For all budding home renovators, architectural voyeurs and dreamers alike, we continue to follow the exciting Heartwood project evolve from historic 19th century huts to rebirth as a home for today. The plans are complete, so I thought it would be interesting to look at the history of this little hut in the Hills.

In South Australian settlement, the 1850’s were an interesting time. Development was rapidly expanding the footprint of Adelaide, pushing the populace across the plains and into the surrounding Hills. 

The area where Heartwood sits was wild unknown country, the realm of tall, substantial gums and areas of closed forest. The first recorded expedition into the area revealed, “the luxuriance of the plants and underwood by the side of the brook … in many places over our heads … and the lower parts interlaced with creeping plants …”

On the upper slopes of Mount Lofty, timber-getters were very busy – both legally and illegally. It was an isolated spot but never really lonely. The silence of the stringy-bark forest was punctuated by the cries of rosellas, magpies and wattlebirds and by the thud of the timber fellers’ axes. Creaking bullock carts loaded with stringy-bark batons went past every day. These Stringybark forests attracted the first Europeans who ventured here, as the timber was needed in the developing settlement for posts, rails and roofing shingles. 

Planning for the township of Stirling began in 1853 when the Governor granted almost 200 acres, including the Heartwood site, to Peter Prankerd and Robert Stuckey, who quickly subdivided it. 

The two-acre Heartwood site, purchased in 1854 for twenty pounds, enabled the Evans family to be the first residents. Richard Evans was the roads master for the Crafers to Biggs Flat section of what is known as Old Mount Barker Road and was a local founding member of the Grand United Order of Oddfellows. After some years, the Evans moved to Biggs Flat and the property was tenanted. Richard died in 1896 and Catherine, his wife, died the year earlier. 

Plains dwellers nicknamed the 'mountain' inhabitants Tiersmen, because they came from the Tiers, the earliest popular name for the Adelaide Hills. They typically built isolated bark huts beside permanent springs as few of these early settlers could afford the time, or money to build any dwelling more impressive. 

This makes the stone buildings of Heartwood so much more intriguing – considering the owners, the era and the area. Clearly evident is the building’s importance in the use of materials, its construct and the siting at the springhead of a natural valley that is still luscious to view.

Of elementary format, the dwelling was large for its time. The initial building of stone features a well-laid roof of timber shingles. The floorplan is configured as three rooms, largest in the centre with very generous glass windows. A charming Hobbit-like entry into the vestibule with a low timber matchboard ceiling, opens up to a large room with, by comparison, a cathedral ceiling. A small room duplicates the vestibule at the rear providing access to the gardens beyond.

Soon after, a mirror building was added, not in the usual L or T addition but as a parallel stone building sharing a common wall. As one expansive living area it features an enormous fireplace of workmanlike design with a wonderful Stringybark heartwood lintel. Here, even more generous window glass and with french doors to overlook the valley.

Some believe that around this time, Stephen Gould, one of the earliest Tiersmen, operated unlicensed premises from a small stone hut east of the intersection of Gould Road and Old Mount Barker Road – could this have been Heartwood? We haven't been able to confirm or deny.

Nearby in early 1863/4, Stirling East residents and wealthy landowner Peter Prankerd begun erecting a school out of their own resources. After some heavy lobbying, this soon became a new licensed schoolhouse with the help of some government favour and funding. Immediately, the school grounds became used by local farmers and market gardeners to hold an annual Produce Show.

At Heartwood, Thomas Henzell, his wife and their four children were tenants in the Evan's owned home. Council records of 1867 identify that improvements were made to the Heartwood property. Thomas was the schoolmaster at the local school and his wife, a tutor. When Thomas died from an accident in 1867, his widow and four young children stayed on, with two of the daughters still attending the school in 1873. One was named Florence so fittingly, one of the paint colours specified for Heartwood is a luxurious green called 'Sweet Florence'.

The Evans family held ownership until 1941 when Frank and Quinith Patterson became the owners and residents. Paterson being a tank maker and sheet metal worker set up workshop here, then relocating the business activity to Stirling’s main street. In the late 1950’s they subdivided their home and property, selling the vacant land to Andrew and Cora Scott and the very old stone cottage to Robert Ritchie, who in 1960 sold it to Frank and Joan Jennings who then sold in 1979 to Peter and Barbara Gluyas.

Renovations and additions over the 150 years were reasonably unsympathetic. New amenity was added with electrics and wet areas installed along with the construction of outbuildings. An iron roof overlaid the original timber shingles.

Most recently the Hurren team became the owners and transformational angels who will restore, renovate, remodel and rebuild Heartwood. The twin huts are to link to the new build through a glass roofed conservatory large enough for a living space in its own right.

It will retain its historic integrity too, as an example of an unobtrusive, human scale design sympathetically demonstrating early European settlement in a rural setting. 

After 150 years, new life is breathing again in these unique buildings.

Closely following Heartwood is Ouwens Casserly Real Estate agent Dale Gray who says “Only a handful of owners have had the privilege of calling ‘Heartwood’ home since settlement. This evolution from a modest dwelling to a home of ‘grand design’ is magical.”

Heartwood | Built 1867  | Reborn 2016  | A celebration of 150 years.

Follow this journey from creative design to active construction as I talk with Pauline Hurren, Principal Architect on Heartwood in each of the next phases of this small piece of early settlement history in one of Adelaide's most sought-after residential areas and prettiest towns in the Adelaide Hills of South Australia.