Face lift for old post office

Rhonda Dredge

The two-storey shop at 518-520 Queensberry St has seen better days – the original windows have gone, the internal staircase is rickety, there’s a crack in the floor and the upstairs rooms are piled up with office furniture.

Owner Ray Walters knows he has work to do to bring the shop back to its glory days as the original post office for Hotham from 1860 to 1875 but he’s feeling inspired.

He has an original photo of the post office that he is using as a guide to how the place will look.

The trouble is that every time he gets out the picture, he can’t help marvelling at how short people were back then.

It’s true that the doorway on the building is high but he’s marked a place on the wall on Lancashire Lane that he’s measured at about five feet, or 1.52 metres, the height of a man standing next to the building in the picture.

“People love history here,” he said, of this section of Queensberry St. “I want to restore the front and set the shop up as a showroom. My youngest daughter will move upstairs selling her Oliver Goldsmith sunglasses.”

Recent real estate sales have spurred Ray on with his project. Number 500 Queensberry, a few doors up, recently sold for $2 million to a fashion designer and there’s a team of builders currently turning the place into a boutique.

“There were five bidders,” Ray said, of the auction. “A couple bought it and I think they’re going to live upstairs. The fashion designer’s partner sells vinyl records.”

Between these two establishments is the picturesque Mr Price’s Food Store.

Ray is a well-known character on the street and takes pride in what it has to offer. He owns two buildings, one next door to the bookshop, which he also uses for showing office furniture.

He’s no Franco Cozzo but a man with good taste in moderne styles for the discerning retro buyer. “I really want to put back as much as I can into the post office,” he said. “Maybe even the sign.”

He has a company doing a quote on the restoration and will submit the design to the Heritage Trust for funding.

He said the building, unlike the Court House Hotel next door, was not on the heritage register but it did have an overlay.

There are quite a few buildings for sale in the vicinity, the Court House itself, which has been on the market for a while, and the newsagent in Errol St which was auctioned in March and attracted no bids.

The asking price was $1.6 million, according to the tenant. “The returns are not there. It’s a good place to park cash but doesn’t stack up if you have to borrow,” he told North West City News.

The Errol St laundromat sold for $1.8 million not that long ago but there are still issues with NBN along the street with the internet dropping out during transactions.

“It [Errol St] has to lift its face like Gertrude St,” Ray said. “They’re still trying to sell pies and chips to workers who aren’t here anymore.”

Both the Errol and Queensberry streetscapes are intact and locals like Ray are coming out of hibernation to give the area the lift it deserves with a little friendly rivalry thrown in •


Captions: The original post office at 518-520 Queensberry St.

The building today.

Ray Walters with plans for the restoration.

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