A new lease on life for Gardener's Lodge

Join me in Victoria Park this Saturday morning from 10.30am for a free morning tea to celebrate the restoration of the Gardener's Lodge - now reopened as a thriving café.

The building was one of two lodges flanking the grand main entrance to the University of Sydney, built in 1885 by the great Colonial Architect of NSW, James Barnet.

One became home to the university's grounds-keeper, who looked after the lawns and gardens around the campus.

In 1911, ownership passed to the City of Sydney and sometime later, the building was converted to public toilets - or "public conveniences", as they used to be called - which it remained until it was closed in the mid-1980s.

The City began a $1.2 million restoration in January this year, and it's been a comprehensive refurbishment for this important heritage building.

Work involved restoration of the exterior façade and roof features; replacement of the roof beams, the windows and doors, and the installation of a new, state-of-the-art kitchen.

And we've also made the historic lodge more sustainable, with LED lighting, solar hot water, a rainwater tank and a recycling system for grey water. The old gardener would have been astonished!

Even though work has only recently been completed, it has already won the Heritage Award from the Australian Property Institute of NSW.

Gardener's Lodge is now a café run by Aunty Beryl Van-Oploo, from the Gamillaroi people of north-west NSW, and another two hospitality teachers.

Aunty Beryl runs Yamma Dhiyann, a hospitality training college in Darlington, teaching students - mostly young Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students, how to prepare food using bush flavours.

The college has an impressive 70 per cent success rate, with most students gaining work. This café will be another outlet for their skills and creativity, and I look forward to visiting it often. I'm sure we all will.

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