About Rechner Cottage
About the Association
About Light Pass
About Rechner Cottage
Rechner Cottage, in the beautiful Barossa Valley, gives us a glimpse back in time. Looking at it now, you might be surprised (as would its early inhabitants) to know that it is Heritage listed as a site of architectural and cultural significance.
Rechner cottage was built in the mid-1800s, on property owned by GJ Rechner. Although a simple cottage, it shows many techniques brought over from Europe by skilled craftsmen. With living, stable and storage areas all under one roof, it is a rare Australian example of a German Barnhouse.
It was constructed using the German style of building called “fachwerk” – a type of pugging. A solid timber frame was infilled with tree branches, and a mixture of straw and mud was packed between these wooden slats. A mixture of lime and water was painted over to create a seal.
Other features of the cottage include its redgum timber slab floor and its drainage system. It also has a steeply pitched roof with a loft underneath, typical of German-style buildings.
The exact date of the construction, who built it, and who first lived in it is not certain. Pastor GJ Rechner owned it and may have lived in it. Certainly, his elderly father lived there for many years. The Rechner family used it for various purposes, including housing animals. It was well-known in the district and is part of the complex of buildings that tell the story of Light Pass.
Who was GJ Rechner?
Gustav Julius Rechner emigrated from Germany in 1848, at age 18. He spent most of his life in the small village of Light Pass. In 1850 he became the schoolteacher at Light Pass Immanuel church school and church cantor.
When the church divided in 1860, the newly formed Strait Gate congregation called him as their pastor. Although he was not yet ordained, they recognized his strong leadership qualities, as well as abundant energy, enthusiasm and organisational abilities. Above all, they saw his deep love for people and his faith.
As well as being deeply involved in the Light Pass community, he was influential in founding many churches, schools and missions throughout South Australia. He and his wife, Bertha, had 13 children, seven of whom survived infancy. When GJ Rechner died in 1900, over 1,000 people attended his funeral.
Rechner Cottage belonged to him and his family until the land was sold to Strait Gate Church. It has always been known locally as “Pastor Rechner’s Cottage”. Read more about his fascinating life and his legacy here….
An ongoing story
There are so many interesting stories surrounding the cottage and the village of Light Pass. But the story is not finished yet! We would love you to be part of this next chapter in the history of the cottage. Here’s how:
• Go on a journey of discovery. Read about the history. Explore the stories and podcasts. Immerse yourself in the past.
• Keep informed. Follow us on Facebook. Subscribe to our newsletter.
- Join the Foot of Footings campaign, and have a name recorded on site.
• Come to our events. Volunteers are helping dig carefully around the footings. And a pugging workshop is coming up.
• Connect. Share your thoughts, ideas and stories with us. Maybe you have information to share or related memories of your own.
• Support the conservation by donating, or by purchasing our fund-raising products.
Meet the Rechner Cottage Conservation Association committee
The Rechner Cottage Conservation Committee was formed in 2018, following a family reunion at which the wider Rechner family was made aware of the state of dilapidation of the cottage, and the urgent need for action to conserve it. We have loved discovering not only the history of the cottage, but also our own family history, and the many stories of Light Pass.
Also on the conservation team
Sam (HoskingWillis Architecture) is also the Heritage Consultant to the Barossa Council. He has expert knowledge and passion for the heritage of the Barossa.
Andrew (Building Conservation Technology) is recognized by Heritage SA as having wide local experience in conserving and restoring historic buildings.
Rechner Cottage is owned by the church and stands on their land. They have been supporting us in the conservation efforts.
Stabilisation of the cottage and preparation for the conservation.
- Measurements/Assessments/Drawing up of plans
- Seeking relevant approvals from Council
- Preventing further deterioration eg groundworks to ensure adequate drainage, termite treatments
- Clearing the cottage of its contents (now in safe keeping)
At this stage, the actual conservation work begins.
- Removing old iron cladding
- Restoring the framework – the beams and timber work. Where possible, the existing beams will be reused. If necessary, new beams, cut from similar timber and using identical techniques, will be placed alongside.
- Re-roofing the cottage. The roof will be replaced using new corrugated iron, cut with a similar profile to the original. In its earliest days, the cottage was most likely thatched with straw, but this is not a feasible option at this time. As well, we are happy to show the cottage’s changes over the years, as people used new materials that became available.
The main task here is the preservation of the footings – all the vertical lathes and bits of timber that connect to the ground. There are around 90 feet of them. The original ones were placed on the soil, but time, pest and water damage has badly damaged many of them.
The work will involve fitting in new posts, top and bottom plates, scarfing and galvanised ‘shoes’ where needed. Dirt around the posts will need to be carefully removed by hand. This will give a chance for eager volunteers to be involved!
The whole process is expected to cost around $35,000.
Tasks at this final stage will include
- Re-pugging the walls. We hope to combine this with a pugging workshop event so that lots of people can be involved. We will leave sections of the wall as it is, with a protective Perspex covering, so that the ‘inside skin’ of the timber framework remains visible, highlighting the fachwerk technique.
- Conserving windows and doors
- Enclosing at least one section to make it vermin and weather-proof.
- Installing signage to explain the important features of the cottage and give a brief overview of the history.
- Any landscaping required.
Help and support the conservation of the cottage
We are raising funds to conserve this piece of history for today and for the future. Click here to see our fundraising products, or donate below. We also want to acknowledge the grants we have received.
Rechner Cottage has been deteriorating over the years, and we have been working hard to save it. While we are well on the way (read more about progress on the home page), we urgently need funds to finish the project. Thank you to all who have generously donated already – you have contributed to a lasting legacy. All donations go directly to the conservation.
You can donate securely via card here, or contact us directly for our bank account details.
We would like to acknowledge the generous donation received from family members Kate and Tony Rechner.
Conserving the cottage has been made possible by the generous support and grants from the following organisations:
- The Barossa Council, through the Heritage Grants program
- The South Australian Government, through the SA Heritage Grants program
- The Peter Lehmann Arts and Education Trust.
We thank them, and greatly appreciate their encouragement and enthusiasm for the project.