Heritage-listed Brisbane home Dovercourt will get a new lease on life

Perched on a hill and looking towards the lights of the CBD, a piece of Brisbane’s great history is slowly being brought back to life as a family home.

The heritage-listed 1860s brick Dovercourt House has long dominated Sherwood Road in Toowong as one of Brisbane’s grand mansions.

But over the years, its white-painted brick walls have decayed, verandas have crumbled and sprawling gardens have become choked with weeds.

Dovercourt’s new owner, Kirsty Faichen, expects the house to belong to her family for years to come.(ABC Radio Brisbane: Lucy Stone)

Owned for generations by the Bigge family, Dovercourt was sold two years ago to Brisbane lawyer Kirsty Faichen, who took one look at the crumbling house and fell in love with it.

“She’s still beautiful and…didn’t do much in terms of removing any of the original features,” Ms Faichen said.

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From Sherwood Road, you can’t see much of Dovercourt, but passers-by can quickly catch a glimpse of the grand causeway and front door to the house, and a rusty roof behind a tall hedge.

A little closer, from the circular causeway – once surrounded by spectacular rose gardens – the full beauty of Dovercourt emerges.

An overgrown garden and driveway with the city of Brisbane in the distance
From a wide causeway once surrounded by rose gardens, Dovercourt overlooks Brisbane’s CBD.(ABC Radio Brisbane: Lucy Stone)

A grand staircase leading to wide wooden verandahs with green and white wrought iron railings, tall sash windows and a massive deep green door evoke Dovercourt’s former grandeur.

Enter the hallway and immediately to your right is the magnificent ballroom, divided by full-length wooden trifold doors which Ms. Faichen says were originally imported from Holland.

A stylish white bedroom with sash windows, with a gold mirror and white marble
The ladies’ side of the Dovercourt Ballroom, complete with a gilt mirror and a white marble fireplace, is now decorated with modern furnishings.(ABC Radio Brisbane: Lucy Stone)

These doors separate the gentlemen’s side, with a dark marble fireplace and wooden walls, from the ladies’ lounge which has a white marble fireplace and chandelier.

Gold-edged mirrors sit above the two fireplaces, while ornate handcrafted plaster architraves line the sash windows.

An old heritage room with large triple doors and a black marble fireplace topped with a gilt edged mirror.
The ballroom is divided by high triple doors imported from Holland. The piano is also older than the house.(ABC Radio Brisbane: Lucy Stone)

To the left of the main door are the bedrooms, in darker woodwork with stained walls reaching high ceilings.

The back rooms are a maze of kitchens and servants’ quarters, while below, carved into the deep rock, are servants’ quarters and cellars full of dusty relics.

Built by English architect William Henry Ellerker in 1867, Dovercourt was auctioned off as a four-room “cottage” with a self-contained kitchen and servant’s bedroom, three-stall stable, shed, corn room and a chicken coop.

Home to dozens of Brisbane’s upper class families over the decades, the house was also used as a school, before being sold to the Bigge family, who lived there for generations.

An old leather suitcase with a paper tag written 'Dovercourt'
Original furniture and objects have been left in Dovercourt for years, stored in old rooms.(ABC Radio Brisbane: Lucy Stone)

Today, mirrors and gilded chandeliers sit alongside schoolbooks and modern furniture, and a trampoline sits where roses once grew, as Mrs Faichen and her two daughters make Dovercourt their own.

“The intention is that this will be my family home and the girls will enjoy it growing up here and we will spend a lot of time playing cards, playing Monopoly, doing all the things we love to do,” Ms. Faishen. .

However, she must first obtain the necessary funds to carry out a complex and expensive restoration.

Not all in favor of the “ginormous project”

When the house hit the market in 2020, locals feared the 7,000 square meter tree-covered plot would be taken over by developers, prompting Brisbane City Council to purchase the property.

From the house the boulder drops rapidly into a steep ravine overgrown with weeds and trees covered in creepers.

This steep block has been subdivided, the sale of which will fund renovations to Dovercourt.

Ms Faichen says several townhouses will be built there – a development that residents are unhappy with.

A tangle of green trees and climbing plants.
Mrs Faichen has subdivided the block and plans to build several townhouses to fund the restoration of the main house.(ABC Radio Brisbane: Lucy Stone)

“If I didn’t have to, I wouldn’t, but in terms of funding housing restoration and focusing on craftsmanship, that’s what’s most important to me,” said Mrs Faichen.

Dovercourt itself will still sit proudly on the remaining 4,000 square meters, with townhouses set to be set well away from the residence.

A large white and green mansion, covered in rust and rot, surrounded by old trees covered in creepers
The old house has three stories, with the main living quarters at the top, servants’ quarters, and a cellar below.(ABC Radio Brisbane: Lucy Stone)

Ms Faichen’s planned restorations have sparked keen interest from locals, with notes regularly dropped into her letterbox and visitors knocking on her door to share their own memories of Dovercourt.

At first, she says, the interest was “quite confronting,” but now she’s used to it.

The entire veranda on the south side needs fixing as it leans precariously against the solid brick walls, while the haphazard plumbing and electrics need to be reinstalled.

A wide old veranda with ornate wrought iron railings.
The elegant wrap-around verandahs are in a dangerous state of disrepair, with this south side verandah looking away from the brick walls.(ABC Radio Brisbane: Lucy Stone)

The leaky roof also needs major repairs before months of work can begin inside, where cracks are widening in the ceilings and the original wallpaper hangs in strips on the hall walls. ball.

But none of that deterred Ms Faichen from planning Dovercourt’s next chapter.

“Sometimes if I’m here alone, I sit here and wonder how many stories this can tell,” Ms Faichen said.

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