HERITAGE HOUSE: The former Holwood House in Casino is being demolished.
HERITAGE HOUSE: The former Holwood House in Casino is being demolished. Courtesy of NSW Office of Enviro

Heritage house would cost nearly $1 million to improve

LENORE Watson, the owner of a heritage listed property in Casino undergoing demolition, has paid tribute to one of the town's oldest buildings.

"It's really quite sad but it is an end of an era," she told The Northern Star.

Mrs Watson said the former Holwood House was built in 1890 and her parents-in-law, Bill and Minnie Watson, bought it in 1946 when it was turned into four flats.

"Minnie was well known in Casino, well known for her charity work in the town," said Mrs Watson.

She said state government information stating she bought the property from her grandmother was incorrect as she and her husband, Billy (junior) Watson, bought it directly from the elder Mrs Watson in 1974.

"Billy died in 2004 and then it's come to me solo," she said.

Mrs Watson said she doesn't remember anybody from council contacting her when the house was first heritage listed in 1992 and nobody asked to see inside to verify its condition.

She said she was offended by any implication the property had not been maintained and described some of the costs required to meet modern safety standards.

"The structural engineer said it was never built as a quality residence, it was never meant to be a fancy house as it was purpose built as a boarding house.

"When I got the builder to look at it.... he said it would cost just short of a million dollars (to improve).

"The footings underneath no longer hold the building - they've sunk - the building is sitting on the ground.

"It would cost upwards of $200,000 to have it lifted - the builder said he had to take all the floors out and put new floors in."

Mrs Watson listed several structural elements that needed expensive modifications including an internal staircase and handrail.

She said a 2001 super cell storm damaged the roof, loosening bricks and leading to the removal of the chimney for safety reasons.

Other significant changes to the property were made in the early forties, she thought, including the replacement of a verandah with an enclosed sleep-out, an external staircase, and an extension to the rear of the house.

State records included two small cottages on site but Mrs Watson said they were not there when the elder Mrs Watson bought the property and she had no knowledge of them.

Mrs Watson and her husband lived in an upstairs flat when they first married, she said and then moved to a downstairs flat in the late seventies.

"There were some lovely tenants there," she said, "there'd be lots of people round town that would've lived there.

"When Minnie owned it she'd often talk about young people who lived there before buying their own house."

Mrs Watson later rented the flats out and in recent years had challenges with some tenants.

She said she looked into the option of having the house removed from the land but "to move a two storey house, it just wasn't going to happen, it's not pre-fabricated like you have today."

Demolition began in January and she expected it to finish soon.

She had no plans for the site yet but wanted "to do the old place justice".

"Once I get this done I want to get a little booklet done for the museum.

"I've researched some stuff, I have photos.

"It is important that sort of heritage is kept even though the building's gone."

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