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• Alpha House


Alpha House

Although pioneer James Birnie never lived on his grant he erected a three-roomed cottage in which his manager lived, and another smaller cottage for the servants . He was assigned convict labourers to fell the trees and clear the land. Alpha Farm was self-sufficient with its dairy and its orchard and vegetable gardens, all irrigated by water from Cook's stream. He transported the produce to Sydney markets. The manager cut a 'shipping dock' through the rock to enable the boats to come up to the grassy bank at high tide.

In 1821 Connell leased some of his land to Birnie for grazing cattle; then in 1828 when Birnie was declared 'lunatick' his trustees sold the Birnie Estate to John Connell. Connell built another cottage on the foundations of Birnie's old one but retained its underground cool rooms, which are still there. This cottage stood for a little over seventy years.

John Connell junior lived on Alpha Farm where he raised his two nephews. Later he moved to a Clarence River property leaving the boys to take care of Kurnell. After Thomas Holt bought the Laycock lands, which included Alpha Farm in 1861, Laycock's overseer, Mr Justice, who lived in Alpha House, stayed on to work for Holt.

After Mr Justice, other caretakers lived in the cottage. In 1887 Fred Beaker, Holt's caretaker and wood-getter, resided in Alpha House. He provided meals and beds for those who visited Kurnell and sought accommodation. When Beaker finally vacated the aging cottage the locals plundered it for its materials. In the 1890s, a fisherman's son was playing in the ruin and unearthed a tin pot filled with half crowns from the foundations.

News of the find proved disastrous for what was left of the old edifice. Hordes of treasure-seekers poured in and razed the house and the dairy beside it to the ground. But not another coin was found.
Two pine trees planted in John Connell's time, and the remains of the second Alpha House that was built by John Connell in 1828. Photograph by Sir Joseph Carruthers 1898. Mitchell Library
Land for the Captain Cook Landing Place Reserve was resumed in 1899 and in the same year it was officially opened and dedicated to the people for all time. Alpha House lay in ruins for a further year or two before the Trustees of the Reserve built another cottage on the foundations of the previous two. They retained the name Alpha House. In 1902 the Government granted 50 to the Trustees to meet expenses in connection with the official opening of the wharf and guesthouse.
The present Alpha House rebuilt on the original foundations by the Reserve Trustees in 1902. Mitchell Library
Alpha House, photographed here in 1920, was used as a guesthouse. Elsie Popplewell
Alpha House from Milgurrung beach, 1999. Daphne Salt
Alpha House from the air, 1999. Daphne Salt
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