Is it just urban legend that some of Canberra's landmark buildings were mistakenly built back-to-front? Tim attempts to separate myth from fact.
Where: The Brassey Hotel, Macquarie Street, Barton
The story: Apparently when the Brassey (then called Brassey House) was being built in the 1920s, it was originally designed for its grand front facade to face towards Parliament House. However, during construction, the builders made an error, which wasn't discovered until after the foundations were laid meaning the building was built back-to-front.
The facts: While this column has been unable to dig up the original plans, for the past few decades owners of the building have confirmed the faux pas, some in writing.
In the 1990s, a handout titled The History of the Brassey that was available at the hotel's reception succinctly stated, "designed by architects, Budden and Hood and built by Colonel James Walker, one of the more unusual features of the Brassey is that it is rumoured to have been built back to front, in that the grand entrance faces the quiet Belmore Gardens, while a more modest facade faces the busy thoroughfare of Macquarie Street".
Likewise, current owners of the upmarket hotel, the Doma Group, who recently gave the 90-year-old building quite a spruce-up, admit to being aware of the legend.
"The history of the building including that it was built back-to-front was communicated to us verbally," director of Doma Hotels Patrick Lonergan says.
Tim's verdict: Likely it was built back to front, but I'd like to see the original plans first. They must be somewhere.
Check it out: If you haven't popped into the Brassey for a few years, you'll be surprised at how much it has changed. Both the interior and the surrounding gardens have recently been extensively revamped. I especially love the outdoor chess pit.
Did You Know? The Brassey was completed in 1927 to coincide with the opening of Parliament in Canberra.
Where: The Australian Institute of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Studies (AIATSIS), Building, 51 Lawson Crescent, Acton
The story: The orientation of the AIATSIS building was reversed in the final design stage to save two Aboriginal scar trees.
The facts: The orientation of the building was indeed changed to preserve two significant Apple Box (Eucalyptus bridgesiana) trees that weren't identified during the initial design phase.
Details of this design change aren't easy to find, but a 1998 Parliamentary Standing Committee on Public Works report relating to the proposed New Facilities for the National Museum of Australia and the Australian Institute of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Studies states, "the layout of the building has been redesigned to avoid heritage trees".
The report further explains, "the landscape has been enhanced around the heritage trees and a water feature has been added. The functional brief area remains the same as does the building area. There will be some reordering internally, to take account of the reorientation."
Not surprisingly, the committee questioned "why the trees were not identified in the first instance".
One current AIATSIS staffer reported to your columnist revealing "when you enter the lobby, it feels like you are entering the back door, that's because it was originally meant to be just that".
"The original front of the building [now facing the lake] would have been far more welcoming, including being open to the carpark, offering shade and also a larger display area for our collections," my AIATSIS insider says.
Check it out: The AIATSIS building is located in the car park adjacent to the National Museum of Australia. You can take a peek in the foyer but for security reasons you can't explore the inside without permission. You can, however, walk around the perimeter of the building and marvel at the two grand old scar trees.
Did you know? These two Apple Boxes aren't the only scar trees in Acton. There are also a number of significant scar trees preserved on the ANU campus. Living treasures.
Where: All Saints Anglican Church, Ainslie.
The story: The church was inadvertently built with the bell tower on the wrong side.
The facts: Remarkably, this striking Gothic revival style church was once a funeral railway station attached to Australia's biggest cemetery - the Rookwood Necropolis in Sydney.
In 1868, the NSW government introduced a special service to carry corpses and mourners from the centre of Sydney to Rookwood, which was then on the outskirts of Sydney. It operated for more than 50 years, until 1920, when it was discontinued. Following years of neglect, in the early 1950s, NSW Railways put the building up for sale.
At the same time, Reverend Ted Buckle of the Parish of Canberra North was looking for a church. His church only had a very modest parish chapel at the time. Reverend Buckle and his congregation promptly collected 100 pounds and put in a bid for the purchase of the Rookwood Station.
The bid - the only one - was duly accepted, and soon all the stones were carefully numbered and a convoy of 83 semi-trailers transported the 782 tonnes of stonework to Ainslie.
The rebuilding, led by Canberra builder Stan Taunton, took more than a year with the bell tower purposefully moved from the left to right side for aesthetic reasons.
Verdict: True, but this reversal was intended as it was thought the bell tower would look better on the side of the church closest to the road.
Check it out: This landmark church is located in Cowper Street.
Did you know? The original design had a few quirky features, mainly focused on the Gregorian calendar, including 52 arches, one for each week of the year.
Tales of Lake George
Have you water-skied in Lake George? Do you remember the "zebras" grazing on the partially-wet lake bed in 2010?
Next year will mark the 200th anniversary of the first European sighting of Lake George by Joseph Wild (August 19, 1820) and subsequent naming of the vanishing lake a few months later by NSW governor Lachlan Macquarie after the reigning monarch of the time, King George III.
While this column's stance that the lake's name ought to revert to "Weereewa" (meaning bad water) in acknowledgment of its long association of local Indigenous peoples is well-known, the bicentenary of the European naming of the landmark lake provides an opportunity to shine the spotlight on its more recent past.
So, to commemorate its colourful contemporary history, the good folk at Lake George Winery, which overlooks the enigmatic lake are hosting a "Tales of Lake George" morning on Sunday, August 18.
There'll be a scrumptious morning tea in the winery's cafe along with a special presentation by your Akubra-clad columnist, who like many Canberrans has been fascinated with the occasional body of water for many years.
Bring along your own yarns and memorabilia. If you can't make the morning tea, but have memories or photos to share, please contact me at the address at the end of this column.
Fact File: Tales of Lake George
Lake George Winery: Federal Highway, Lake George. About a 40-minute drive from Civic.
When: Sunday, August 18, 10am-noon
Cost: $20 per adult (includes morning tea), children free.
Bookings essential:yowieman.com.au or call Sarah on: 0437 135 767
Did you know? In 2010, Canberra artists Alan and Julie Aston installed a number of zebras on the lake adjacent to the highway stop commemorating Kevin "Dasher" Wheatley VC. They were named Stopper, Reviver, Survivor, and Dasher. After one was vandalised, the NSW government demanded their removal. They were subsequently put out to pasture at Pegasus riding school in Holt.
WHERE IN CANBERRA?
Cryptic clue: A dead-end
Degree of difficulty:
Last week: Congratulations to Ian Loiterton, of Dunlop, who was the first reader to correctly identify last week's photo (inset) taken by Jonathan Miller, of Curtin, as a limestone pillar, known as "Cathedral Rock" on the shores of Lake Burrinjuck. Ian just beat Bruno Yvanovich, of Waramanga, to the prize.
"In the 1970s when my kids were small we motored around Cathedral Rock in a small tinny only a couple of metres protruded above the water," Ian says.
"However, on my next visit to Cathedral Rock in 1989 it was possible to drive a vehicle right up to the base of the rock as the water level was extremely low."
Ian reports this latter visit "was led by the late Professor Ken Campbell (ANU) who took a group of geologically like-minded teachers there to take advantage of the low water levels to look at the wealth of fossils in the area".
How to enter: Email your guess along with your name and address to email@example.com. The first email sent after 10am, Saturday, August 10, 2019 will win a double pass to Dendy - The Home of Quality Cinema.
Seal of approval
"There's a seal in our paddock!" screamed a missive received earlier this week from Jenny and Arthur Robb of Kiah near Eden. "While we had a smaller resident [seal] in the river a few years ago, it's definitely the first one we've spotted in the paddock," report the duo who run kayak tours out their property on the Towamba River.
In recent weeks, a number of photos of hybrid birds spotted in our suburbs have lobbed into my inbox, including this Crimson Rosella/Eastern Rosella hybrid photographed by Peter Meusburger on ANU campus.
Geoffrey Dabb, this column's birding expert, says reports of rosella hybrids are on the increase and he has also received reports of lorikeet hybrids including a cross between a Rainbow Lorikeet and a Musk Lorikeet.
"There's some argument about the origin of those, given possibility of aviary escapes," he says.