Campbelltown Catholic Club has started the huge job of cleaning up the Queen Street ruin once known as Fisher’s Ghost Restaurant.
Specialist work crews are now removing 15 years of rubbish, health hazards, and overgrown vegetation so heritage experts will be able to enter safely in months to come.
Catholic Club chief executive Michael Lavorato said he was staggered by the poor state of the historic building.
“To be blunt, we have found a dangerous rubbish dump, a meth house, a place for squatters,” he said.
“It is costing us tens of thousands of dollars to make it clean and safe before we can allow any access.”
This historic site – originally known as Kendall’s Mill – is where the industrial revolution began in Macarthur, the first local mill to be powered by steam, not wind.
Built around 1844, the mill dominated the southern end of Campbelltown as a symbol of hope and prosperity until rust-devastated wheat farms began to be replaced by dairy farms in the 1880s.
The main Mill building was demolished in the 1920s, but the attached Mill House was redeveloped by Dr William Mawson (namesake of Mawson Park) as Milby Private Hospital, where many of Campbelltown’s older residents were born. It was later used as Fisher’s Ghost Restaurant, but has been a ruin since a fire swept through in 2005.
Developers have unsuccessfully sought to erect high-rise towers on the site in the past decade, angering the public and Campbelltown Council.
The Catholic Club has now purchased the heritage icon and hopes to restore it as part of a bright new chapter, working with council and heritage experts.
The club said it intended to make the building a centrepiece of whatever purpose/service the site will eventually be used for.
“No, we’re definitely not planning on high rise,” said Mr Lavorato.
The Catholic Club has also purchased historic Emily Cottage, and has previously restored the 1840s-vintage Quondong building, now used as a visitor information centre.