Historic gas building undergoes a clean-up after being targeted by graffiti vandals

Historic gas building undergoes a clean-up after being targeted by graffiti vandals
Brendan Rees

A heritage building that has remained a remnant of a larger town gas distribution site in North Melbourne is undergoing a clean-up after having recently become a graffiti-stained eyesore.   

Known as the Gas Regulating House, the site at 60-96 Macaulay Rd was built in 1887 and formerly used by the Melbourne Gas Company’s large plant in West Melbourne as a distribution point for town and natural gas for 100 years.

The historic buildings, which are listed of “historical significance” on the Victorian Heritage Register, are now used as apartments, with additional residential units constructed on site.

However, an adjacent brick building which has been retained after being part of the Gas Regulating House, has become a target for graffiti vandals.

Its dilapidated state in recent months has prompted concerns from the community with questions raised about its future retention.

However, the Public Record Office of Victoria (PROV), which confirmed it owned the building (also known as a guard hut) at the end of the car park entrance on Macaulay Rd, said work was being undertaken to maintain it.

In a statement the PROV said 80 per cent of the graffiti had been removed with a building engineer’s report in progress to assist in how it moved forward with other repairs.

“We will also work through any required repairs with council. We thank our local community for their patience as we work through this process,” the PROV said.

North Melbourne resident and Professor of Urban Planning at the University of Melbourne Brendan Gleeson said he was glad to hear the building was being maintained as the graffiti canvas was “not a good look”.

“At the very least, emergency works should be undertaken to ensure that the building does not deteriorate further, whilst its regeneration and reuse is contemplated,” he said.

“This must surely mean ensuring that it is waterproof. The guttering is pretty much destroyed, and the condition of the roof is hard to assess from ground level. Surely it is within the PROV’s capacities to do this emergency work?”

As a significant community asset in an area that continued to grow, Mr Gleeson believed the guard hut should be restored and returned to some form of public use, “perhaps even jointly with a private sector or NGO body to assist with the funding of this”.

The Gas Regulating House is considered of “historical significance” on the state’s heritage register due to it being a “rare surviving example of a 19th century gas regulator” with “its importance compounded by the survival of some of its early regulating valves”.

A statement from a Heritage Victoria spokesperson said there had been no reports of unauthorised works or failure to maintain relating to the property.

However, Heritage Victoria will inspect the site and discuss the condition of the building with the owner.

“Owners of state-listed places and objects are legally required to ensure that they do not fall into disrepair and are maintained,” the spokesperson said.

Simon Ambrose, CEO of the National Trust of Australia (Victoria), said it was pleasing to see that graffiti has been removed and encouraged its ongoing care.

“The National Trust supports the ongoing maintenance and conservation of heritage buildings, acknowledging the challenges of issues such as vandalism that are faced by property owners,” he said.

According to the Victorian Heritage Database, only one other metropolitan regulating house known to survive is on St Kilda Rd, but it has no equipment and is much smaller.

The site at Macaulay Rd was decommissioned in 1957 and dismantled in 1986. New equipment was installed to ensure it was used as a distribution point for natural gas until the late 1990s. •


Caption: North Melbourne resident Brendan Gleeson hopes the future of a guard hut, a heritage building once used as part of a gas distribution site, can be restored.

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