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Barraba’s Historic Home “Firenze”

The renovation of the fine home ìFirenzeî on the corner of Fitzroy and Alice Streets has attracted great interest over the last year. The large turn of the century home, built from distinctive Barraba brick, Firenzeîhas been restored with love and attention by owner Carole Lewis.

Firenze has known only two family owners in its 112 year life, the Williamses and now the Lewises. Carole Lewis discovered Barraba with her late husband Jim while participating in a Variety Club Bash in 2003.They met Joyce Williams and fell in love with her large Federation style home perched on a hill. Joyce wanted to move into Richardson House and agreed to sell Jim and Carole her beautiful home.

Since 2003 the Lewises lived in both Sydney and Barraba. Carole now has made Barraba her home where she says enjoys living ìwithout the hustle and bustle of city life.î Carole instead enjoys the hustle and bustle of life as a grandparent, welcoming her grandchildren to Firenze, where the large home offers plenty of space for their frequent visits.

Caroleís renovation has restored the southern verandah to its original splendour, removing the structures that had closed it in. This is one of the most striking changes to the homeís exterior to passersby. The change means the house more closely resembles the photo taken by the original owner Percy Williams. The home had a magnificent garden for much of its history which wasnít able to be maintained for a period. Now Carole has planted roses extensively which are thriving in this good season and the front garden is returning to its former glory.Thereís another local connection for Carole. Her maternal grandfather was Arthur Chapman from North Manilla. A framed certificate from the people of the Manilla District thanking Arthur, a shearer, for his service in the 33rd Battalion AIF has a place of honour in Caroleís home.

In Sydney Jim and Carole owned and ran Lewis Pulleys, a pulley, power transmission and sprockets business. Lewis Pulleys was started by Jimís grandfather in 1911 and continues as a family business today in its fourth generation.

Carole describes her late husband as a remarkable man. Amongst his interests were vintage cars. Carole has retained a special Holden HZ from Jimís collection and is involved with local car enthusiast groups.

Carole got to know Joyce in her final years and has a fondness and admiration for her. Joyce was born in 1911 and had lived in the home for almost all of her 95 years. The home had been built for her parents, Percy and Sarah ìPriscillaî Williams when they married in The bricks were made by ìBrickyî Taylor and the house constructed by Lock McKechnie.

Carole says Joyce told her the home is called Firenze as family friends of the Williamses had visited Italy and the city of Firenze (Florence). They liked the name.

Carole recalls Joyce also saying she had always had an affection for magpies, and loved and kept track of the different magpie families who lived there with her over almost the century. A picture survives of Joyce as a little blonde girl on her trike with her pet magpie on one of the homeís verandahs.

Julie Williams remembers her cousin Joyce was exceptionally talented musically, especially as a singer and pianist. ìJoyce also loved her garden and her pot plants that flourished on her verandah and at the back of the house. Another passion was family history, and she was a great source of information. I recall many happy hours sharing fish and chips with Joyce in her little back sunroom and listening to interesting family stories,î says Julie.

Firenze is a solidly built and beautiful home, and a classic of its time. It is well into its second century looking every bit as smart as when Percy and Priscilla had her built thanks to the stewardship of two independent and capable women, first Joyce and now Carole.

Photo: Carole Lewis on the front verandah of Firenze Joyce Williams with her pet magpie as a child Firenze in the early days