JJ Fahey and Bill Dougherty were aldermen on Grafton City Council when they decided to buy Schaeffer House and make it the home for the historical society.
JJ Fahey and Bill Dougherty were aldermen on Grafton City Council when they decided to buy Schaeffer House and make it the home for the historical society. Adam Hourigan

Schaeffer House celebrates 50 years of history keeping

FIFTY years ago, JJ Fahey and Bill Dougherty were aldermen on Grafton City Council when the council decided to buy the house of F.W.C Schaeffer and make it the permanent home of the Clarence River Historical Society.

And together at the celebration of its 50th anniversary on Thursday, Mr Dougherty said it was one of the better decisions they made.

"Very much so," he said. "But (deputy mayor) Neville Weiley gets the credit for the vision for it."

Mr Dougherty said that 50 years ago, he was in the property business when it came up for sale.

"We (Dougherty Bros) were collecting the land behind here (which is now Schaeffer Close), but we needed access - and attached to this building was the vacant land that provided the access," he said.

"And I thought that I might've bought it and moved in here, but the wife said no.

"So I spoke to the deputy mayor Neville Weiley, and he said 'This is the perfect place for the Historical Society' - and he was right!"

Mr Dougherty said the property at the time of purchase was different to its original design.

"It was a dump - three or four flats," he said. "But now it's been converted back to almost it's original design."

The house design has been a deliberate theme for the volunteer members of the Clarence River Historical Society, acting as a homage to its original owner, and much of Grafton's early architect, F.W.C Schaeffer.

 

Schaeffer House Nita Child (centre) with Schaeffer descendants (l-r) Gail Jackson and Robin Schaeffer at the celebration of 50 years since council bought the Schaeffer House and made it the home for the Historical Society.
Schaeffer House Nita Child (centre) with Schaeffer descendants (l-r) Gail Jackson and Robin Schaeffer at the celebration of 50 years since council bought the Schaeffer House and made it the home for the Historical Society. Adam Hourigan

"His name is still over the door," said Nita Child who has set up the current exhibition commemorating Mr Schaeffer and the anniversary. "There's bedrooms and kitchens ...the original wallpaper, the original everything is still in the house."

Mrs Child has spent years researching the myriad properties Mr Schaeffer designed in the Grafton area, and said it was the demolition of one of his buildings that brought about the purchase.

"The Historical Society, which had been going since 1931, was upstairs in the original town hall building which Mr Schaeffer also designed," she said.

"When it was demolished to make way for the present chambers, Schaeffer House was bought so that the Historical Society and its collection could have a new home, and here we are 50 years later."

Mrs Child said that the volunteers were dedicated to preserving the history of Grafton, and that there was an influx of people coming to discover Grafton's heritage.

"We had a lot of visitors over Jacaranda," she said. "And people come in all the time, even on bus trips to see if their name is linked with things."

"It has really become the central point of Grafton's history, from the old Daily Examiner's right back to 1859, to the collection items that are all tagged and catalogued so people can see where things came from."

The Schaeffer House building is now one of 60 Clarence Valley houses listed on the NSW Heritage Listing, and the society is the oldest in regional NSW.

"We don't look it as a a museum," Mrs Child said. "We treat it like the house... to keep the history going."

 

The original Schaeffer House.
The original Schaeffer House. Adam Hourigan Photography


Hot button and confidential issues up for decision

Hot button and confidential issues up for decision

Clarence Valley Council has hot button issues for decision today.

OPINION: Plastic bag ban shows our laziness

OPINION: Plastic bag ban shows our laziness

The single-use plastic bag ban has some in hysterics

What's on Emily's mind?

premium_icon What's on Emily's mind?

Emily wants to be an actress or a reporter when she grows up

Local Partners