Gladstone's house of secrets was home to city's pioneers
A SLIGHT breeze carries the hum of an electric power saw through the Valle residence.
It is mid-morning and number 53 Flinders Pde, Gladstone, is in the process of being renovated.
Owner Vikki Valle has just returned from her job delivering goods to Gladstone's port when she meets us at the front steps.
"I want to do the right thing and fix (the house) as much as possible," Vikki explains as we carefully creak up the jade green wooden steps.
"I don't want to sell because of the sentimental value. My kids grew up here."
Today Vikki is looking to lease her family home of three years.
While it still remains on the market, Vikki said she has had a few bites.
Someone wants to turn it into a cafe, others have plans for a doctor's surgery.
Built in the 1800s, the house has many stories to tell.
"When we bought (the house)... it was the Mermaid Restaurant, before that it was a backpackers hostel," Vikki said.
The three-bedroom, oriental inspired property was home to the Old Gladstone Club; the watering hole for Harbour City's elite businessmen in days gone by.
"When we first moved in we found cups with the names of (Gladstone Club) members on them," Vikki said.
"It was an elite club for doctors, lawyers and pilots."
Today's answer to the Gladstone Club would be the Yacht Club, but as Vikki explains, more "exclusive".
"European and Japanese captains would also come and stay at the house and have big parties," Vikki said.
Perched on a hill, near the bauxite storage facility and backing onto Auckland St, Vikki has created many memories in her family home.
Pictures from the Valle family's albums are scattered across the bar, which demands attention from guests as they walk in the door.
The main room is like a dated oriental parlour painted in plum hues, with immaculate Asian detailing on the walls.
A carefully crafted replica wooden lion-statue rests on the counter near the bar.
Dozens of terracotta tiles are spread across the floor.
Vikki tells me they are destined for the front porch, but apparently no tilers in town have been brave enough to take on the challenge.
"We ordered the wrong ones, but I want to finish it soon," she said.
It becomes clear Vikki doesn't want to skimp on the details of her mini-mansion.
She's imported the door frames and cabinets from Melbourne, and has spent $400 on replenishing the leadlighting on the front windows.
The bedroom even has black and white photos, which have now faded to a sepia tone with age, plastered on the cupboards.
As we wander into what Vikki describes as the "neglected courtyard", we notice a large wooden structure of the same mulberry tint peeping over the fence.
"Oh that's the old train carriage," Vikki said casually. "I don't know where it is from. They (the delivery company) just plonked it there ...and I never moved it."
The antique cost her $3000 to buy 15 years ago.
Some people have told her to burn it, others still marvel in awe at the structure.
Vikki says there are other surprising discoveries scattered throughout the house. And some are still waiting to be discovered.
Just after they purchased the house, Vikki and her then partner discovered new rooms and doors after knocking down walls in the parlour room.
"We discovered walls behind walls when we knocked some of them down. We found a bookcase behind the wall," she said.
Vikki points to the fireplace in the corner.
"I was surprised to find that behind a wall. We didn't even know that was there," she said.
Vikki even believes the house could be haunted.
"Lights would flicker on an off, and the fans would go from normal speed to really fast," she said.
"One time I heard someone call 'Hi Mum' when I was home alone. My kids were interstate."
The nanny seconded her suspicions on a number of occasions.
Today Vikki is hoping new people will bring the home positive energy.
"One day I saw a for sale sign (on the house) and I went on and on until I got it," Vikki said.
"I wanted to preserve it because I love old houses."
Regardless of whether it becomes another grocery store, cafe, doctor's surgery or backpackers hostel, at least it will always hold many stories and memories from Gladstone's past.