It’s always such an satisfying feeling, to see a historical building restored, renewed and given new life.
St Joseph’s Orphanage was operated and run by the Sisters of Mercy from 1864 until 1905. It provided care for girls aged 5 to 16 years. In 1976 the Home amalgamated with St John’s Home for the boys, and the children were moved to two cottages and to St John’s Home. St John’s Home closed in 1984 and the cottages closed in 1987.
It was originally located in Clinton St, but due to the growing numbers or orphaned girls, the Catholic Church commissioned construction of the Taralga Rd facility which is seen today. Construction finished in 1905 and compliments the now abandoned boys orphanage, which was also run by the Sisters of Mercy.
We happened across this amazing building by chance.
It was on my birthday, when we took a drive from Sydney to spend the day at a lavender farm called Crystal Brook, around thirty minutes or more west of Goulburn. On the way back after spending the day at the gardens, I pointed out a incredible old building in very good condition and suggested we should go take a look.
We parked the car and began to stroll the grounds of what looked like a possible abandoned building with a giant cross sitting on top. My first thought was that it was an old nunnery, perhaps in the process of being restored. As there were veggie gardens in the process of being built and a lot of construction materials.
WE noted one of the chimney stacks was also on, puffs of smoke reaching out towards to the darkening sunset lit sky. And pondered to whether we may have been trespassing or not on what looked like a very historical building which may or may not have been abandoned.
At the back of the building, we saw someone was watching television in a room, a cute sign on the door giving my the idea that perhaps the old building was being restores into accommodation.
As we continued to stroll around the property, we found ourselves at what looked the back of the building. A new fence with a gate and a lot of renovations and upgrading was going one. It was here, I questioned we may have been trespassing on someone’s property. Within a second of staying those words, we were met by a lady who came walking out to greet us.
We were nothing but apologetic, explaining we were unsure if the building was abandoned or not, until we reached the section which was clearly being renovated. We explained we were Urbex explorers (explorers of historical and abandoned places) and we were intrigued by the amazing front entrance of the building at the other side, where we parked there car.
The owner was so lovely (her name is Maggie), and we instantly picked up the most incredible warm and compassionate vibe from her. She explained it was a regular occurrence of people happening to be wandering the property and that we were not the first. She then offered if we would like a tour. WOW! We were so taken aback and excited, I couldn’t wait to get inside and take a look.
To learn more about the new owners and their story – check out this article and video here I found on them back in 2017.
The idea behind the renovation and restoration of the building is to create a community space which gives back to everyone in Goulburn and even outside of Goulburn. There will be a community garden, educational spaces and they dream of a time when they might be able to offer spiritual formation retreats.
As Catholics, they have also opened many newly renovated rooms to those in need as a safe haven when needed. Just another way they can give back to people.
Maggie explained the old building was a girls orphanage, and despite what most people think there are many happy stories from many of the orphaned girls who resided within the walls of this very historical building. Out of the one thousand girls who lived there, Maggie and her husband have met two hundred of them and many of them have the same opinion of the orphanage and the nuns who ran it – the place saved their lives.
It was so heartwarming to meet the owners and be taken on a private tour of the building, to learn about the history and the future plans of the building. And even more incredible that the new owners wish to restore the core foundations and beliefs of the orphanage, as a way of paying homage to how many girls were saved there and how many people they can now help and support in the community today.
What an honour to meet them and what an inspiration. I wish them all the best and I can’t wait to return back once the restoration is complete, to sit in the garden with a coffee at their non for profit cafe which is currently underway being built.