Coffs Harbour Mayor Keith Rhoades opens the door of No 215A Harbour Drive, which will become Coffs Harbour’s new museum.
Coffs Harbour Mayor Keith Rhoades opens the door of No 215A Harbour Drive, which will become Coffs Harbour’s new museum. Rob Wright

Old courthouse to become museum

COFFS Harbour City Council has received the keys to the old courthouse and police station in Harbour Drive which is destined to become the city’s new museum.

Coffs Harbour Regional Museum staff members are hoping to be able to move in to the 200 square metre building on a 1700 square metre corner site and open it to the public in about 12 months.

The council bought 215A Harbour Drive at auction on September 4 for $800,000 from Baden Lang and Gary Ward, who operated an antique shop in the 1906 police station, courthouse and lock-up.

The council has also bought several items of 1900s-era furniture from the previous owners. None of the original furnishings are known to remain apart from some built-in cupboards.

The building is constructed of weatherboard with tallowwood floors. The original pressed metal ceilings remain above the present ceilings but are reportedly in poor condition.

The first step in converting the existing buildings into the new museum will be the preparation of a statement of cultural significance.

This will incorporate assessment of the historical, social, aesthetic and technical aspects of the building and will include drawings and photographs to illustrate the evolution of the site and buildings.

Work on the statement is scheduled to get underway this week and is due for completion in early January.

It will be followed by the development of a conservation strategy plan and examination of the building’s potential and the options available for the new museum’s operations before a development application is drawn up.

The old museum was closed following the second flooding of that building on March 31, 2009. That museum was also flooded 13 years earlier in November 1996.

Most of the museum’s collections have been in storage since that time apart from small temporary ‘pop-up’ exhibitions held in space lent by Palms Shopping, which Museum director Dr Leigh Summers had proved popular with people who would not normally visit museums.

Coffs Harbour Mayor Keith Rhoades, who joined council staff to take possession of the building today, said it was an exciting and historic moment for the city.

“A new museum site has been sought for a very long time – even before the March 2009 floods forced the closure of the old Museum – and what could be more appropriate than housing it in one of Coffs Harbour’s oldest and most significant buildings?” Cr Rhoades said

“The site is also ideally located on the main route between the city centre, the Jetty retail and café strip and the foreshores.

“I am positive that, once fully operating, the new Museum will become another major attraction for our city.”



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