BAROONA WHITTINGHAM
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Description – GRAND BOUTIQUE HOTEL AND EVENTS DESTINATION

Location of Project – WHITTINGHAM, SINGLETON (HUNTER VALLEY REGION)

Year Project Commenced – 2023

MASTERPLAN FOR THE ULTIMATE HIGH END BOUTIQUE HOTEL IN THE HUNTER VALLEY REGION

DESCRIPTION

HERITAGE

Baroona Whittingham is a signature property of the Hunter Valley region with an important heritage stretching back almost 200 years. Often described as a ‘castle’, Baroona sits on 100 acres of grazing pasturage south of the Hunter Valley town of Singleton and only a 15 minute-drive from the Pokolbin Wine Region and 70 kilometres from Newcastle and 190 kilometres from Sydney.

Baroona was originally built by convicts, who lived in the main house’s cellar.

Baroona is an example of a remarkably intact pastoral estate, associated with the Dangar family, inclusive of features dating to the 1870’s. It provides evidence of the ways in which a major pastoral property functioned as a working stud farm, grazing estate and homestead of the late 19th century, as well as an historic embodiment of social tastes and customs of a prominent pastoral family throughout the nearly two centuries that Baroona has existed. The original property would have been self-sufficient in both produce and production.

In 1886 the stable block was added, which became the birthplace of the famous racehorse and twice winner of the Melbourne Cup, Peter Pan (1928-1947). The spiral staircase and tower were designed by Architect Frederick Menkens in the 1890s. The upstairs main suite opening to the veranda has a sitting and dressing room and ensuite built in 1920 when the Prince of Wales, later King Edward VIII, was a visitor.

Baroona was the first property to take delivery of a Rolls Royce in Australia. A one-off garage was built to accommodate the vehicle.

The long driveway hosts a canopied tree line of established jacaranda trees that bloom late each year.

Singleton remains one of the oldest towns in Australia, and the first settled in the Upper Hunter, with its rich river flats and attractive surrounds. Currently, Singleton is a coal-mining town with a military training barracks at its outskirts. The coal mines will be rendered inactive between 2025 to 2050, therefore Singleton Council is pleased that the Baroona Whittingham Masterplan is geared toward establishing new businesses and strengthening existing businesses into the future while simultaneously uplifting a significant heritage site.

CLIENT OBJECTIVES

The client approached MHDP Architects with an open brief: design a viable scheme to make the dilapidating estate cashflow positive.

MHDP ROLE

BUSINESS PLAN (NOT A DRAWING)

MHDP was tasked with integrating a business plan with an architectural vision to achieve longevity and relevance of a locally important heritage item. A viable business plan needed to be established before commencing the design process. This included gathering information about similar business ventures in the Hunter Valley Region, combining this information into a feasibility study to analyse market averages and expectations aided by the insight of hospitality professionals to form a business strategy based on real-market expertise. MHDP organized a schedule of competitors and expected consultant fees and construction costs, as well as coordinating business opportunities with local companies.

The aim is to minimise cost during initial stages and to attract the appropriate skills and talent to want to work within the Baroona Whittingham estate. Efforts are being made to establish opportunity for residents for providing an infrastructure to create business opportunity that will be sustained long term once the property is established as a high-end boutique hotel and events destination in the Hunter Valley Region.

To restore the property, the idea is to re-establish a village connected to the local community. This would provide on-site production and workshop facilities required to restore and set up the property. The process will focus on self-sufficiency and low impact, minimal and efficient use of resource with a focus on recycling and re-interpreting existing material found on site.

A supportive economic framework grounded in commitment, input, and cultural alignment will provide a platform for businesses to collaborate with associates for sharing profits. Associates will be selected through an application process, undergo a probationary period and evaluate themselves against the contract.

MHDPs VISION

BAROONA COMMUNITY SUCCESS IS BUSINES SUCCESS

 MHDP’s masterplan relies on establishing a skilled local community in the Hunter Valley Region.

Baroona Whittingham requires the employment of traditional trades, modern managerial and retail workers including but not limited to restoration specialist, carpenter, joiner, blacksmith or metalworks, stonemason, painter, plumber, welder, construction worker, equipment operator, groundskeeper, farmers, retail workers, business management, administrator, cleaners, construction workers, kitchen staff, horse wrangler and chauffeur. Beside the entrance gatehouse, permanent workshops and shops can be rented by local businesses which will be supplementary to our vision of Baroona Whittingham as a sustainable community. Providing start-up facilities for small businesses contributes to the hospitality and service sectors of the local economy. Accommodation will be provided for out-of-district trades, specialists and staff.

Efforts must be made to establish opportunity for local residents with the aim of providing an infrastructure to create business opportunity that will be sustained long term once the property is established.

Baroona will give back to the community that makes it successful. As relationships between nearby communities are formed with Baroona Whittingham’s business operations, the additional employment and tourism for this unique countryside experience will inevitably contribute to the local and surrounding economy of Singleton in the Hunter Valley Region. This forms an alliance with the hotel and leisure industry. The process will focus on self-sufficiency and low impact.

ARCHITECTURAL RESTORATION

Restoration works involves the general refurbishment and maintenance of the estate with its many outbuildings in various states of disrepair. MHDP Architects must negotiate between the Heritage consultant and Building Code of Australia consultant for a practical solution, as heritage elements such as stairs, balustrades and services such as real fireplaces do not meet modern safety standards. MHDP has successfully attained a heritage exemption with Singleton Council who are aligned with our vision that upkeeping the building should be undertaken for modern standards with consideration of retaining as much heritage as possible. The restoration work allows the owner of the estate to rent the main house with Australian Standards compliance for short-term accommodation while the events capabilities are in development.

MHDP has the client and council on-side for treating this property as elective-heritage, a term that typically refers to re-using or bringing new purpose to an old building that is not protected from demolition controls. While Baroona Whittingham is a heritage-listed building and therefore protected, the success of this masterplan relies significantly on expanding the capabilities of the site while retaining, recreating or repurposing the existing heritage buildings where salvageable – whereas without allowing for the elective heritage treatment of the property, Baroona would be doomed to remain a dilapidating countryside property without a promising future.

The essential restoration work enables the addition of a hotel and function center beside the heritage house in a form that compliments the symmetry of the stable’s extension at the opposite wing of the house.

ARCHITECTURAL ADDITIONS

MHDP Architects has delivered a vision that has excited all parties we have involved in the process of preparing this masterplan, which has translated into an appropriate architectural response to the heritage conditions of the site. The addition of new buildings has been determined by the business plan which has informed appropriate sizes for operation and capacity. Improved accessibility, safety and climate controls will be integrated into the existing and new buildings.

The main house will be brought to life as a grand boutique hotel with a new function center, commercial kitchen and bathroom extension. The ground floor features a pool, pool terrace, greenhouse bar, pizza-oven, event forecourt, bridal/event preparation lounge, commercial laundry, games room, reception, water features, accommodation, loungerooms and a guest kitchen. The first floor features a grand bridal suite in the former chapel with stained glass windows, additional suites, the royal historic suite with an integrated safe used by King Edward VIII, guest lounges, balconies, ensuites, bathrooms and access to the bridge to the tennis court and pavilion accommodation. The historic tower staircase remains accessible to the upper level which will continue being used as a card-playing room complete with a (hopefully inoperable) Victorian-era corner-wall urinal. The final floor above is the tower lookout providing a 360º view of Singleton in the Hunter Valley Region.

Single-bedroom detached accommodation suites and free-standing pavilions with kitchenettes, ensuites and allocated parking are spread around the top of the hill behind the main house for stunning views of the surrounding pastures and mountains. Their size and style emulate the former stables which have fallen into disrepair.

The existing gatehouse will be restored with additional rooms added for acceptable utility for a permanent caretaker or manager to comfortably reside in. Machine sheds and workshops of basic form sympathetic with the existing heritage building’s gable roofs will be added beside the Gatehouse where the row of jacaranda trees commence.

As part of the client’s brief, a private three-bedroom villa with a garage, garden and infinity pool will be included at the back of the site to view the estate from a distance.

Adequate parking and overflow parking for guests, residents and staff is spread across the site so that it does not visually burden the site with one large carpark. This allows patrons to park closer to their intended activity – keeping in mind this is a large site.

HIGH-END DESTINATION / EVENTS

This site is ideal for wedding events which can be hosted in several locations of the estate including the courtyard, front lawn, pool terrace and main hall. The event hall’s seating capacity will be up to 180 people. A dedicated bridal suite and groom lounge will be provided for wedding preparations, with the opportunity for a theatrical horse-driven coach arrival from the lounges to the wedding ceremony. Accommodation will be provided for the wedding party in the renovated historic main house, as well as additional external pavilions for a maximum capacity of 110 overnight guests. The estate will also provide on-site accommodation for up to 16 staff.

The masterplan allows for large outdoor events with a capacity of 1000-2000 people at the north side of the site, suitable for markets, moonlight cinemas, sporting events or concerts with a temporary stage.

Baroona Whittingham will be a perfect location for filmography of lifestyle programs, advertisements, movie or television productions.

The estate’s external spaces encompass marquees, village square, lounge and bar, swimming pool, amphitheater, recreational tennis court, croquet lawn, pavilion and gym, vegetable gardens and heritage greenhouse, garden walks, trails and contemplation spaces, a polo field, car display and parking, market or community event space, dams for canoeing and yoga, art exhibition and sculptural spaces, vineyard and an olive grove.

Baroona’s Masterplan provides opportunity for arts and crafts workshops such as garden sculpting, painting or drawing classes as well as providing an artist-in-residence studio/workshop conversion out of the existing Rolls Royce garage, where Australia’s first Rolls Royce was delivered to.

Luxury Car enthusiasts can visit with the peace of mind their vehicles are protected from natural elements; many collectors are reluctant to drive their cars outside of cities as there is often lacking car protection at rural destinations. There is potential for drive and dine, show and shine, marque and vintage collections, time trails/hill climbs on this site with the beautiful backdrop of luxurious modern architecture integrating with prominent heritage architecture. In appreciation of Baroona’s Rolls Royce history, a Rolls Royce or a vehicle of similar esteem would be ideal to chauffeur guests to local restaurants and wine tastings.

As Baroona Whittingham was originally intended to be Singleton’s town-center due to its largely flood-free topography, MHDP Architects deems it appropriate to simulate what the site may have become: a productive, self-sustaining village. Workshop spaces will be allocated to local business ventures appropriate to the area. The workshop spaces will be a permanent addition to Baroona, situated at the entrance driveway beside the existing gatehouse.

Landscaped gardens will be re-established to yield edible produce including fruit, vegetables, cheese, honey, herbs – specifically olives and grapes, for Baroona’s restaurant. This will have to be coordinated with experienced local farmers who understand the land and horticultural processes, which may require greater employment. The aim is so that culinary classes can be hosted in the event’s commercial kitchen featuring produce harvested on-site or at least locally. Baroona will establish agricultural propagation to re-establish food sources as the site was historically intended for. Local partnerships with local businesses will allow the production of edible goods.

Baroona Whittingham offers events for wedding and family celebrations and socially connecting with family, companies, professions, friends or associates with the experiential encompassment of a high-end week or weekend stay in the Australian countryside.