New to Canberra, I love exploring this city and the secrets that it holds with my family.
Published October 19th 2015
Take a tour though this historical home, paused in time
Calthorpes House is a historical home located in Red Hill, less than ten minutes from the CBD. The house was built in 1927 for the Calthorpe family - parents Harry and Della and their two daughters Dawn and Dell. Visitors can tours of this home, and learn about the history of the family and Canberra's early years on the Limestone Plains.
Harry Calthorpe was a real estate agent for the first properties being divided for Canberra, so this family home was an "upmarket" house for the time. The Calthorpe family lived in this house until World War II until the daughters married and moved away. Years later, Harry passed away and when the mother Della passed in 1979 the daughters decided to sell the home to the Commonwealth Government to preserve its' history.
The original features of the house have never been changed and everything is left in original condition, as if the Calthorpe's had just popped out for milk and would be returning soon.
As you enter the property, the sign at the entrance asks you to walk around to the back of the house to the original garage of the home. It is here that a historian invites you to sit down and explains the history of the home and the beginnings of settlement on the Limestone Plains.
The Limestone Plains were chosen as the site for Canberra and the government at the time were trying to attract workers from Melbourne to move to the area to build the Nations Capital. As there was a reluctance for people to move to this desolate area, the government promised electricity and running water at the houses that they provided. Calthorpe's House became an example of the quality of housing that could be built in the area.
Visitors are then introduced to the guide who will take the tour of the house, before being directed to the front of the property to put on protective booties. The carpets in the home, just like all the furnishings, are original from when the house was built in 1927 and need to be preserved.
Although the house is historic, it fits into the beautiful area and properties of Red Hill. As you walk in however, it is a surprise to step back into another era with the smells of wood panelling and history in every room.
Our little group were advised that we couldn't take any photos or touch anything to preserve the home. Walking through the house the guide explains the features of the home and told interesting stories about the family who lived there. The guide opens closets that still contain clothes, a bathroom cabinet that contains original toiletries and kitchen cupboards with original pantry boxes in place. With a maids bell and original toys in the bedrooms, it feels like time has stood still in this beautiful home from the 1920's.
Tea Party Set. Source: Muesums and Galleries website.
Over time, the Calthorpes' added newer technology and little inventions to make life easier through the years. Other visitors on the tour commented on some of the items, which they remembered their mother or grandmother owning when they were young. It is the stories of this family that engage you and capture your imagination as you wander around this quaint historic home. Both Calthorpe daughters, now in their 90's, often come back to talk to the guides about living in the home and what Canberra was like during both wars.
When you walk outside there is an air raid shelter in the back garden, as evidence of the threat of World War II. Visitors can't enter the bunker - not for heritage reasons as you would expect - but for the resident brown snake that makes its home inside the entry. There are signs around the property warning of snakes, in particular the deadly brown snake, so be particularly careful in the warmer months and watch your step.
Calthorpes House is one of three historic homes in Canberra to explore. Lanyon Homestead and Mugga Mugga are two other historic properties where you can experience a slice of Canberra's history. See here for more details.
At the time of writing, tours at Calthorpe's House run every half an hour from 1pm to 4pm on weekends, however check their website before you go to ensure these times are still accurate. During school holidays and Floriade they extend their hours.
Calthorpes House is an ideal place to visit if you have an interest in history, particularly if you enjoy learning about Canberra's early years. The gardens are also beautiful to explore and take a moment to enjoy the ambience of this 1920's home, paused in time.