19 July 2021

Original facade of Hotel Australasia revealed as restoration of Eden landmark continues

| Albert McKnight
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Restoration work to Hotel Australasia's facade

Hotel Australasia’s original facade was revealed in June 2021 as part of the Eden venue’s ongoing restoration. Photo: Angela George.

Eden’s Hotel Australasia – known to locals as the ‘Grand Old Lady’ – has had its original facade revealed to the world as part of its ongoing restoration.

Owner and builder Neil Rankin said 20 volunteers helped pull down the scaffold and boards covering the front of the historical building in late June 2021.

“We hadn’t seen it before either because our faces were up against the scaffold,” he said. “But we knew what it was going to look like.

“We walked across the street, turned around and looked at it, and it was quite an emotional time.

“It was all and everything I expected it to be. It really does shine on the main street.”

READ ALSO ‘Magic’ renovation underway at Eden’s Hotel Australasia

Mr Rankin said he received a historical colour photo of the hotel, for which construction began in 1904, and the recently revealed facade is exactly the same colour.

He has a small team of four people working on the project, and started renovations more than 12 months ago.

The first stage involved finishing the facade, and with the top half of the building’s front done, Mr Rankin plans to spend the next four to five months working on the bottom half.

Then it will be stage two: finding who will lease the building.

Mr Rankin said he needs to know who will be occupying the building to ensure he builds the back half of the hotel to suit their requirements.

People standing out the front of Hotel Australasia in Eden in 1920s

The historic Hotel Australasia in Eden in the 1920s. Photo: The Australasia Facebook.

Negotiations are currently underway with a couple of parties.

Mr Rankin said there is no rush to the project and he expects it will be a year or two before you could see lights in the building.

His connection to the hotel was sparked when he was taken inside the building’s roof and shown the old marble facade that had been built over.

“Once I saw that I thought this has enough in it to bring it back,” he said.

READ ALSO Eden’s Hotel Australasia front and centre as 2019 winds up

“From that day I thought this building is worth saving.

“As you can see it now, it’s going to come up magic.”

Mr Rankin thanked the people who have helped with the work on the hotel.

Angela George, heritage management and interpretation consultant, as well as a long-time proponent of the building’s retention and restoration, said for a “damn long time” many people didn’t think works to their ‘Grand Old Lady’ would ever happen.

Neil Rankin at Hotel Australasia

Builder Neil Rankin has taken on the Hotel Australasia restoration as a personal project. Photo: Elka Wood.

“I’m relieved to see it’s being reinstated to its rightful place as the heart of the town,” she said. “It’s a landmark.”

Ms George said the hotel is special due to the positive impact it has on the streetscape, and it used to be the cornerstone of the street.

She said when the building began to decline, and the ‘bland’ 1950s facade was installed, it left a negative impact on the area, but that is going to change with the restoration.

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Neil Rankin’s achievements in restoring the Hotel Australasia to its original glory and to helping restore this small part of Eden’s Imlay Street streetscape deserve the highest of praise. It would be wonderful if other historically-important buildings were to receive similar attention: in Bega, for example, the Hotel Central and the Bank Hotel were similarly brutalised in the mid 20th century. It would be wonderful if they too could have their original facades recreated. This would do so much to emphasise the historic value of that town.

Isabel Robinson5:04 pm 20 Jul 21

The beautifully restored facade – the part currently visible – already has a positive impact on the streetscape and it will be a tourist drawcard for sure. Many thanks to the dedication of the group of locals who fought hard and long against the building’s proposed senseless demolition, former Mayor Britten whose foresight and belief secured it against demolition, and many more thanks to Neil Rankin for making the investment of time, money and love to enable the burgeoning reincarnation.

Adrian Stadtmiller3:10 pm 20 Jul 21

Good on you Mr Rankin for having the foresight to restore this piece of history.

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