Renovation on Rawdon Island

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The property was built in 1906 as a small hardwood (Red Mahogany) clad Anglican Church with high ceilings and pretty leadlight feature windows. It is attractively set amongst tall Paperbark trees on a gently sloping, 1,011 sqm block and was used by a local congregation until about 30 years ago.

The current owners bought the property in late 2015.

The previous owner, Arthur McNeil, was a well known local artist who won two Walkley Awards. He loved to paint, sculpt and travel and loved his old church, but he was not one for maintaining the building, so after 30 years it sadly fell into disrepair.

In late 2015, Michael and Maria were holidaying in the Port Macquarie area, saw an old run down, dilapidated church for sale, and fell in love. They did a 10 minute walk through and within three months had purchased the building, left Sydney, left their jobs and moved to Rawdon Island.

“We decided to have a week holiday in Port Macquarie to visit our young grandchildren who had recently moved there with their mum and dad.  We started to explore the area and enjoyed the laid back lifestyle, beaches, restaurants and countryside,” says Maria.

The church had been vacant for three years and was in extremely bad condition, with its rusted, leaking metal roof, sloping floors inside the church, rotted timber deck that had vines growing all over it, and the old kitchen where the rats had taken up residence. Many of the windows were broken, and there were many holes and cracks in the floors and walls.

“Many of our friends thought we were crazy buying something that was so run down, but all I saw was a building that was once loved and needed to be loved again. It is our family home now, and we have many friends and family who visit. They all say that when they walk through the front door it has such a welcoming vibe,“ adds Maria.

It has been a journey of love and hard work, as they have done all the work themselves except for the 53 degree pitched roof on the main body of the church, which was a specialised job. Michael has restumped under the house, milled wood himself to match the 111 year old cladding, repaired all the cracks and holes in the building, built decks and painted inside and out.

Michael was a boilermaker by trade, but he loved to build. He partially renovated the previous property they owned in Sydney, but was looking for a challenge that was out of the ordinary, and the church fitted this criteria. He designed the extension, drew the plans and built the renovation himself. He had a vision, and he loved seeing his vision come to life. People who visit are in awe of what he has created – especially people who had been through the property in its derelict state.

Many of the arch windows in the main body of the church have been rebuilt by the owner, as they were rotted and could not be repaired. Richly coloured glass was locally sourced to replace  all the broken windows.

You enter the property through two beautiful LEAD LIGHT DOORS, which are simple but very elegant. These doors were made by a very talented 72 year old lady who lives in the area and who was very excited to be part of this project.

The KITCHEN is located where the pulpit once stood and is framed by a large arch over the bench. It has been designed so the outside world comes in through the tall, glass windows at the rear of the kitchen.

The SITTING AREA and LOUNGE ROOM are part of the original building, with
Tallowood floors and Red Mahogany clad walls and ceiling. It remains in its original design, with the whole area being one, big open space. There is an old telephone on the wall which sits above a small, church pew built by the owner – a reminder of time gone by.

The small room on the left at the front of the house (now a bedroom) was possibly built after the church was initially constructed for the clergy to use to change in or prepare for the service ahead. It has wooden church doors that open out on to the deck.

When asked about her favourite part of the new home, Maria says, “My favourite part of the house is the 16 foot tall ceilings and the large church windows in the kitchen. I love sitting on the lounge looking out the windows into the trees. On many occasions you will see owls, kookaburras or black cockatoos sitting in the trees looking into the windows. I am so proud that we have kept the original layout of the church and have bought the building back to its former glory. “

Michael and Maria designed the extension themselves, which consists of two bedrooms, ensuite bathroom, main bathroom, second loungeroom, second deck and a large garage.

The hallway has been created to flow from the main body of the church and feels as if it has been there for over one hundred years as well. They have created a different look in the extension to complement the church, with skillion roof lines and large windows overlooking the fields in the distance.

The gardens, which were once very overgrown and unusable, have been lovingly landscaped by Michael and Maria and have been created to complement the beautiful old church that now stands in her former glory. There is a lovely, dry rock garden bed that has been designed in memory of Arthur and displays many of his treasures, that were discovered in the grounds of the old church.

“This is our forever home, and we believe destiny brought us here. We have made so many friends on the island and in Port Macquarie and have had support from so many people along the way. We love it when people just drop in for a cup of tea or a glass of wine and sit out on the front porch to just enjoy the view and watch the cows and horses grazing in the paddock across the road.“

Thank you, Michael and Maria, for sharing your story.

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