Hotel Australasia facade to be revealed as restoration continues

MAN BEHIND THE JOB: Neil Rankin is looking forward to being able to see the progress of his work from a greater distance once the scaffolding comes down. Photo: Leah Szanto

MAN BEHIND THE JOB: Neil Rankin is looking forward to being able to see the progress of his work from a greater distance once the scaffolding comes down. Photo: Leah Szanto

After more than 12 months' hard slog, the scaffolding will be dismantled this week as the upper half of the Australasia's restored facade is unveiled.

The restoration of the 1904 building to as close as possible to its former glory is a project requiring much dedication, something builder Neil Rankin has in spades.

Undaunted by the magnitude of the undertaking, Neil and his small team of workers are steadfastly continuing the extensive works, "one thing at a time".

The crew has only been back on the job the last six weeks or so since completing the iconic new Welcome Centre at Snug Cove and Neil said the rain since then had really set things back.

"It's been disheartening. But all the hard, high work has been finished off now," he said.

The upper section of the facade is now complete. Photo: Leah Szanto

The upper section of the facade is now complete. Photo: Leah Szanto

The small team has been tackling a long list of specialised jobs that are time consuming, such as widening doorways to ensure requirements for disabled access are met, and laboriously removing render from bricks.

Restoring each original cedar window at the front of the building is a task that takes at least a full day for both the inside and outside surfaces to be brought back to timber and then repainted.

The original colours have slowly been revealed through the process, which Neil has been able to match and use.

The wide balcony adjoining the accommodation on the upper level of the building is looking grand once again, having had its wrought iron corner pieces and balustrades crafted to replicate the originals.

Soon there will be a clear view of Imlay Street from the wide balcony once more. Photo: Leah Szanto

Soon there will be a clear view of Imlay Street from the wide balcony once more. Photo: Leah Szanto

Facing Imlay Street, the new concrete facade of the hotel was handmade on site, and the render on the building was removed, bit by bit.

"Many people deserve my thanks, but I have to mention Peter Goncharouk, Mark Upton and Speedy Osborne for all their hard work," Neil said.

Bill Wilson and his son Jim from Wilson's Signs in Pambula have painstakingly handpainted the name of the establishment on the side of the building.

Family-owned business Wilson's Signs from Pambula painting the name back on to the side of the Australasia. Photo: Neil Rankin

Family-owned business Wilson's Signs from Pambula painting the name back on to the side of the Australasia. Photo: Neil Rankin

"There is a lot more to do, we haven't moved in to the DA stage for stage two or formalised any lease agreements yet," Neil said.

Having worked behind the boards and scaffolding at close range for over a year, Neil is very much looking forward to being able to see the progress of the "rewarding" restoration work from a greater distance.

The power on Imlay Street will be disrupted at 12.30pm this Saturday, June 19, in order to safely remove the scaffolding and reveal the upper section of the facade.

BRICK BY BRICK: Speedy Osborne carefully saving the original bricks to be reused. Photo: Leah Szanto

BRICK BY BRICK: Speedy Osborne carefully saving the original bricks to be reused. Photo: Leah Szanto

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