VISITORS WELCOME: Riversleigh Guesthouse co-owners Martin Corkery and Sandi Mahoney have put time and love into renovating the iconic Ballina building and turning it into a bed and breakfast.
VISITORS WELCOME: Riversleigh Guesthouse co-owners Martin Corkery and Sandi Mahoney have put time and love into renovating the iconic Ballina building and turning it into a bed and breakfast. Marc Stapelberg

Historic building in Ballina restored to former glory

LOOKING at Ballina’s historic Riversleigh Guesthouse these days, it’s hard to believe the building was once in such a state of disrepair that it was known as Cockroach Castle.

Now beautifully restored to its former glory, Riversleigh is a delight for current owners, Sandi Mahoney and Martin Corkery, who bought the iconic property in July 2013.

They said they fell in love with the house and “wanted to make it grand again”.

After spending almost two years getting the building up to scratch, Ms Mahoney and Mr Corkery have reopened it as a bed and breakfast.

“We used to run a small B&B in Brisbane before moving to Sydney for five years ... but I was a lawyer in Lismore for seven years before that, and that’s where I met Sandi,” Mr Corkery said.

“We’d thought Riversleigh was quite a nice little business, but the first time it came on the market it was out of our price range.

“So we were pleased when it came back up for sale in 2013.”

Located on the corner of Norton and River Sts, Riversleigh is believed to be the oldest two-storey timber building in Ballina.

It was built in 1879 for Alexander Heugh and his family and has six bedrooms and seven bathrooms.

After the Heugh family moved to Billinudgel, Riversleigh became a boarding house managed by Alexander’s sister, Mary.

But by 1973 the building was derelict and boarded up.

Vicki Hiscoks from East Ballina bought the property in 2000 and it was meticulously restored at a cost of more than $250,000. She managed it as a B&B and tea rooms.

It was then sold to Ross and Penny Whitfield in 2002, who ran it as a guest house and Thai restaurant.

Mr Corkery and Ms Mahoney said they always planned to reopen Riversleigh as a B&B, but wanted to make sure it was fully restored to its former glory before welcoming guests.

“People still refer to it as Cockroach Castle despite how much work has been done on the building,” Ms Mahoney said.

“We want people to realise how beautiful it is.”

Rivesleigh has five guest rooms, each themed around the couple’s favourite cities across the world - Sydney, London, Paris, New York and Banff.

In an effort to be more sustainable they have also installed solar hot water, solar power and water tanks.

“Since we took over, we’ve had the descendants of the original owners stay here,” Mr Corkery said.

“We are at the point now where we’re really happy with the building and the work we’ve done.”

For more information about Riversleigh, visit www.riversleighguesthouse.com.au.



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