A new vision for Horsham could mean the large verandas that once dominated properties along Firebrace Street will one day return.
- A draft streetscape plan from Horsham Rural Council includes a suggestion to ‘restore original features such as verandah posts and fretwork’
- Council agreed to remove post-supported verandas in 1952
- The draft plan is open for public consultation until March 25
The return of the architectural addition is among dozens of town center redevelopment ideas proposed as part of Horsham Rural Council’s streetscape plan project.
Of the seven key enhancement strategies, one describes “strengthening character and identity through the promotion and restoration of heritage features”.
The project document outlines opportunities to “restore original features such as veranda posts and fretwork”, among other facade restoration ideas.
Urban designer Rebecca Finn runs UrbanFold, the consultancy behind the plan, and said the idea of restoring the balconies has generated a lot of interest from the community.
“Of course, it’s a very expensive thing to do, but it’s something we hear from the community all the time, and something the council would like to see as well,” she said.
“It may not be something that happens all at once, but there may be opportunities to do it gradually in the city over the next few years.”
Horsham Rural Borough Council Mayor Robyn Gulline said she had also received positive responses to the idea.
“We had great feedback from the community about the return of the Verandahs, it was just an idea to test and everyone is so excited,” she said.
“So the fact that people are keen on [means] now we have to think, well, how are we going to implement it.”
In response to a question from ratepayers at Monday’s council meeting, Director of Community and Social Welfare Kevin O’Brien said the council would consider funding the work by creating a heritage restoration fund or a financial program to provide loans.
What happened to the balconies?
Conservatories on pubs and buildings in Victoria were once common and many still retain their original structures.
But almost 70 years ago, Horsham Rural Borough Council ordered those in positions to be demolished.
“The council actually decreed that after December 31, 1952, all verandas on public lands were to be cantilevered, and that all post-supported verandas were to be removed by January 31, 1963, which so was the death knell for beautiful verandahs,” said Rod Jenkinson, president of the Horsham Historical Society.
“The community was not happy but there were about nine councilors in 1952 who were all businessmen and several had premises in Firebrace Street and their reasoning was that the veranda posts were a hazard to cars and pedestrians.
“[But] a merchant slipped that the removal of the posts would allow passing motorists to better see the window.
The bylaw was repealed years later, but by this point most of the balconies were gone.
Horsham’s Royal Hotel once had an extensive veranda and publican Grant Fiedler said he would like to see the facade restored.
“Hardly a day goes by that someone doesn’t come in and mention how wonderful it would be if the verandas were still there, because in the lobby of the pub we have the old pictures from before the years 1950 with the verandas and certainly they just look fantastic,” he said.
“It would be quite an expensive exercise, but it would be money well spent.”
Plans suggest more trees, parking and a town square
In addition to heritage frontages, the streetscape plan also includes suggestions for alternatives to corner parking, a dedicated public plaza, and better use of “lane networks”.
“The council really asked us to come up with almost a toolkit, an assortment of ideas that can make Horsham a better place for locals, businesses, tourists, and now the council can use this document to help prioritize its capital budget and spending over the next few years,” Ms. Finn said.
Horsham Rural City Council’s draft streetscape plan is open for public consultation until March 25.