STEEP PRICE: Tony Karouhanis says Rathgar House was close to being condemned.
STEEP PRICE: Tony Karouhanis says Rathgar House was close to being condemned.

Restored Rathgar House could be Grafton's cup of tea

BY THE end of the month the Clarence Valley will be able to inspect the renovation of one of the region's finest old buildings.

Rathgar House, on the Pacific Hwy at South Grafton, went under the hammer 12 months ago for just over $300,000.

But the Victorian-era two-storey residence built by the first mayor of South Grafton, JJ McKittrick, was no bargain.

Restaurateur and businessman Tony Karouhanis took on the premises with the idea of turning it into an upmarket bed and breakfast and coffee lounge.

With the job nearly done, he is thrilled with what he achieved, but admits the job nearly broke him.

"In my opinion the house was only six months off being condemned when I bought it," he said.

"The floors were gone, there were holes in the walls and termite damage right through the house.

"Structurally it was strong, but I don't know how people could live in it safely."

Mr Karouhanis said the plan was to re-create the feeling of what it was like to walk into a Victorian mansion.

"We started from the outside," he said. "We've re-created the fences and boundary lines just as they existed when the house was built in the 1880s.

"We've put in floating wooden floors, matched up the architraves, door frames and window sills and put down luxurious carpets."

He said all this was done from scratch.

"There was nothing here we could use. The building was just a shell."

Mr Karouhanis and his wife Shai plan to open a coffee lounge serving coffee, cakes and light lunches in the next few weeks.

He plans to open three bedrooms in the house for bed and breakfast, but this could take from three to six months.

"I think I've accomplished what I set out to accomplish with the house," he said. "I would love people to come and have a look at an open day in a couple of weeks."

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