Anyone who’s ever renovated an older home will know it’s no easy task. Renovating a much-loved iconic building that is part of local community memories is an even more weighty responsibility.
When Kinnon & Co bought the rather neglected Welcome Home Hotel in 2014, much of its early structure was altered and many of its original features were hidden or destroyed. The orange and blue exterior disguised its age – and not in a good way! We needed to create a practical space for visitors and groups but one that respected the heritage of the 1920s structure and features. The current building had replaced an original single-storey building from 1896, which was destroyed by fire in 1898 and again in 1921 but the hotel on the site kept its original ‘Welcome Home Hotel’ name, which was chosen to welcome soldiers home from the Boer War.
First stop for Marisse Kinnon was the Longreach Historical Association to find records and photographs that would help to guide decisions.
As we demolished some of the newer partitions and additions, the bones of the 1922 building started to become visible. Small parts of the original became the templates for restoration. For instance, a small section of the first floor balustrade remained which, together with the photos allowed us to recreate timberwork to the original size and style.
Odd pieces of original stained glass hinted at what was needed to replace newer clear glass, and original pressed metal panels were matched as closely as possible.
Slowly, slowly the building started to show its original grandeur through the dust of the past.
Fittings and soft furnishings were another challenge but one that Marisse Kinnon thoroughly enjoys. From treasures collected over the years to a special-order stair carpet, the details started to complement the era and style of the building.
Finally in 2016, all the ground floor was ready to start its new life as a booking office, cafe and meeting rooms. On 29 October 2016, the renovated Welcome Home was officially opened by His Excellency the Honourable Paul de Jersey AC, Governor of Queensland.
The Kinnons are keen for the Longreach community to continue to think of The Welcome Home as their own – somewhere to stop for coffee and cake or to hold community meetings, as well as a space that welcomes visitors to the town.
We hope the welcome and hospitality here continues to be as heartfelt as the sentiment that named the original building for its local sons.