Australia Caravan holidaymakers from Cairns set to transform Fingal's historic town hall
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The historic Fingal Town Hall has been a prominent feature of the north-east Tasmanian town since the 1880s.
It has played a major role in the life of the town and has housed the local courthouse, town hall, council chambers, police station and the library, but in recent years has become neglected.
It is now being restored and the new owners hope to bring it back to being a focal point of the town.
Darren Reed and Simon Lloyd said it was an impulse buy a year ago.
The couple, from Cairns, were travelling around Australia in a caravan, arriving in Tasmania just before the height of the coronavirus pandemic and state border closures.
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"We were in Fingal in the caravan and saw the town hall, liked what we saw and bought it," Mr Reed said.
"We just fell in love with the area, fell in love with Tassie.
"We weren't going anywhere anyway so decided to make the most of it and we are very happy here and intend on sticking around for quite a while.
"We had seen it online, it had been on the market for years and thought to ourselves, 'what crazy person would buy that building'.
"The owners were here one weekend and we saw the doors open and walked in and had a look and as soon as we walked in we made an offer straight away — we just fell in love with it, it's so unique and we really saw the potential in it."
Initially, the couple just needed somewhere to live and saw an opportunity to get out of the caravan.
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They then saw the commercial potential in the property.
So far they have converted an area of the building into their private living quarters. Another section of the hall that was used as offices and a toilet block is being turned into guest accommodation.
Mr Reed and Mr Lloyd also have plans to turn the old library into accommodation.
Mr Lloyd said there are grand plans for the jail cells in the building's basement, that date back to 1880.
"Ultimately, what we would like to do with this is get it back into a condition where we could have a bar or extra accommodation," he said.
"It's a pretty amazing part of the building."
They also want to make the hall available for the community and use it for movie nights and markets.
In years gone by, the hall was used for wedding receptions, dances, fairs and also acted as a movie theatre.
"The community love the fact that somebody's finally bought it after being vacant for nearly 20 years," Mr Reed said.
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"A lot of the locals have said to us that just seeing lights on … brings some life to the town because it is at the entrance to Fingal," Mr Reed said.
The renovation is generating interest among locals.
"Everybody feels like they've got a vested interest in it and we get a lot of encouragement from the locals," Mr Lloyd said.
"We love Fingal — great people — and it's kind of nice being in a building that's sort of a focal point of the town."
The renovation has already come a long way but there is more work to do.
"It was challenging to visualise it as somewhere where we could live," Mr Lloyd said.
"Our lounge room is what used to be the old council boardroom, the kitchen is very much like an old commercial kitchen and the bedroom that we've got used to be the council bar."
It has been a labour of love.
"It seems to get bigger and bigger as we find more things to do which is the nature of a very large old building like this," Mr Lloyd said.
Builder Lisa Collins said it was a thrill to work on such an "amazing old building".
"To work on something like this, you're privileged. Not many people get to do it," she said.
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"To see it go from not being used, [a] storage area basically, no community interaction and now slowly coming back into the community, it's very good to see."
Mr Reed and Mr Lloyd said they hoped their restoration project would encourage more people to visit the town.
"It would be great to see more people stopping in Fingal," Mr Lloyd said.
"Some people just have a tendency to drive through without stopping and there are a lot of beautiful old buildings in this town worth having a look at.
"If we can be a part of making Fingal more of a destination people want to stop in, that would be fantastic."
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