First published on 30 Apr 2012. Updated on 30 Apr 2012.
Elizabeth Farm has a number of intriguing points. It’s Australia’s oldest standing homestead, according to the Historic Houses Trust, having been constructed in 1793. It’s also one of the artefacts that dates from Parramatta’s surprising early colonial history.
Sitting on a street in Rosehill that is towered over by Parramatta’s growing CBD, it is one of a number of heritage houses open to the public in the area. My favourite element of the house is its sunrooms, which sit off the drawing room and what seems to have been the formal living or dining room. Unfortunately, the bedrooms are quite dark, and aside from their high ceilings and floorboards, these rooms don’t offer much visual appeal.
The house’s owners – Elizabeth and John Macarthur – came to Australia in the Second Fleet. Macarthur, who is lauded for his furtherance of Australia’s pastoral industry, was granted 100 acres in the area. He was a pretty wiley guy, and over time managed to secure a landholding of almost 1,300 acres. Elizabeth Farm comprises 300 of them.
In his later years, Macarthur succumbed to insanity, making frenetic renovations frenetic. The house was remodelled in 1826, but didn’t reach completion by the time of Macarthur’s death. The house was also later saved from demolition in the 1970s.
This house, more than any I’ve viewed, presents a queer contrast – it sits awkwardly in a suburb that seems to be trying to move on from its rich history. That’s one of the things that make the house so attractive; it’s not surrounded on either side by similar homes. It stands apart, and acts as a little historical anamoly.
Read more of Monica Kovacic's local architectural musings at The House Hunter.