1809 Mountain View Homestead
Mountain View Homestead
Mountain View Homestead is a truly unique piece of Australian cultural history. Abandoned for almost 70 years, the property is now in the process of being conserved and restored back to its former glory.
William and Charlotte Todd settled on the property on which Mountain View Homestead resides around 1850. Their eldest son David Smith Todd took up his first allotments in the valley around 1863 including the site of the homestead.
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He married Letitia Connelly in 1865 and by 1868 was operating the General Store supplying the local community. The Todd family were at that time living in a slab hut believed to have been located adjacent to the General Store.
The gold rush in the valley commenced in 1873 soon after the General Store was established and ended in the late 1880s. At its height, there were some 400 Chinese miners and an undocumented number of miners of European descent living in the valley. It would appear that the Homestead was built over an extended period from the early 1870s and completed in 1894.
Mountain View is a two-storey dwelling comprising six ground floor rooms, four bedrooms, a lounge room, a kitchen and bakehouse.
The upstairs level comprises two large rooms; a bedroom and a rumpus room. Despite the grand appearance, the building has no internal stairs to the upper level. Access to the first floor is via both a ladder rising from the kitchen and external steps up to the west facing first-floor veranda.
Mountain View Homestead is believed to be the only remaining two-storey residential building in Australia constructed of ‘wattle and dab’ or ‘pole lath and mud’. A variant of the traditional building technique that emerged in Australia during the second half of the 19th century that was widely used in remote mining settlements.
The timber used in its construction was harvested from the property. Each pole was roughly axed flat. The mud was sourced from nearby Levy’s gully. Bullocks were driven around a revolving pole to mix the mud to the correct consistency.
Rumour has it that Letitia was quite the looker and had her heart set on a mansion. Lovestruck David didn’t have the money to construct the building with any materials other than what was on the property already but wanted to impress nonetheless. So to make it look like the grand mansion on the outside, The external walls were rendered with lime plaster, disguising the fact it was just sticks and mud.
Very little ‘modernisation’ work has been performed on the Homestead since its completion in 1894. The external paint colours visible today are those from 1894. Internal walls were originally lime-washed, with some wallpapered in about 1920. The next and last papering occurred in 1974 when ownership changed. Some layered remnants of finishes and wallpapers remain, as does a deteriorated calico ceiling on the first floor.
After almost 70 years of abandonment, Mountain View Homestead was sold in 2014 after the original property was subdivided. Following the National Trust and State Heritage Register listings in 2006 and preparation of an initial CMP in 2007, urgent conservation works were recommended. These were undertaken by a local group of volunteers. Between 2009 and 2014 no further works have been undertaken.
The current owner has since undertaken a program of works that have included the stabilisation of the General Store and general maintenance including drainage, waterproofing, repairs to roofing, etc.
The property is in the process of being conserved and restored back to its former glory. The methods used to employ conservation best practice with a cautious approach to change. This involves doing as much as necessary to care for the place and to make it useable, but otherwise change it as little as possible so that its cultural significance is retained. (Burra Charter approach).
The conservation is guided by a senior conservation architect and heritage engineer.
Mountain View Homestead is a private home, we ask you to respect the privacy of the owners. The owners do offer open days and any inquiries should be directed at firstname.lastname@example.org or the Mountain View Homestead and General Store Facebook page.
If anyone has any stories or photographs they would like to share, we would love to hear from you.
Author credit: Jenny Snowdon.