Fairfield Park Boathouse

Fairfield Boathouse was established in 1908 by John St Clair as a picnic, camping and refreshment room area. John St Clair was a piano tuner from Smith Street Fitzroy, with a vision. He firstly wrote a letter to the Premier suggesting that he open a refreshment room and boat shed area, with motor boats at Fairfield Park.

The Premier had to seek the approval form Yarra Bend Hospital of the Insane because the proposal for the boat shed was actually on the hospital grounds. The Premier gave his permission for the boat shed project to go ahead. Mr St Clair built the boat shed and six years later Fairfield Park was set aside from the same grounds. However Mr St Clair had seven troubled years with Crown Bailiffs over building permits. Eventually in 1915 the Heidelberg council bought him out. In 1923 the boathouse was raised by 12 feet to help minimise flood damage, a frequent threat to boathouses along the Yarra.

Boat and canoe carnivals and open air carnivals were common sights at Fairfield until the 1950s. Boating popularity declined until finally the Fairfield boathouse was closed in 1980 as it was declared unfit for human habitation.

In 1985 Paul Van Der Sluys won the tender through the Northcote council to restore the boathouse. The derelict building had recently housed squatters and possums. Boat sheds ran in Mr Van Der Sluys family. His parents ran Rudder Grange boat shed and then the Studley Park boathouse. In 1985 the boat shed was rebuilt and opened up by Paul Van Der Sluy. The project took 30,000 hours of restoration work. Meticulous work and an eye for detail was required for rebuilding. Even the gardens have been restored to encourage birds.

Darebin Libraries.  Local History File:  Fairfield Boathouse.
Lemon, Andrew. (1982). The Northcote side of the River. North Melbourne: Hargreen.
NEW LIFE FOR AN OLD BOAT SHED. (1985). Northcote Leader (Northcote, Vic. : 1882-)
Northcote Historical & Conservation Society. (1988). Northcote Glimpses of Our Past. Northcote, Vic: Author.
Northcote Leader (Northcote, Vic. : 1882-), January 24, 1990.
Yarra Bend Park draft management plan. (1990).  Yarra Bend Park Trust, Victoria.