By Kyra Gillespie
Dame Pattie Avenue may soon be heritage listed by Cardinia Shire Council, if the local government body’s heritage overlay is given the green light.
The St James’ Village has a long and rich history.
The Anglican Archbishop of Melbourne officially opened the first stage of the Pakenham village, an initiative of the Pakenham St James’ Parish to provide accommodation for the elderly, in 1959.
All of the houses were completed by 1962.
In the mid ‘60s the Church requested the land be transferred to the Anglican Diocese of Melbourne.
Benetas was formed by a small group of volunteers from the Diocese in 1948 to provide care and support to older Victorians and over time, many properties were transferred from the Diocese to Benetas, including the property on Dame Pattie Avenue.
The 18 small weatherboard houses along the curved roadway are still standing today.
A council heritage report describes the village as “of local historical, social aesthetic and architectural significance” to Cardinia Shire.
“The St James’ Village is historically significant for its associations with response of the Anglican Church to the ever-increasing need for aged care accommodation in the post-war era when the Diocese of Melbourne decided to become actively involved in the provision of aged care facilities,” the report reads.
“[It is] a representative example of the ‘independent living unit’ type of aged care accommodation, which in 1960s was said by the Victorian Director of Social Services to be the best complex of its kind in Victoria.
“The houses themselves, although small, are carefully designed.”
Another distinguishing feature outlined in the report, is the additional building at the end of the cul-de-sac which, in the ‘50s and ‘60s would have provided communal facilities for residents to meet and socialise, or to serve as a sick bay.
The historic street has also served as somewhat of an artistic muse; it features in the lyrics of original song and music video – Are You Ready Now – by Pakenham-based band The Hunter Express.
But are the houses really worth preserving?
The Gazette understands that some, if not all, the timber structures have fallen victim to pests like termites, which reside in nearby trees.
Developers also claim the heritage ruling will stunt the region’s growth.
Caretaker Ray Brown said that the houses are “unique” but require significant work.
“They’re very unique, but not in great condition,” he said.
“I think a lot of money would have to be spent on them to get them up to standard.”
Proprietor Benetas did not disclose their position on the proposed heritage overlay when questioned by the Gazette.
“We are aware that Cardinia Shire Council is currently considering placing a heritage overlay on the buildings,” Chris Karagiannis, General Manager for Strategy, Infrastructure and Housing said.
“Benetas has submitted a response to Cardinia Shire on the proposed application of a Heritage Overlay on the site.
“Benetas will continue to work with Council on this matter.”
The spokesman was also vague when it came to the future of the Village, citing a ‘five year strategic plan’ for the site.
“The future plan for St James’ Village is currently being considered as part of our five year strategic plan.
“While determining a way forward, our priority will be to those already living in these units and our commitment to continue to accommodate them long term in a living solution which suits them.”