Home is where the heritage is

JENNIFER Howlett's painstaking restoration of her Royalla homestead, known as Green Gables, has been a labour of love spanning more than 30 years.

The Federation-style cottage was named winner of the best restoration of a heritage residential building at Queanbeyan City Council's 17th Heritage Awards last Saturday.

Ms Howlett said she was grateful to receive the award, particularly as she nears the end of the mammoth restoration project. Once the heritage-listed house is completed, she said she will turn her attention to cultivating the garden and returning it to a 1920s-style.

"Now it's almost finished, it's nice the work's been recognised. I just quietly, but over a long period of time, have restored it back to pretty much the original state in most of the rooms," she said.

"Like all renovations and restorations, it takes years. No sooner do you finish what you think is one project and you can have a rest, when something else happens and you have to start again in another area."

The beauty and the attention to detail is evident throughout the four bedroom home, which features pressed metal wall panels, vintage wallpaper and amazing antique furniture.

Ms Howlett said breathing life back into Green Gables has brought her immense satisfaction but also required commitment.

When she first purchased the block 35 years ago, the house had been unlivable with features like an outhouse toilet and kitchen with a solid fuel stove.

The former librarian trawled books and journals and consulted with the Heritage Advisory Committee to bring back the true character of the house.

"You've got to have a passion to do it otherwise when it gets hard you just think, 'It's all terrible. It's too hard and too expensive. Let's just sell it and move'," she said.

"I'm glad I was able to rescue it. I've had people come in the early days, when it was terribly rundown, and they said the best thing to do was knock it down.

"You've got to have the passion and think, 'I'm not going to knock it down, I'm going to bring it back to the way it was'. You've got to be as true as possible to the original building if you can."

Ms Howlett is just the third owner of the property which she believes was built in the early 1900s with materials originally sourced from Duntroon. She said it has been a wonderful place to live and bring up her four children.

Ms Howlett currently breeds warmblood horses for dressage on her 100-acre block and she plans to stay put for some time.

"They have a certain ambience, old houses, and a nice feel. It's always cosy to have the fires going in winter and open up the veranda all the way around and let the breeze come through," she said.

"They're nice to live in once you've got them restored."

The award for the best restoration of a heritage commercial building went to David and Shelley Turner of 111 Stornaway Road, Queanbeyan. The couple, along with their daughter, are the fifth generation of Turners to live in the property.

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