In the 1850’s George Stebbing, a builder in brick, built a number of buildings in Eltham including St Margaret’s and the Methodist Church.
About 1859 he built himself a cottage on Lot 90 of Little Eltham in Main Road from handmade bricks laid in the Flemish pattern. This cottage later became the property of the Shillinglaw family for 80 years and became known as ‘Shillinglaw Cottage’.
The three pencil pine trees still to be seen on the old Shire office site, were in the front garden of the cottage and can be seen in many historic photographs of Eltham. So you may wonder about the café called Shillinglaw Cottage and why it is not near the pine trees!
In 1939 Eltham Shire Hall was paid for by the people of Eltham and built at the corner of Arthur and Main Road (now Coles Arcade).
Later, Eltham Shire, wanting to build new larger Shire Offices, bought the Shillinglaw Cottage for demolition.
Public outcry about the demolition of the historic cottage saw the formation of a committee in 1964 that raised funds which enabled the move of Shillinglaw Cottage, brick by brick, to its present site.
This was the first time in Australia such a preservation project had been undertaken.
The first stage of the Shire Offices in Main Road on the old Shire Office site was started in 1964.
In 1994 the Kennett Government amalgamated most local Government areas.
Eltham Council was sacked and three Commissioners were appointed to oversee the new local Government area of Nillumbik. The new Shire boundaries had a very thin wedge of land leading to the old Greensborough Council offices. So Nillumbik now had two Council Offices.
1996 – a year of action
In June 1996 the Eltham Shire Offices in Main Road, Eltham were sold to Dallas Price homes for $1.1million.
In July the Eltham Shire Offices were suddenly demolished over a weekend – it was claimed that asbestos had been found.
Eltham Gateway Action Group was formed (now called Eltham Community Action Group).
In September the Commissioners had an application for a Shell Service Station, convenience store, retail facility and community facility and a Hungry Jacks fast food outlet to be built on the now empty Shire Office site.
Hundreds of residents joined hands around the site to object to the proposal. More than 213 written objections and a petition of over 1,400 signatures were received.
October saw a Planning Special Committee of the 3 Commissioners & 3 community members considered the 32 community objections. 1 Commissioner declared a conflict of interest giving the community members the majority vote so they moved a motion to reject the application. The Commissioners closed the meeting and formally opened a Council meeting (for about a minute) and approved the application.
Community members appealed the Commissioners planning decision to the Administrative Appeals Tribunal (now VCAT).
In November State Government Planning Minister ‘called in’ the project.
Eventually the project did not go ahead.
The land has remained empty since 1996 despite previous councils developing proposals for the land, including in 2007 for a new Civic Centre on the site and the redevelopment of the Greensborough site. Parochial interests of Nillumbik Councillors saw this plan rejected.