Barton Vale House - Restoration

History Restored

Before Restoration

Before Restoration

The South Australian Government's restoration of Barton Vale House was led by architect Rob Cheeseman. One of his major contributions was to develop a lightweight steel frame and fibreglass clad replacement tower, utilising techniques he had seen in Europe. This enabled Barton Vale to be restored externally to its exact original appearance.

By mid 1991, all structural and external work was finished as well as plumbing and rewiring. However, at that time work was stopped with the interior incomplete when the State Government decided the building was surplus to office requirements.

Barton Vale and its five acres of grounds were then sold to developer Collaroy Developments which built an award winning housing estate on the outer section of the grounds, leaving Barton Vale on about an acre of ground. The sympathetic design of the estate leaves Barton Vale standing solitary, not hemmed in. The estate is now Defence Force housing.

Peter and Marilyn Smith bought Barton Vale in 1995 as a combination of family home and headquarters for their varied business activities. They have now completed the painstaking restoration of the interior to its former grandeur. Working with restoration specialist painter Lyell Rosenzweig, who had already painted their two Barossa houses, the Smiths returned most rooms to their 1880s uses, and where possible exactly recreated the stunning colour schemes found under the layers of Institution Green by making scrapes to reveal the original colours and designs.

Scrape of Ballroom ceiling

The colours include ochres, various greens, burgundy, with elaborate cornices and ceiling roses. There are a variety of woodgrainings, particularly oak and cedar.

The Drawing Room and Dining Room are particularly attractive examples of early Victorian decoration, light and airy, with elaborate colour schemes. Much hand painting of cornices and friezes was required.

Barton Vale is very much on the grand scale, reputed to be the largest private home remaining in Adelaide. There are almost forty rooms, most of them now back in daily use. The central hall with its first floor gallery rises some 45 feet to vaulted ceilings. (Click here for photographs) Other main rooms are about 30 feet by 20 feet with ceilings at 18 feet.

There are over half an acre of floors, and Jarrah, Baltic and Huon Pine floors have been carefully restored. Most stained glass windows managed to survive the institution period, and now form a feature of the spectacular stairwell some ten metres high.

For his work on the grand hall and stairwell of Barton Vale, Lyell Rosenzweig won the 1997 South Australian Award of Excellence for Heritage Restoration and won the Award in 2000 for Decorative Painting. Lyell can be contacted on (08) 8563 3326.

The Grand Ballroom was the final restoration among the main rooms of Barton Vale. This splendid room, some 40 feet by 30 feet, has two marble fireplaces (now restored after severe vandal damage) imported double ceiling roses, and French doors onto a large verandah. Paint scrapes revealed its original colours were pinks and greys, unique in the house, and now meticulously restored. It is now restored, it will be used by community groups for intimate concerts and other cultural activities.

Barton Vale has been resurrected to once again become one of the architectural gems of Adelaide. On the Register of the National Estate it is described as "a magnificent two storey stone mansion of immense architectural merit and splendour".

The wonderfully atmospheric photographs in this Website of Barton Vale on the night of Boxing Day 1997 were taken by award winning Air Force photographer Rob Hack who lived nearby.

While Barton Vale is not normally open to the public, Peter and Marilyn Smith willingly accept pre-arranged visits by individuals or groups with a genuine interest in historic architecture. Members of the Bowman family are particularly welcome.

Click here to see the restored Barton Vale House, together with examples of the fine internal details.

Contact information:  
Phone : 08 8359 0993
Fax : 08 8359 0994
Mobile :   0438 590 993

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