Wednesday 9 November 2016

Macaria threatened by demolition


37 John Street

Macaria was used by Camden Council as part of its office in 1980s (Camden Images)

In 1970 Macaria was threatened with demolition by Camden Council when it was considering the re-develop John Street. The council had purchased the Macaria site in 1965 and was considering the construction of a new council administration building.

One definition of heritage is what is valued by the community and can be handed down to the next generation. Heritage is a political concept that changes over time. What one generation considers important is not what the next generation wants to hand on to their children. Heritage is a very disposable concept. One decade something is considered important, the next it is considered worthless.

In 1970  Camden Council did not consider Macaria worthy of saving.

 Camden's historic buildings might be valued by most of the community now, but it was not always like that.

In 1970 the Camden Historical Society wrote to Camden Council to re-consider the demolition of Macaria. (Image below)

Letter from Camden Council to the Camden Historical Society dated 31 August 1970 about the possible demolition of Macaria

 The councils reply stated:

The Council of the Municipality of Camden
Box 10, PO,

August 31, 1970
Mrs N Blattman
Hon Secretary
Camden Historical Society
57 Menangle Road

I refer to your letter of August 17, 1970, concerning the Council's reported decision to demolish the above property in the near future, and wish to inform you that it was considered by Council at its meeting held on August 24, 1970.

Council acquired the property some 5 years ago for the purpose of providing a suitable site for a future civic administration building. The question was raised at that time as to whether the property had any architectural or historic value, which would warrant its retention. Council's Architects at the time, who were connected to the National Trust of Australia, reported to Council that 'Macaria' had no historic or particular architectural value and that its retention on these grounds could not be justified.

However, Council decided to inform the Society that it had in mind to recover and re-use bricks and sandstone from 'Macaria' as far as this is practical, with a view to preserving the present character of John Street. You might rest assured that the views of the Society and others regarding the preservation of the present character of John Street, will be fully considered by Council when the time comes for the re-development of the 'Macaria' site to take place.

Yours faithfully,
J Mack
Town Clerk

Note: The loss of Macaria was this close! John Wrigley

The National Trust of Australia (NSW) considered Macaria in the 1970s.
Macaria was considered an important historic property in the 1970s by the National Trust of Australia (NSW)

Macaria in 2016 after Camden Council moved to new office premises in Oran Park (I Willis)

Macaria's heritage importance today

Today Macaria's heritage importance is recognised as being nationally significant.

The New South Wales State Heritage Inventory states:
For a house of this scale, Macaria is among the best picturesque Gothic houses in Australia. This, when combined with its importance to Camden, makes it a building of great significance.  A fine early townhouse of distinctive and interesting architectural quality, associated with an important figure of the town's early years.
The Australian Heritage Place Inventory states:
Built 1842. For a house of this scale, Macaria is amongst the best picturesque Gothic houses in the Commonwealth of Australia. This, when combined with its importance to Camden, makes it a building of great significance.

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