Hedley and Janet Elliott, bought Emu Bottom in 1968 from the Stringer family and they are the fifth owners of the homestead.
At the time they purchased the property it was called Holly Green and it had been given this name by Mr Harry Webb who bought the property in the early 1900’s and called it ‘Holly Green’ as this was the name of his stud of dairy cattle.
The homestead has also had other names. Originally called Emu Bottom by George Evans but renamed `Emu Vale’ shortly after his death. One can imagine his wife finding this a much more attractive name than that which was George’s choice.
It was for a time named ‘Invargargyll’ when it was owned by a Brigadier General Clark at the turn of the 19th Century
After purchasing the property, one year was spent doing restoration work with the help and advice of architects, John and Phyll Murphy. As there was no documentation available, a great deal of research was needed to identify to uses of the various rooms of the homestead and to determine the parts, which were added as later additions.
It was decided to restore the homestead to the period that George Evans and his family lived at Emu Bottom and to furnish the restored rooms with furniture and items, which would have been available in the Melbourne at that time.
This was a very exciting time and there were several discoveries made – the most important of which was the discovery of the original kitchen with its’ large fireplace and baker’s oven. In the baker’s oven, there was found three very early glass bottles, a toy fireplace which could have been part of a doll’s house and a walnut.
With everything looking splendid and with bowls of fresh flowers throughout the homestead rooms, it was time to open to the public. And so it was on a hot windy day on 14th February 1970, Emu Bottom Homestead was opened as a tourist attraction by the Governor of Victoria, Sir Rohan Delacombe.
Emu Bottom Homestead operated as a tourist attraction for the period of 1970 – 1975 and during this time approximately 90,000 each year visitors enjoyed stepping back to experience a small piece of Australia’s pioneering past.
Although, today Emu Bottom Homestead is no longer operating as a tourist attraction, it’s role as a heritage building may have changed but it’s use is as vibrant and important as ever. Now the homestead complex is the backdrop all manner of functions and events and boasts two dining facilities – the Woolshed and the Homestead Dining Room.
When Hedley and Janet first came here, there was no trace left of the original woolshed and possibly this was because being built of wooden slabs, it is thought that the structure would have rotted away with the passage of time and been replaced by a much more modern structure.
The woolshed, now standing at Emu Bottom, was moved from a property called `Runnymede’ owned by the Laidlaws at Sandford near Casterton in the Western District.
It was built there in 1854 by a team of Chinese on their way to seek their fortunes on the goldfields. At this time, the entry of Chinese into Victoria was banned and ship’s captains, bringing then from China, would let them off on the beaches near Robe in South Australia. In order to survive whilst making their way to the goldfields, they would get work where they could and this woolshed is evidence of their handiwork.
It was moved to its present site late in 1970 and through the years many facilities have been added to provide for the requirements of modern day dining for the Woolshed is now a unique venue for a wide range of functions and events.
The Homestead Dining Room:
The Homestead Dining Room was built as an addition to the homestead in 1989 and was built from the sandstone collected from the property as George Evans had done in the building of the original homestead all those years ago.
The Dining Room has provided an elegant dining space, which captures the ambience of the original homestead and is used for weddings, meetings and special celebrations.
The Slab Hut:
The Slab Hut sits on a small hill adjacent to the Woolshed and as the name suggests is built of timber slabs.
It came to this site in 1971 almost by accident for Hedley and Janet had been to Whroo, once a gold mine area, in their search to find and buy furniture and items necessary to furnish the homestead. They had gone to Whroo to met Mr Chong who was a descendant of a Chinese family who had supplied the nearby gold fields with vegetables and who still lived in the same house. They had been told he, was wanting to sell some of the furniture still existing from the early days
Although, it did not eventuate that they purchased any of the furniture, Mr Cheong told them of a slab building on some land he owned nearby.
The outcome was that the building was purchased and it is this slab building that now sits on the small hill at Emu Bottom well known as the Slab Hut.
George Evans would surely be surprised to see Emu Bottom today – the heritage buildings which make up the complex of Emu Bottom may have changed from his day and the their uses too have changed and developed in a way that could not have been imagined by him.
This is all part of the story of a house and home – today there are still busy things happening in and around the buildings. There is still much laughter and many voices to be heard in and around the place – and, given that Emu Bottom is a ‘venue with a difference’, there is music and all manner of Australian style entertainments. The homestead lives on