random slab

STONEWALL

Another feature of the front of the building is the use of random sandstone slabs as facing for some of the internal and external walls. All the stone work in the building was executed by Messrs. J. J. Edstein & Sons of Taree.

Wingham Chronicle September 3, 1957

Before purchasing the building we had no idea that the random slab stone wall on the facade of the building extended beyond the upper floor.

We were discussing what to do with the ugly treated pine gate and fence and wondered why there was some pieces missing off the facade.

Random slab stone wall

Aaron contacted the ANZ Bank Archives in Melbourne and they came back with photos of the building in 1964 and 1971. The wall looked amazing. The building used to look much more dynamic with the asymmetry that the wall created. We wanted to put this right again.

Initially there was much excitement when the discovery was made that the stonemason who worked on the building, John Edstein, was still alive and open to come and do the restoration. He worked on the building with his Father when he was 19 years old back in 1956-57. He was asked if he remembered where the stone came from. He said that he couldn’t remember, but, more than likely, his Dad paid some land owner ‘up the Blue Mountains’ ₤50 and carved off a chunk of his cliff.

Imagine doing that now!

The next job was to source matching stone. No mean feat, as there are really four distinct colours (gold, purple, pale sand and beige) and the stone is a split face. This is achieved by cracking the stone along the natural grain of sedimentary layers. Aaron contacted Gosford Quarries. Images were sent to the manager, Wayne, of what was trying to be matched. In a strange coincidence, he knew John Edstein. He was helpful, but you can tell when a job is considered small and you are not a high priority.

Aaron departed on a stone sourcing trip that was to included quarries in the Blue Mountains. On his way south, Aaron pulled into Gosford Quarries unannounced and asked for Wayne. He was now a problem at reception not going away.

‘You see, getting that coloured stone is not that easy to source. It depends where the stone splits and what colour that layer revels. Our supplier might not send us purple for months and then we get lots in a single batch.’

‘Can I not just talk to your supplier direct?’ Asked Aaron. ‘After all, it is just 12 square meters.’

The post-it note was reluctantly handed over and Aaron called Mark Bowd from a Division of Gosford Quarries at Cattai.

‘Yeah mate, we get that purple stuff all the time. Why don’t you come over and have a look and see if it is a match?’

The next day, Aaron arrived and as he got out of the car, strewn all around were chips that were exactly it. Mark was such an awesome guy and could not be more helpful. He set aside 4 pallets, one for each colour, and as he dug up and split stone he would put aside what he thought was a good match in each colour. He even texted photos as he was going.

On returning from the successful trip, the sample chips picked up from the quarry were put against the original wall. It could not be better!

In the meantime, the ugly treated pine gate was demolished and excavated to reveal the original footings.

If this was not exciting enough we also received a heritage funding grant from Greater Taree City Council which covered part of the costs. The local heritage grants are available to apply for each year and usually close in April / May. You can receive up to $2000 if you match the same dollar amount. For more info see: www.midcoast.nsw.gov.au/News-Media/Local-heritage-grants-extended

A new concrete block wall was now constructed. This was anchored with chemically set steel rods into the original foundations and the building. The blocks were core filled with concrete making one strong wall! The original wall possibly meet its fate as the sub structure was brick and the gate was timber. This would have rotted and been replaced, weakening the structure and causing it to crack from the building.

With the arrival of the stone we were now all set to have the wall repaired…. almost.

The stonemason John Edstein, was now concerned that there was no structure to rest the stone on above the gate and requested we put in a galvanised steel frame and gate. This was now a massive expense that was not budgeted for and caused delay in getting it fabricated. The boys at Bourkes Engineering did an amazing job. Real quality and it will still be there after we are all gone. It’s a gate fit for a Bank.

On May 10, 2016, the stonemasons started work. Phil, John’s son was doing most of the work with his assistant. After day one I received a call from John saying that he could not honour the price given and that it would have to be done at an hourly rate. It was going to take too long and it could be between 100 – 400% more. They were also working on the restoration of the flagstone front porch. They were instructed to complete the porch (we needed to get into the font door more) and to discontinue the restoration of the wall.

And so began the long delay. This part of the project had blown out already and the interior had to take priority so we could move Well Creative into ‘The Bank’.

Wind forward to April 2017. We were now having a real issue trying to source a stone mason on the Mid North Coast. They were either too busy, too far way, off to Antartica or retired.

Enter Matt Bath – Stone Mason – and his totally awesome parter, craftswoman and German supergirl, Marina!

They were just down the road at Old Bar. Good things come to those that wait. The job they did was not only beautiful but they were just such a delight to work with. Nothing was too much trouble. While they ripped through the work really fast, they also took time and care in looking at the original images and trying to match the cuts and colours as close as possible. You can contact Matt and Marina here

The end result is such a delight and it was a great relief to get this part of the project completed.

Jump for joy!

In the words of the Wingham Chronicle 

There it stood, ‘a thing of beauty”  – a valuable acquisition to a progressive town and its civic-minded people.

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