Central News – 21 April 2022

Steeped in history, the St Bathans Post Office is set to tell the stories of the area’s past.

Opened in 1909, the St Bathans Post Office was designed by the government architect of public works John Campbell — the architect behind the Dunedin Police Station, Law Courts and Parliament buildings — replacing the original single-storey post office built in the 1860s.

It gained category 1 heritage status in May.

The building has sat vacant for several years, however, the St Bathans Area Community Association has plans to change that.

The association has taken over the building’s lease from the Department of Conservation and plans are proceeding to have a museum and information centre at the site.

Also included in the lease is the Bank of NSW and Gold Office building situated next door.

Aside from the occasional usage, it too had sat empty — aside from the occasional art exhibition— and plans were being formed for its use as space for local crafters and artists to share their work.

St Bathans Area Community Association treasurer Euan Johnstone said taking on the lease made sense and was an opportunity to preserve the history of the town.

‘‘Well the building was sitting vacant for the last eight years or so, and the public come along, look at it and want to go in it, so we’ve taken the initiative from that and the fact that we’re using the building will probably preserve it better than it sitting vacant,’’ he said.

‘‘It’s the history of the town — in the days gone by the Post Office was the centre of town and if we lose that, the centre is going out of town.’’

Downstairs housed the town’s original telephone and would be used for displays of historic items, while upstairs contained the living quarters of the postmaster.

Post Office committee chairwoman Tricia Batkin said she hoped to eventually see the postmaster’s quarters restored and opened to the public.

Mrs Batkin had lived in the area all her life and hoped to help people connect with their family roots in the area.

‘‘I’m very keen on the genealogy and the history and I would hope we would have some days where I could be here with all the records and help people start researching their ancestors in the area — that’s something I am passionate about,’’ she said.