speedy young horse would have triggered the kind of adrenalin rush Lotte Walker felt 136 years later when she and her partner secured Eulacre, the home named after the horse, at an auction.

Successful bidders of the hotly contested auction, Lotte and her partner were an outside chance of success against a field of experienced buyers.

You could say Eulacre in 1915 was a long shot too. Satellite City, which had won in Adelaide, was expected to win in a canter, but was run down by the eventual winner, owned by Gunning grazier Thomas Booth.

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Cashed up and overjoyed after the win, Booth used the prize money to build the magnificent Federation home for his wife Isabella and named it after his thoroughbred champion filly.

The property has since changed hands several times and when it hit the market once more in 2021, pretty much intact except for an updated bathroom and kitchen, potential buyers from everywhere came calling. Meanwhile, Lotte, who grew up in Sydney, and her partner were living on a little farm near Goulburn, looking for a small rural property to buy in the area. Gunning wasn’t even on their radar.

A friend sent them an advertisement for Eulacre’s imminent sale, showing its verandah and generous deck area.

“Mum and Dad have a Federation house as well, with the wrap-around verandah,” Lotte said. “As we were looking through more of the photos, the character of the home, the pressed-metal ceilings, the features coming with a home of this period, drew us in. We were not interested in a new build. We had both grown up in Federation-style homes.”

woman in stables

Lotte Walker inside the rustic timber stables at Eulacre. Photo: John Thistleton.

Coming to Gunning for the first time to check out the home, she saw firsthand Eulacre’s high, pressed-metal ceilings, wide hallways, the surrounding yard and the stables, all on a five-acre (two-hectare) spread. It was just what the first-home buyers were looking for.

The home would have made an ideal bed and breakfast, and lots of people had checked it out too, about 15 of them registering their interest to bid at the auction. On the morning of the sale, numerous cars were parked out the front as Lotte and her partner drew up outside the front fence.

“I wanted it so badly,” Lotte said. “In my head, I was already living here,” she said. “I had furnished it and everything.”

Her mother had come along for the auction too, but Lotte could see that the other interested parties had probably been in the property market much longer than she and her partner had.

“I was very intimidated at the auction. I was almost certain we were going to walk away without it,” she said.

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On the steps out the front, the auctioneer was soon fielding urgent bids that sent the price galloping past the price guide and up to $1 million.

“I thought I was going to faint almost when it was getting that high,” Lotte said.

Finally their last bid, at $1,010,000, secured Eulacre. On reflection, she said it was good to buy in an auction environment with someone else within $10,000 of their final bid because this showed they were not exceeding what people were willing to pay.

“We went to the pub afterwards and had a ‘cheers’ champagne with our family, that was our first experience with the Telegraph Hotel too,” Lotte said.

woman and chicken coop

Lotte installed an electric gate to prevent it from being left open, after a fox attack cut a swathe of destruction in her chook coop one night. Photo: John Thistleton.

Having secured work in Canberra, she is learning to adjust to her sea change, and while missing friends and the beaches in Sydney, she has plenty of room for her two Bernese mountain dogs Basil and Billie, and her beloved chooks.

“I love my chooks. I have become a bit of a crazy chicken lady since we arrived,” she said. The couple has settled into Gunning and a village with a changing demographic, new boutique retailers and still on a winning streak.

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