Serial renovators turn sights to Tassie's iconic Disappearing House

GRAND: A Victorian couple known as The Constant Renovators have embarked on their 14th restoration of an Australian Heritage Home by undertaking various works on the Disappearing House in the Northern Midlands town of Conara. Picture: Dominic Romeo
GRAND: A Victorian couple known as The Constant Renovators have embarked on their 14th restoration of an Australian Heritage Home by undertaking various works on the Disappearing House in the Northern Midlands town of Conara. Picture: Dominic Romeo

For more than a century and a half, a classic Georgian home has stood in the small Northern Midlands Town of Conara.

It is believed that as travellers rode up and descended the tumultuous terrain of what is now the Heritage Highway, this particular house would seem to sink into the ground until it was completely out of sight, before suddenly reappearing shortly afterwards.

It's for this reason that the residence was nicknamed the Disappearing House.

Built from 1839 to 1840, the home was originally constructed to provide an overnight stop on the coach route between Hobart and Launceston.

It continued to serve this purpose until the Tasmanian Main Line Railway Company introduced a track between the same two locations in 1876. Since then, the building has housed various occupants, and in August last year, a Victorian couple with a passion for restoration that had spanned decades purchased the property sight unseen.

Dominic and Marie Romeo have been dedicated to restoring Australian heritage homes for more than 30 years and have breathed new life into 14 properties ranging from modest cottages to some of the country's grandest manors.

Ms Romeo said that she and her husband were driven by a strong sense of empathy and believed that it wasn't just the beauty of these homes that was worthy of recognition, but the stories hidden within them.

"We're not on earth for a very long time, we're just passing through, and the house you're living in now could have been someone's beloved home a century ago, so if these buildings cease to exist one day, so will a large chunk of Australia's history," she said.

"It is hard work, and sometimes I get about halfway through and start to wonder why I'm putting myself through an experience like this again, but it's more than worth it in the end, in fact, the process actually becomes quite addictive."

That same procedure and objective inspired the duo, who have branded themselves as The Constant Renovators, to bring their wealth of knowledge and experience to Tasmania.

After having crossed the Bass Strait many times, the couple had always dreamed of restoring one of the Apple Isle's many historic establishments, and when the perfect opportunity finally presented itself, they snapped it up.

Heritage home restoration can be a tedious and tiresome experience. Depending on the size of the house and the number of people involved in the works, the process can span months or years.

Mr Romeo said that the average amount of time it takes him and his wife, along with the team of tradesmen, to complete a full restoration is about four years.

However, he expected the restoration of the Disappearing House would only take another six months to complete.

The reputation that the property had for being haunted didn't deter the couple, nor did it give off any form of negative vibe, in fact, Mr Romeo said it had done the exact opposite.

"Most of the houses we go into are quite rundown and feel a bit sad, so a lot of the time we kind of sense that the house is happy we've arrived," he said.

"Maybe they know we're there to save them because in the end, that's the reason we jump from house to house."

With their expertise having been forged through years of trial and error, there wouldn't be too many Australian's with better restoration advice than the Romeo's.

Their advice was to be patient and absorb the atmosphere of the property.

The couple were coordinating the work on the home from Victoria, due to COVID-19 restrictions, but were eager to finally get back to Tasmania. Mr Romeo hoped that this wouldn't be the last restoration the couple undertook in the state.

"There's more out there," he said.

This story Serial renovators turn sights to Tassie's iconic Disappearing House first appeared on Illawarra Mercury.