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Heather and John Mildwaters were founding partners in Paddington Antique Centre in the Heritage Listed Plaza Theatre building on Latrobe Terrace at Paddington in Brisbane in 1985. When their partners wished to retire, the building and business were sold. However, after some time, Heather and John found they were not ready to retire and looked for a suitable landmark building in which to establish a new antique centre.
The Heritage Listed Uniting Church Central Memorial Hall (built in 1895 and designed by well known architect George Brockwell Gill) and adjoining Church were put to tender by the Uniting Church Property Trust of Australia in 2009 and Heather and John’s Superannuation Fund was the successful tenderer for the Complex. They had found their landmark building.
Heather and John then spent twelve months and substantial funds to create a “purpose built” Antique Centre in what is an outstanding example of sympathetic usage of a previously under-utilized and neglected Queensland Heritage Registered Building.
Architect, Peter Johnston, of Tait, Morton and Johnston and builder, Rob Kurtz of Kurtz Constructions, worked in conjunction with the Mildwaters to make their vision a substantial reality.
The entire building interior required attention.
Firstly, the old “flats” on the stage were removed to bring the three- light stained glass window and clerestory windows back into prominence and open up this area to the original.
The toilets which were moved upstairs in the 1950’s were in a bad state and were demolished, revealing white ant and water damage to the decorative diagonal timber chamfer board ceiling. Also damaged were flooring boards, rafters and the plaster dado of the walls. All were replaced along with the corrugated roof of that wing which had to be removed to gain access.Unfortunately, current building legislation prevented the toilets being restored to their original position underneath as the staircase would have been too steep, so an alternative location had to be found for them.
This was achieved by digging out under the building, and in the process creating another area “The Basement”, for general retailing. Male and female toilets were constructed at the front of this area, and a disabled toilet and baby change facilities were also built in the shell of an old storeroom and a computer server room in another. The toilets and server room are accessed by a new staircase in the northern wing, with lightly attached railings in stainless steel with yacht rigging. This same railing is now along the edge of the stage.
The old kitchen, in poor condition, was removed and replaced by a smaller commercial kitchen for the Café / Coffee Shop which is now on site and serves tea, coffee, cold drinks, cakes and light lunches. A special blend of Ludos coffee is available.
Large sections of solid plaster to the arches and rendered masonry walls, as well as the substantial square columns with square capitals and barley twists, were repaired in the traditional manner. Cracks and large chips to various plaster surfaces were sympathetically restored to give an appearance appropriate to a 115 year old building.
The southern staircase from the stage to the main level had been bricked up when the toilets were placed upstairs and this was unbricked, and the stairs revealed. The solid plaster arches were unbricked and repaired as per the original construction.
One of the arched stained glass sidelights in the entry vestibule had been smashed and boarded up and this was sympathetically repaired and the glass re-stained to match the original. As well as this glass repair, some fifty other panes of glass were replaced, and approximately 300 panes of window glass were pinstriped and frosted in the original Victorian manner to match the few remaining in good condition. All window hardware was replaced where necessary with complementary fittings. Some of the casement windows in the southern wing had been replaced by ventilated louvre glass and replacement windows were reproduced to match the originals. As well as this, various missing architraves, some arched, throughout the building were replaced by sections especially moulded to match the originals. Sections of quad missing from the juncture of walls and floor were also returned to original.
All plumbing and electricals were up-graded or replaced and Victorian light fittings were sourced as appropriate. A magnificent old brass multi-light chandelier was installed in the vestibule. A Victorian style cast iron street lamp features in the beautifully rejuvenated gardens, and matching wall lights were placed around the building as security lighting.
The interior of the building was cleaned and painted in colours to match the originals. Floors were polished and rooms and stairs carpeted as appropriate.
The magnificent cedar double entry doors had suffered damage by fire in the past, and they were removed, restored and French polished before being re-installed with brass kick plates and fittings. A fine cedar staircase leads to the Balcony and its polish was carefully revived.
A loading ramp was created on the northern side of the building leading to one of the five timber entrance porticos.
Under floor air conditioning units were installed with specially made vents set into the floor around the edge of the building. Security and sound systems were placed in a similarly sympathetic manner.
The counter area of the Centre contains a number of museum quality pieces of furniture which are the subject of constant enquiries. They are a large old cedar haberdashery counter, a showcase ex Adelaide University which originally contained the Mawson Geological specimens, and a large shipping clerk’s desk made by the Derby Desk Company of the USA in the late 19th Century.
Ipswich Antique Centre was officially opened by the Mayor of Ipswich, Hon Paul Pisasale, at a gala evening attended by 500 guests on Wednesday 15th December, 2010, and opened to the public on Thursday, 16th December, 2010.
It has been extremely well received by the Ipswich and greater community who have remarked on many occasions that Ipswich was overdue to have such a magnificent facility. Not a day passes without several people praising the building, the restoration and the concept, particularly in view of the formerly extremely run-down condition of this now magnificent Victorian Heritage Listed Uniting Church Central Memorial Hall.