The demolition of the ramshackle shell of the Ballarat Botanical Gardens fernery began today, paving the way for a long delayed 'Gothic fantasy' reconstruction.
Redevelopment of the fernery, which has fallen into disrepair over recent years, has long been in the pipeline, with numerous unsuccessful attempts to secure federal and state funding.
The Friends [of Ballarat Botanical Gardens] have been actively supporting this for 20 years. We're very relieved that it's starting. It's another drawcard.Elizabeth Gilfillan, Friends of Ballarat Botanical Gardens
At one stage, there were hopes for more than $4m of funding to realise more modern designs.
However, when that money was not secured, plans were adapted to the current incarnation. It will recreate the spectacular Gothic entry of the original Batten Fernery, which was originally constructed in the 1880s and 1890s.
City of Ballarat council has committed $1.4m to the reconstruction, which has been designed by the architect Andrew Fedorowicz. Alfredton-based construction firm Resicare will build it.
The current structure, built as a temporary replacement in the 1950s, has been closed to the public for some time. It will be removed over the next few weeks. Some of the demolition will be done by hand to protect the trees and other features around the fernery.
The City of Ballarat Mayor Samantha McIntosh described it as a "very exciting day", while the chair of the Friends of Ballarat Botanical Gardens foundation Elizabeth Gilfillan said she was "thrilled to bits" that work was about to start.
"The Friends have been actively supporting this for 20 years," Ms Gilfillan told The Courier. "We're very relieved that it's starting."
"It's another point of interest and another drawcard [for the gardens], not only for the locals but for people from elsewhere too."
"We all know circumstances climatically are different to when this was created, so that will have to be considered."
The final details of the building construction are due to be confirmed next month. Council is working closely with Heritage Victoria as the Ballarat Botanical Gardens are listed as historically significant.
The Courier understands there will be adaptations to the original plans for the fernery, which fell into disuse as there was not enough light to sustain some plant species.
Plans for the original construction were discovered in the Town Hall.
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