Close-up view of the Lamb House at Kangaroo Point
Close-up view of the Lamb House at Kangaroo Point

Widow knocks back $12m to save home

THE developer responsible for shaping the skyline of modern Brisbane fears Queensland's most important heritage home will soon have to be demolished, after his offers to restore the derelict property for free were rebuffed.

The Sunday Mail can reveal Kevin Seymour, one of Queensland's wealthiest people and an Order of Australia recipient, has been in secret discussions for years to repair historic Lamb House on Kangaroo Point cliffs.

However owner Joy Lamb, whose late husband Frank inherited the renowned century-old residence from his family, has rejected Mr Seymour's overtures to either purchase the home and throw in a riverside apartment as part of the deal, or give her the millions of dollars needed to save it from ruination.

The pair have shared one of Queensland's most curious friendships, which dates back four decades to when Ms Lamb gained prominence as a socialite and the state's original campaigner for preserving heritage properties.

 

The house sits atop the Kangaroo Point cliffs.
The house sits atop the Kangaroo Point cliffs.

 

She successfully thwarted the Bjelke-Petersen government's plans to build theme parks along the Kangaroo Point foreshore, and later prevented an infamous internet pornographer from building apartments in front of Lamb House on a site where Brisbane's highest-priced home was later constructed.

Mr Seymour has for years been quietly contributing significant sums towards the upkeep of his friend's property, providing money for basic maintenance, tree lopping and security, while Ms Lamb now lives in a motel on nearby Main St.

However the pair's relationship has deteriorated in concert with the two-storey property with distinctive observation tower, which was built in 1902 for successful Queen St drapery store owner John Lamb on what was regarded as the emerging city's pre-eminent piece of real ­estate.

Originally called "Home", the property's ornate interior is now regularly inundated by water because of large holes in its multi-gabled roof.

It is also at risk from pests, vandalism and fire.

With its sweeping views of the river bend and CBD, it was one of the original houses added to the Queensland Heritage Register when it was formally established in 1992.

 

Joy Lamb on her wedding day
Joy Lamb on her wedding day

 

 

Joy Lamb has more recently fallen on hard times.
Joy Lamb has more recently fallen on hard times.

 

Current laws restrict what authorities can do to force owners of heritage-listed homes to maintain their properties.

However The Sunday Mail has learned $263,579.98 is currently owed to Brisbane City Council in unpaid rates while a further $11,514.97 is owed to Queensland Urban Utilities.

In an exclusive interview with The Sunday Mail, Mr Seymour talked about his frustration at being unable to restore the property, his fractured friendship with Ms Lamb and his fear that no amount of money would be able to resurrect the home if it was allowed to continue deteriorating.

"I think it is a tragedy," Mr Seymour said.

"As far as the heritage and tradition of Brisbane is ­concerned, I think this is the last remaining home that ­depicts Queensland's original heritage.

"I am really passionate about it because I think it is really worth saving."

Mr Seymour said he had consulted some of Queensland's pre-eminent heritage architects and builders about restoring the property and the conservative restoration cost was around $12 million, which he was happy to pay.

"We think that it would need a fair bit of rebuild as well as renovation," he said.

"A lot of the timber is starting to rot.

"But it is just such a worthwhile home that it is really worth it."

 

The house in less derelict times 115 years ago
The house in less derelict times 115 years ago

 

Developer and friend of Joy Lamb, Kevin Seymour. Picture: Jamie Hanson
Developer and friend of Joy Lamb, Kevin Seymour. Picture: Jamie Hanson

 

However Mr Seymour said he would gladly step aside and let authorities take over if that meant the unique piece of Queensland's history was not permanently lost.

"I don't care who it is but if you've got any regard for the city it is just one of those things that has got to be saved at all costs," he said.

"Whether I save it or whether the government or council steps in it doesn't matter because this is one of the most magnificent homes ever built in the city."

Award-winning Brisbane architect Shaun Lockyer said Lamb House was a tremendous example of a property from its period with very few amendments made to dilute its heritage integrity.

"It is an incredibly significant house not only because of its location but its architecture," he said.

Mr Lockyer, who is currently undertaking designs on Brisbane construction icon Walter Taylor's original Graceville home, said he was confident that Lamb House could be saved but it would come down to a question of costs.

"The challenge with something like this is the home has been empty for a fair amount of time, there is water damage and a lot of maintenance hasn't been done," Mr Lockyer said.

Mr Seymour said he had never held ambitions to live in the property but feared no one ever would again unless Ms Lamb was convinced to allow action to be taken soon.

 

External damage to the house
External damage to the house

 

External damage to the house
External damage to the house

 

"It will either fall down completely and she will get her wish to sell it as a development site," he said.

"Or, alternatively, because it has become a haven for derelicts it will burn down.

"Either way, the heritage of the city will be lost forever."

Mr Seymour, 78, who has amassed an estimated fortune of $874 million and is now tutoring his grandsons in the property game, said the unlikely friendship between developer and heritage advocate had been forged over many years.

"I can remember 40 years ago she was the best-dressed woman in town and I always marvelled at her style and choice of clothing," he said.

But their friendship had become strained after Mr ­Seymour spent years trying to convince her to let him fix the property, including an offer of a "nice unit in Kangaroo Point".

"I still have a soft spot for the fact that she was one the leading ladies in Brisbane and now she has been unlucky enough to fall on hard times," he said.

"We have financially supported her and had an option over the place and we've been willing to pay substantial sums to either restore the place or restore it for her.

"So it is a tragedy all around."

 

 

Cracks on an interior wall
Cracks on an interior wall

 

Broken timber at the crumbling house
Broken timber at the crumbling house


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