A RESTORATION team will breathe new life into Ballaarat Mechanics’ Institute. Construction will use methods and like-materials in line from when the iconic Sturt Street façade was built for a face-lift.
This is a preservation work, predominantly water-proofing the building, and more about precision than delicate. But it will take a specialised team.
Quadratum heritage architect Fraser Brown will lead the project. Mr Brown’s restoration works include Ballarat’s Arch of Victory, Art Gallery of Ballarat and Ballarat railway station.
This is the fourth time he will team with Nicholson Construction. Together they have undertaken work on Myer, the town hall and Ballan law courts.
Nicholson managing director Dean Stevens said his team was honoured to play a role in keeping history alive.
“All the technical methods and material use would be lost otherwise. It’s a generational thing,” Mr Stevens said. “We pride ourselves on taking up a lot of restoration for old country Victorian builds. It’s interesting stuff.
“This is part of being in town, getting involved in restoration. If you’re a Ballarat person, history is a part of how and where we live.”
The $300,000 project is funded by the Victorian Heritage Restoration Fund and Helen McPherson Smith Trust. Contracts to start work were signed on Wednesday morning.
Ballaarat Mechanics’ Institute president Graham Gooding said environmental factors, including pollution, had been taking their toll on the old building. He said grants were timely.
“The building has been deteriorating...(trusts) have been very supportive in maintaining the icon,” Mr Gooding said.
BMI was established in 1859 and predates the Ballarat town hall and art gallery. Mr Gooding said the institute was developed on the idea of the school of mines, working to upgrade technology and skills within the industry.
Fittingly, BMI will continue to enhance the skills of modern labour with Nicholson workers learning and developing old technique.
BMI has remained a volunteer-run since its origin.