The building in the 50s.
The building in the 50s.

Destined for wrecking ball

THE demolition of the old Forestry headquarters at the jetty has been approved on the proviso its heritage value be documented and where possible preserved.

It opened in the late '40s and at the time was the only three-storey building in town. It was the regional head office for the NSW Forestry Commission (now known as the Forestry Corporation) showcasing beautiful timber work including intricate parquetry, wood panelling and an imposing curved staircase.

Much of the timber is rare and protected such as the fire oak flooring on the bottom level and the rainforest timber used throughout.

The Advocate has obtained some historic photos to give readers a look behind the scenes before the building is gone for good.

Looking down on the parquetry from the staircase.
Looking down on the parquetry from the staircase.

The modernist building on the corner of Harbour Dr and Hood St is one of five on the site now owned by Gowings and they were all approved for demolition at the February 28 Coffs Harbour City Council meeting.

Gowings was contacted for comment in relation to their plans for the site and what measures they would take to preserve the heritage value of the head office but declined to comment.

Tim Parkes worked in the building from 1995 up until May last year when the corporation relocated to their new offices on Gordon St.

He has documented a number of the internal upgrades that took place over the years.

Tim Parkes is a wealth of information.
Tim Parkes is a wealth of information.

During the 2007 renovations some gems were uncovered like the large parquetry trees in the main entrance which were covered in green carpet. Much of the wood panelling had also been covered in typical '70s style with canary yellow panels. One timber feature that dominated over the decades was the staircase.

Despite its beauty the building had its flaws.

"There were a number of problems with its design like the flat roof. It leaked virtually from day one,” Tim said.

The roof contained insulation made of seaweed and Tim was always a little concerned about the fire danger.

"With those old electrical cords covered in material, I was always worried about a fire catching the seaweed and turning it into an inferno but I took a bit of it outside and tried to light it and it just didn't burn - maybe it was all the salt.”

The modernist design has been recognised as a good example of the work of architect CP Sorensen and a rare example of post-war, international-style architecture in Coffs Harbour.

Council has stipulated that prior to demolition the new owner must conduct an archival record of the interior and exterior of the buildings and provide a copy to council prior to demolition.

The proponent will also be required to develop a heritage-interpretation strategy.

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