The historic hotel on track to smash town recordThe Empyre hotel has already attracted interest from buyers thinking about turning it into a home. Photo: Jellis Craig Castlemaine

Historic Empyre Hotel on track to smash Castlemaine sale record

Within four days of being listed – and rather curiously as a house – the opulent central Castlemaine boutique accommodation known as The Empyre had elicited enough interest to flag that it could well set the record property price in a town that has become known as Victoria’s regional arts hub.

The price set down in the marketing is $2.7 million. Jeremy Bottomley, the listing agent for Jellis Craig Castlemaine, says that although that is “top end and the highest price sought within the grid of Castlemaine – by a significant margin”, a mixed group of respondents from Melbourne and locally have already been through, musing on how they might put it to use.

But why is a premises of eight bedrooms, six bathrooms and two well-stocked cellars, so obviously set up as luxury heritage accommodation, being touted primarily as a single residence?

Mr Bottomley says that in its 161-year history, the gorgeously lace-worked Victorian property has at times been a private home and that so far “it’s mostly Melbourne buyers who are looking at it as a home right in the middle of town”.

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With two well-stocked cellars, the hotel has been operating as boutique accommodation. Photo: Jellis Craig Castlemaine.

Why not when the COVID-prompted regional relocation drive is still in full swing and when it is in one of the most heritage-intact townships in the central goldfields, which is seeing “everything Victorian (era) going gangbusters?”.

Mr Bottomley says that from September 2020, “almost overnight, properties in the town that were $1.1-$1.2 million went to $1.5 million”. Castlemaine stock that “normally took 75 days on the market was suddenly selling in 7-14 days. It’s just flying.”

A big part of the attraction that could help the recently renovated Empyre achieve its desired result is that almost all of the furniture and fittings that include locally sourced antiques are included in the deal.

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All the furniture, including locally sourced antiques, is included in the sale. Photo: Jellis Craig Castlemaine

In other words, this premises is set up and ready to go as an operating hospitality and accommodation venue, complete with a commercial kitchen.

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Jellis Craig is marketing The Empyre for any application, seeking “an open-ended private sale” that will conclude “when the right buyer at $2.7 million is found”.

In a township that in the 1850s and ’60s was born out of one of the richest shallow alluvial goldfields the world had ever seen, the central neighbourhood in which the old pub sits is arguably more heritage intact and alive than most similarly-scaled rural Australian townships.

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In the centre of Castlemaine, The Empyre is one of many Victorian-era buildings in the town. Photo: Jellis Craig Castlemaine

In its wide grid of streets are scores of grand mid-Victorian ex-bank buildings, hotels and impressive churches that speak of a community that values its built history.

The Empyre is still a jewel in that story, and what happens to it next will be as interesting as anything that has gone before.

One old rumour attached to The Empyre has it that somewhere beneath the building, and probably emanating from the cellars, is a tunnel that connects to the 1850s Theatre Royal on the same block and that was possibly used for illicit trysts between miners and ladies of the night.

Maybe that’s for a new owner to confirm?

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The property has large established gardens and two private courtyards. Photo: Jellis Craig Castlemaine

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