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Meet The Young Couple Restoring Alberton’s Rosella House

Meet The Young Couple Restoring Alberton’s Rosella House
Photos: Naomi Giatas

A theatre in Berlin is a long way from Alberton, but if it wasn’t for the historic venue, the much-loved Rosella house may still be rotting in neglect.

Current owners Jo and Vlad met while working there in a show. To cut a long story short, Jo, who grew up in Rosewater, ran off with Ukrainian-born Vlad to join the circus and the pair spent more than a decade travelling the world as trapeze and acrobatic artists.

“I was always a bit in love with that. When I saw this place, I was instantly excited.”

In 2011, with the birth of their son Julian imminent, they decided to move to Australia, eventually buying the former shop.

“When I was growing up, to me it was ‘fancy pants Alberton’, with its ye olde worlde charm,” Jo says.

“I was always a bit in love with that. When I saw this place, I was instantly excited.”

Vlad adds they planned it as an investment, but working on it changed that.

“After a while, spending time – and sweat and tears – this place started to get me,” he says.

Rosella Tomato Sauce

The house had long been neglected.

“It wasn’t lived in by anyone who owned it for a very long time. It was rented out and all the repairs were dodgy,” Jo says.

“When we opened the walls, they had termite mud up to two metres tall,” Vlad says. “When we lifted carpet, it was all wet underneath.”

Support from the local community kept them positive.

“There’s been so much encouragement. Even when we knew from the beginning it was going to be masses of work, there were people saying ‘do it, do it’. A lot of people were really happy and excited to see new life breathed into this.”

They’ve been on a steep learning curve to do all of the work themselves, helped out by Jo’s dad and brother. As with any old house, there are unexpected discoveries, and work in one part can be stalled by work required in another.

Having their home listed on the State Heritage list adds further complications, as they need to get approval for every change they make.

“Its painted advertisement is now the only known example of the ubiquitous Rosella sign that was seen across the state.”

“It took us 10 months to get approval for solar panels,” Vlad says.

The historic home was built in the 1880s and has been heritage listed since 1993.

Rosella Tomato Sauce

Heritage spokesperson Fran Stropin says it was listed for what it reveals about the history of Alberton.

“The shop is a remnant of an early period of Alberton’s history reflecting the need for shopping facilities close to residential areas prior to the development of public transport and the motor car,” she says.

“The shop has been listed as a rare example of a corrugated iron corner shop that remains largely intact from when it was built in the 1880s.

“Its painted advertisement is now the only known example of the ubiquitous Rosella sign that was seen across the state.

“Listing places such as these is important for the community as it provides not only an understanding of the past but also a sense of place and familiarity. Our knowledge of past generations provides us with a sense of identity and links generations.”

It’s clear Jo and Vlad have a deep respect for the historical value of the home. Where possible, they preserve its history, though neglect has left little that’s useable.

With most of the woodwork in the house damaged beyond repair, Jo proudly shows off the original skirting boards in the hallway, which they’ve managed to preserve.

“In the shop, the cash register was down one end. The floor was so worn, just the knots were left.”

There’s also a coach shed out the back, built to accommodate a horse and cart, that they plan to turn into a granny flat.

Readers have told us it has been an antique store, and used for other businesses besides the grocery store.

Rosella Tomato Sauce

In the shop, currently used as a home office, is a pile of Fritz magazines.

“People keep giving them to us, saying, ‘Have you seen this?’” Jo says with a laugh.

She’s used to seeing the home in unexpected places – there are often people taking photos, and Jo knows of a band who used it for their album cover.

How does she feel about living in such a ‘public’ place?

“I love it. It’s always a talking point and it’s iconic from my childhood.”

An unexpected outcome of having their home on Fritz is that the artist, Donovan Christie, has been discussing the mural’s restoration with them.

Rosella has also offered to contribute towards its restoration.

But there’s one last hurdle – the paint itself is part of the heritage listing, so it can’t be scraped off.

Jo and Vlad are now talking to art restoration experts Artlab before proceeding.

Let’s hope it all comes together and the mural can be returned to its former glory.

Rosella Tomato Sauce

Who painted the mural?

Officially, little is known about the Rosella mural’s history. We were contacted by Julie Gibbs, who believes it was painted by her grandfather Claude Blanchard. He was the official artist for the Rosella and Cadbury store signs and coaches.

However, Jo has uncovered another story.

“The guy who painted this was a butcher and he had a flair for the artistic. His name is Mead – his signature is on the picture. I think the H is for Henry. He was a butcher but back in the fifties, he was working with meat, this was his creative outlet,” Jo says.

Judging by the response we’ve had to the cover and the stories Jo hears from the community, the Rosella mural is loved far and wide.

“The wall is never graffitied,” she says. “There’s just such local respect for it. Every man and his dog knows this place. It doesn’t matter if they live on the other side of town.”

If you have info, email us at bung@fritzmag.com.au.

Albert Town

Albert Town, as it was first known, was created by the South Australian Company in 1838. It later changed to Alberton as early as 1854.

The corner shop at Alberton reveals the history of the greater Port Adelaide area.

The Port and the City of Adelaide were quickly connected by the Port Road, the colony’s first major transport route.

Port Adelaide was declared a town under the newly established District Council Act of 1852 and over the next 20 years, other district councils were set up, including Alberton in 1864.

The establishment and extension of public transport in the 1870s increased the consolidation of settlement in residential areas such as Alberton.

Smiley Fritz

3 Comments

3 Comments

  1. Judy Grindle

    05/07/2017 at 9:26 pm

    Extremely pleased to see this slice of history being restored. This corner store ( the four square store) holds a huge amount of memories for not only myself but for older family members. I remember in the late 60s my grandma walking me to the four square store from Russell Street Rosewater just around the corner to buy an ice cream. I
    A fabulous highlight of visiting my Grandma.
    My Aunt Janice would have many older memories if you would be interested….she’s a wonderful storytellier.
    Thank you for the trip down memory lane with your special article and Fritz cover! It meant a lot to the family.
    Kind Regards Judy

  2. David Peters

    06/07/2017 at 3:30 pm

    My parents knew the last grocery shop owner of that shop Mark and Dot Anderson, he bought the shop from the previous owner of the store as Mark worked for him. My mother says this was approx about 1951 that he bought it! He and his wife were friends of our family for many years!

  3. Jenny Ramos

    07/07/2017 at 6:05 pm

    That sign was painted over the original in the late 1980s I remember seeing it done at the time when the building was owned by Magistrate Roseanne McInnes and her partner the journalist Paul Lloyd. Their daughters attended Port Adelaide Kindergarten on Wellington Street with my own daughter. The building at the time was a craft/collectibles business.

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