The Pirra Renovation Project

Bisinella Developments purchased Pirra in 2006 to ensure that the historic homestead was preserved and protected for the Lara community.

Between 2007 and early 2012, the company spent well over $2 million repairing and renovating the property under the guidance of Heritage Victoria.

It is one of several heritage restoration projects undertaken by Bisinella Developments in Lara.

Pirra Mansion – 1882

The two storey Pirra mansion house was designed by the prolific architectural firm Alexander Davidson and Co.

The Victorian Eclectic house style, with several highly unusual French mediaeval decorative features, is an important example of the work of the Davidson practice.

The mansion has been fully renovated and restored to its original style.

The iconic balcony presented a significant challenge.

Rotten timber beams, caused mainly by poor drainage, made the entire balcony structure unsafe.

Sections of the decorative wrought iron work were damaged or missing and several coats of paint had been applied over the years.

New timber beams were installed and a new timber deck was constructed on cement sheeting to protect the beams from rot in future.

The wrought iron work was removed one piece at a time. Damaged pieces were repaired and missing pieces were replaced. Each piece was sandblasted and a protective coating was applied prior to repainting.

Stairs installed in the 1950s or 1960s were removed – as recommended in the 2002 conservation report adopted by Heritage Victoria when listing Pirra Homestead for heritage protection. 

When purchased by Bisinella Developments, the mansion’s four large front rooms - two downstairs and two upstairs - retained their original architraves, cornices and solid plaster skirting, though they were in need of major repair. The wall coverings had been changed many times over the years and no original light fittings remained.

The original marble fireplaces in the downstairs rooms were intact, but the upstairs fireplaces had been removed.

Extensive work was required to repair significant cracking in the plaster, architraves and cornices. A specialist trade was brought in to fix damage caused by wear and tear to the plaster skirting.

New wall coverings and light fittings – carefully chosen to match the style of the original - were installed.

The tiles in the downstairs fireplaces were removed, cleaned and reinstalled. Replacement tiles, where necessary, were custom made.

New marble fireplaces were installed upstairs, matching the originals as closely as possible.

Pirra Cottage – 1869

Pirra Cottage is one of the oldest remaining heritage buildings in Lara.

The cottage has been fully renovated and restored to its original style.

The architectural integrity of Pirra Cottage was reinstated when the extension built in the 1970s was demolished in 2009 – as also recommended in the 2002 conservation report.

Poor drainage, along with a leaking roof, had resulted in significant damage to the floorboards inside the cottage. Removal of the extension enabled new drainage to be installed. The front veranda floor was also raised to improve ventilation.

Leaks in the roof of the cottage had caused significant damage inside and outside the building. Extensive repairs were carried out to the roof, the timber trusses in the ceiling and the surrounding concrete path.

The internal floorboards - damaged due to roof leaks and poor drainage - had been compromised by various repairs over the years. They were fully replaced in a timber similar to the originals.

The posts along the veranda were replaced in a style compatible with the posts of the two-storey homestead. It is believed that the original posts had been removed in the mid-20th century.

The render was repaired and repainted to match the heritage colours of the main house.  

Above is a front view of Pirra Cottage today – preserved in its original style to the satisfaction of Heritage Victoria. 

Four new posts were installed to reinstate the rear veranda, and the veranda floor was raised to provide improved ventilation.

The rear walls were rendered to match the remainder of the building.