The Mitre Tavern dates from the mid 1830s
Not that long ago I posted a picture of the oldest house in Willamstown on my sidebar - I did some research on it and found this article from our Melbourne newspaper "The Age".
"A RAMSHACKLE mess in Williamstown is the centre of a bitter conservation row because it is thought to date from 1842, making it possibly Melbourne's oldest house. It is also on a prime development site and has an owner who needs to sell to prop up his dwindling superannuation.
The weatherboard house, which has been unoccupied since at least the early 1960s, was listed in 2007 by Heritage Victoria on its heritage register after considerable debate.
This makes it technically one of the state's most significant buildings. But the owner said he had been told as little as $10,000 would be available as a grant from the State Government to restore it, despite an estimate that proper repairs would cost $200,000.
The 839-square-metre block has been estimated by the real estate agents who want to sell it to be worth about $1 million.
"This cottage represents the first settlement in Melbourne. Before it was built, more than likely there would have been tents. In America, Europe or England, remnants of first settlement are made national monuments."
But while Victoria's National Trust believes owners of such buildings should be given much more financial assistance to preserve them, its senior historian, Celestina Sagazio, said there was not enough evidence that this was Melbourne's oldest house. She said there had been considerable debate in Heritage Victoria before the building was finally listed on its register.
"What we do know is that the block was first gazetted in 1837. Its first owner was a James Cain who bought it in 1841 and then sold it to William Pope in 1842," she said.
"The first reference to a house on the site was the first local council rate book of 1856, which said there was a four-room timber dwelling occupied by Clara Pope, the widow of William Pope."
Mr Page said he did not want to see history destroyed. "Someone suggested it should just catch fire, but I don't want that to happen. I have been approached by someone who wants to restore the building, and if I get a demolition permit I will let him take it."
He said he was retired and living on superannuation. The imperative to sell had resulted from the decline in his super due to the economic downturn.
"I offered it to the council to rent it as parkland, but they rejected the idea, so here I am getting no rent and having to pay big rates on it each year."
It was hard not to feel some compassion for the owner and yet do we preserve our heritage to the disadvantage to this gentleman who initially saw this property as just an old house. I'd be interested in the opinions on these sorts of conflicts between heritage and financial gain.