For 161 years, ruffled and pockmarked banks have characterized the landscapes of Young’s streams, artefacts of the city’s fundamental gold rush provenance.
They are the only survivors of the days of bark slab huts and calico tents, when miners – as many as 9,000 of them in the first months of the discovery of gold – avidly tore up gold soil.
At Blackguard Gully, east of Young, where the Chinese diligently mined, the excavations are well marked, allowing tourists to imagine what life was like in Lambing Flat in the 1860s, a town wilder than the Far west.
Blackguard Gully is steeped in Australian history as the site of one of the country’s worst riots against Chinese miners.
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Across the road, a derelict, overgrown and dilapidated red brick and granite building stood almost invisibly, ignored by passers-by on one of the city’s busiest thoroughfares since the settlement took off. took root along Burrangong Creek.
But recently it seemed fitting that a baby shower had taken place within its four walls, as this relic from the past – now restored to its 1800s glory – celebrated its own rebirth.
For Susan Hardy, known to everyone as Suez, and her builder son, Sam, the timing couldn’t have been happier. She had had this project in mind for 20 years since she and her husband, Craig, bought the block.
Chance in the form of COVID-19 allowed Sam to focus on the project for a year in which the family welcomed a new member, their first child with partner Bella.
As champagne and sandwiches circulated, the once popular watering hole – freed from 150 years of clutter – breathed again.
Through advertisements in The Burrangong Argus, Suez can trace his lineage back to at least the early 1870s.
“We’re still doing some research, but I think it was a house that was turned into a pub in 1874,” she says.
Sam’s great-uncle had his first drink at the Burrangong Hotel before it closed in 1922, returning to the occupation, serving as a rental, and degrading apathetically at the mercy of the vandals.
Suez took a look at it and picked it up two decades ago, enduring decades of taunts from her family who suspected her to be on the verge of insanity.
Damaged to the point that heritage specialists said it was unrecoverable – with fallen walls and chimneys, raised floors, collapsed ceilings and home to a variety of rodents and plant species – the old house appeared to be unrecoverable.
But Suez, with a knack for seeing rough diamonds and a knack for turning copper, cutlery and coffee pods into jewelry, has seen so much more.
“I’m kind of that little magpie who sees something shiny or old and gives it new life,” she says.
However, time has nearly overturned this idea.
“We sat and waited and when Sam found a place on his calendar, I guess we decided it was time to try to restore it,” says Suez.
“We just changed the wood and put a new roof on it, and tied it up a bit better to make it look like it was, with a few modern touches.”
Which is a massive understatement.
Little by little, they cleaned, cleaned, scraped, sanded, researched, restored and rebuilt the building of seven rooms.
Followers of the property’s Instagram page have been treated to months of updates and little finds that tell stories that seem to predate Suez’s time estimates.
Hand-molded, heart-engraved, mud-covered convict bricks – dating from the 1830s – were among the finds, as were walls lined with sacks of salt, shattered ceramics, tiny brown bottles, layers of paper painted, aged fruit trees under-planted with heritage garlic and an 1898 penny that fell from the architraves.
Embedded in the wall is a piece of magnesite picked up by Peter Hughes while clearing wood near Thuddungra at just 17 years old. His grandson, the late Vic Hughes, said that in 1935 three of his sons began mining magnesite using a pickaxe, shovel and wheelbarrow.
We are far from the crater that is mine today from Causmag to Young.
While the property was being revived, Suez vowed to abide by one rule: stay as close as possible to its built purpose, using ancient techniques and natural finishes.
“We have stayed true to its heritage, recycling whatever we can from the building or the city,” she says.
“The walls are curved and they have potted bellies, they are not straight which was really difficult for Sam who is used to straight lines.”
Today, the old brick pub looks like a sparkling gold nugget, which Suez hopes will draw even more visitors to the city.
He currently fascinates the elders, all with stories to tell about the old building, offering Suez things they’ve clung to for years.
“There’s an 87-year-old man who lives in Boorowa and he remembers being a kid, standing outside and being given a flag, and he wants to bring that flag back,” Suez explains.
“I like Young’s story. It’s so rich, and I want to see more people come here and experience it.
“Ideally this will work like a two-person Airbnb, but I want to see the rest of the place being used by the community, with a donation to charity.
“Even though it is our property, I have the impression that [is also] that of the Youth community. The city needs to own and love this place like we do.