Dispute over ‘Melbourne’s oldest house’

A Williamstown house, which could be Melbourne’s oldest standing, is at the centre of a redevelopment dispute – before marketing has even began.

The dilapidated dwelling is at a corner of 43 – 45 Aitken Street.

The 839 square metre site was recently listed for forthcoming auction; as a townhouse building block, agents say it could trade for more than $1 million.

Since 1964 it has been held by the one family and used for oil drum storage.

The owner told The Age he would be happy to donate the weatherboard.

It has also been speculated the home could be relocated to parkland and preserved.

Preserve Old Williamstown president Patsy Toop said the house should be saved at its current site, and marketed as a national monument.

“This cottage represents the first settlement in Melbourne,” according to the lobbyist.

“Before it was built, more than likely there would have been tents,” she added.

“In America, Europe or England, remnants of first settlement are made national monuments”.

The National Trust said there is not enough evidence to suggest the home is Melbourne’s oldest – adding there was considerable debate in Heritage Victoria prior to it being added to the register in 2007.

“What we do know is that the block was first gazetted in 1837,” it said.

“Its first owner was a James Cain who bought it in 1841 and then sold it to William Pope in 1842”.

The home’s first reference – in an 1856 local council rate book – described it as a four room timber dwelling occupied by Clara Pope, William’s widow.

It is estimated restoring the home would cost about $200,000.

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Marc Pallisco

A former property analyst and print journalist, Marc is the publisher of realestatesource.com.au.