It's one of Ballarat's most impressive and coveted buildings, now weaving a new thread to the long-existing fabric of its story.
The Sunnyside Woollen Mills building, a magnificent polychrome brick structure sitting above the banks of the Yarrowee, is being restored and redeveloped into a multi-purpose site capable of varied uses and activities.
Originally constructed in the early 1870s and finished with a Romanesque facade by renowned Ballarat architect Henry Caselli in 1886, the building is another astonishing testament to the remarkable 'Booming Ballarat' of the late Victorian era.
Home to the Ballarat Woollen Company, the mills were central to the life of surrounding Mount Pleasant and the whole of Ballarat for 100 years, employing over 500 people, mostly women, at its productive peak.
It closed in the 1980s after federal tariffs on woollen imports were removed, and the building became a sports centre and auction house before falling into disrepair.
Historian, writer, actor and playwright Bill Garner grew up in Mount Pleasant from the ages of 5 to 20. He distinctly remembers the three-times-a-day whistle blowing when the mill was still producing tweed, flannel and worsted and the suburb was known for its strong Methodist roots.
"I never saw a drunk person when I was growing up," Bill Garner says. He's been researching the history of the suburb for the last few years, he says, drawn back to the place of his childhood and early life after five decades. With the aid of a local history group, new signage identifying the history of both the mill and the Yarrowee, Chinese market gardens and the Hill Street Bridge has been installed in the hope Mount Pleasant will recover some of its identity.
The renovation of the mill will help, Bill Garner says.
"The mill whistle blew at 7.15 every morning," he says, "and it blew again around lunchtime, 12 to 12.15, and again around 4.15. But it was a place that, if you didn't work there, you went into. The work was hard; you'd see the workers with stained clothes and heavy boots."