A former Portland hotel that is one of the state’s oldest buildings is for sale after being saved from demolition and restored across 13 years.
Following its 1841-42 construction, the Steam Packet Inn – as it’s still known – at 33 Bentinck St was purchased by ex-convict Samuel Hutchinson, who was tried in the UK for stealing three pounds.
The inn remained in his family for decades and served as a hotel, guesthouse, police barracks and private residence.
Glenelg Shire Council heritage records describe the inn as “one of Portland’s, and therefore Victoria’s oldest buildings”.
The council bought the inn in 1974.
It was later leased by The National Trust before being sold to heritage builder and shipwright James Quinlivan 20 years ago.
Mr Quinlivan said the double storey property was in “terrible condition” at the time with rotting weatherboards and stumps, a leaking roof and overgrown garden.
However, Mr Quinlivan and his partner Deborah Jones were determined to restore the inn back to its former glory.
“I knew I had the capabilities and resilience to tackle such a project that not many would touch, in order to preserve our local heritage,” Mr Quinlivan said.
“I have done up quite a few of the heritage buildings in Portland, as well as working on the oldest lifeboat in Australia. I like a challenge.”
Mr Quinlivan credited Deb with working as his “adviser, interior decorator and all-round helper” during the restoration which began in 2010.
The project involved restumping, and rebuilding the bathrooms and kitchen.
Tasmanian oak weatherboards, as used in the original build, were used for recladding.
Mr Quinlivan even made his own press to craft tiles for roofing.
He “cleared the jungle of the garden” and landscaped the 2140sq m site, adding more greenery to the older fruit trees and roses.
An outdoor bar, barbecue area, fire pit and bocce court were also added.
Indoors, the four-bedroom building boasts three bathrooms, two additional toilets, a formal sitting room, dining room, study and attic storage area.
The kitchen contains a Falcon electric double oven with gas hotplates, wok burner plus a Smeg dishwasher.
But it is the room where Mr Quinlivan installed two bars that he named as his favourite.
One of the bars was built in 1860 and sourced from Ballarat.
The other bar is made from half a boat originally built by Mr Quinlivan’s mentor, the late shipwright Bill Pell.
“I’d had the idea in the back of my mind and then I saw something similar on my travels with Deb in Wales,” Mr Quinlivan said.
“It definitely attracts a lot of attention when my mates come around and drink.
“They’re totally amazed, they haven’t seen anything like it before.”
Mr Quinlivan described the inn as “like an old sailing ship, full of nautical memorabilia and antiquities collected over time by both Deb and myself on our travels”.
Money including foreign currency hangs from the ceiling.
Flags and maritime artefacts adorn other surfaces.
Working on the inn, Mr Quinlivan discovered old bluestone pebbles, crockery pieces, old coins and bottles.
Digging near a toilet, he unearthed a dirt-covered object which, once cleaned, was revealed as a silver fob watch with Samuel Hutchinson’s initials on it.
Mr Quinlivan gifted the watch to his friend Ken Hutchinson, a descendant of Samuel.
Along with Ms Jones, Mr Quinlivan set up the inn with the aim of running it as short-stay accommodation and a small events venue before Covid-19 hit.
However the couple have decided to sell “to someone younger now with energy and enthusiasm” so they can continue their own world travels.
Much of the inn’s furniture and collectibles will be sold with the property.
A1 Real Estate Solutions’ Boyd Falconer said aside from being run as a business, the inn could also be a private home.
The former hotel is for sale with a $1.125m asking price.
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