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A look at the Sister Martin Kelly Centre

8 June 2018

125 years of history in the walls of this building.

If you have been to our site in Wembley recently, you would have noticed the newly restored Sister Martin Kelly Centre (a building recognised by the Heritage Council of WA for it's historic and cultural significance) at the centre of the property.

Flanked by stands of historic olive trees, the limestone building was designed by Andrea Stombuco and constructed by David Grey in 1892. It was officially opened by the Bishop of Perth in January 1893 as a school house for the Subiaco Boys Orphanage (to 1901), which was managed by the Sisters of Mercy.

It was variously used as a school and chapel for the boys orphanage and later the St Joseph’s Girls Orphanage (1901-1971).

The orphanage closed in 1971 and in 1989, the building was renamed the Sister Martin Kelly Centre, in honour of Sister Martin Kelly RSM (1930-1987), who was the principal driver behind the administrative changes that saw the closing of St Joseph’s Girls Orphanage and its rebirth as the Catherine McAuley Centre, a family-oriented community service for children in need.

The Catherine McAuley Centre is now the MercyCare Wembley site, home to our Residential Aged Care facility and vibrant Early Learning Centre.

In August 2012, the historic significance of the Martin Kelly Centre, and the Wembley site as a whole, was recognised with entry onto the State Register of Heritage Places.

In recognition of its historic importance, MercyCare made the decision to embark on a large-scale conservation program at the Sister Martin Kelly Centre, with priority given towards preservation of the existing building fabric.

Works took place from March 2016 to November 2017 and required significant elements of preservation and reconstruction, including restoration of the timber floor, joinery, exterior wall coatings and roof cladding, to accurately represent the cultural significance of the building.

The distinctive windows needed major reconstruction to reverse rotting and termite damage, with bespoke window frames recreated by traditional carpentry methods and the original blue/clear glass pattern reconstructed by combining salvaged original panes with modern reproductions.

The introduction of modern and required functionality, such as mechanical systems, audio-visual equipment and a kitchenette was detailed to minimise direct impact on the original building fabric.

The Sister Martin Kelly Centre conservation project has been led by MercyCare, in collaboration with Bernard Seeber Architects and Colgan Industries.

Earlier this year, the project was award the Judges’ Choice at the 2018 WA Heritage Awards and has been nominated for the 2018 Master Builders Association (WA) Excellence in Construction award.

The reopening of the centre was officially blessed by Archbishop Timothy Costelloe at a ceremony in June 2017.

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