The site of the current building was originally a ‘sly grog’ tent on the main track from Melbourne into Forest Creek (the original name of Castlemaine). It is believed to have been set up in 1851 and was quickly replaced by a more substantial (and respectable) slab bark hut that was replaced within 18 months by an entrepreneur with larger horizons.
The present building was constructed in stages between 1854 and 1858 as a corner hotel, named McMahon’s Commercial Hotel, with three separate shops and living accommodation built above. It was originally known as Butterworth’s building, as Mr Butterworth was a local personality, investor and councilor who also has a street named after him.
In the 1890s a recession hit the area as the initial gold mining activity ebbed away, and the shops were gradually absorbed into an expansion of the hotel that by 1900 finally occupied the whole ground floor. Subsequent alterations to the first floor incorporated the rooms as part of the accommodation the hotel offered. The hotel became known as the Commercial and traded until 2015.
It was built in classic Victorian style with high ceilings, substantial thick double-brick walls and solid timber floors. The building has remained in good condition, helped undoubtedly by the relatively dry climate of this area.
The present owners are re-visioning the whole site in a concept that combines residential occupation with complimentary ground floor commercial amenities. The completed ground floor rebuilding now contains four separate businesses comprising a corner restaurant, a separate wine bar, a bookshop and recycled clothing and homewares store.
The five new units
(Building commences February 2017)
This next stage will comprise the building of five residential units on three split levels over the existing ground floor, with all units incorporating a small extension at the rear. A final stage will be built after 2019 on the site of the exiting drive-in bottle shop and will include two more residential units and two ground-floor commercial units.
The five units will preserve the classic features of the Victorian era, including the high ceilings, elegant two metre tall sash windows and well proportioned spaces. Extra space will be created by extending at the rear of the existing building on two levels that will include an entry porch on the first floor and a master bedroom on the second floor. Each unit has a balcony or patio looking east, and the corner unit has a rooftop sundeck with views south west over the local park.
The current owners intend to build a final stage containing two more residential apartments and ground floor commercial premises on three levels, commencing in 2019. The building will be sited on the current bottle shop, which will be removed. A courtyard will be created between the two buildings to provide a place of privacy and relaxation.
This last stage completes the complex designed for this prominent corner and will add to the visual attraction of the town and this high-profile intersection.