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FEATURE PROPERTY: Historic Belair manor with panoramic views

Jason Behrndt and his family have done all the hard work to transform this rare sandstone manor into a modern five-bedroom family home ready for a new custodian to enjoy.

On paper, 1 Serpentine Road, Belair ticks all the boxes: a modernised two-storey sandstone home with five bedrooms and four bathrooms, a swimming pool, wine cellar, billiard room and an acre of Adelaide Hills land that has been levelled for outdoor living.

However, once you see the views over Adelaide and the surrounding Hills, it catapults the 105-year-old property into a league of its own.

Jason Behrndt, a property development and investment advisor, first discovered the home in the early 2000s when he and his wife missed out on their first chance to buy it.

“We fell in love with it when it was on the market originally, but couldn’t have imagined being able to afford it,” Jason says.

“However, when it came back on the market just five years later in 2008, things were a bit different; both my wife and my careers had advanced and business was going well at that time and we were able to buy it.

“We didn’t actually realise quite how much work it was going to be and how tatty and dilapidated it was. The entire property from the laneway down to James Road was on a slope and there were literally no flat usable areas on the property.

“We did a minor renovation just after we bought it. Since then, we’ve done an extensive amount of work over the past five years including earthworks, installed a swimming pool and garage, as well as a full interior renovation covering all four bathrooms and the kitchen.”

The property was levelled to create useable outdoor spaces, including a lower area of the block that has been cut and filled to allow space for a tennis court, should a new owner wish to install one.

The beautifully renovated period rooms create many different angles and viewing points to enjoy the sweeping vistas.

“When you look out of the main bedroom window to the north you’re looking straight at the city and then through the French doors to the east you’ve got Mount Lofty Summit,” Jason says.

“The billiard room downstairs is fantastic, especially at night when you’ve got a panoramic view of the city lights twinkling through the treetops as you’re playing billiards, which is quite pleasant.

“Normally views come with living on a slope, but we’ve taken care of that. It’s a very practical house to live in.”

The secluded home is located at the end of a private laneway. Jason says in 12 years he can’t remember a single doorknocker ever being able to find the house.

A grand 105-year-old oak tree is a feature of the outdoor terrace, planted in 1915; the same year the house was completed. The deciduous oak tree shades the western side of the house in summer and lets in light in winter.

“We keep the tree trimmed and shaped above eye level so that it doesn’t obscure any of the views from anywhere in the house.”

The owners contracted a specialist stonemason to build the two-car garage using sandstone procured from the same quarry that the house was built in the early 1900s.

“It’s such a great family home. We’re only a couple of minutes’ walk from St John’s Grammar School, where all three of our children go. After school on summer days, we end up with their friends coming over for a swim — it’s a family-friendly home and great for friends to come over and hang out.”

The owners have also knocked out walls to the outside of the dining room and installed zip-lock cafe blinds that are designed to withstand gale-force winds. This area was originally an open-air verandah, but was enclosed in about the 60s.

“The dining room overlooks the city view and is a fantastic room for spending time in. You can see the fireworks across Adelaide from the balcony, lightning and storms roll in across the Gulf, and those sorts of times are some of the most special as a family.

“You open those blinds right up for unobstructed views across the city while you’re sitting at the table where we host a lot of dinner parties.”

Other standout features include an outfitted wine cellar, original fireplaces throughout, a large laundry area with stone benchtops, a charming glass greenhouse, raised garden beds, a chicken coop and a wood-fired pizza oven.

The property also has its roots in a significant part of South Australian history. It was built in 1915 by Walter Gooch, a colonial merchant and conservationist.

He is best known for his contribution to the establishment of Belair National Park in the late 1800s and was instrumental in lobbying the government not to sell that land parcel, but developing it into a fauna and flora reserve that was also a people’s park with tennis courts and recreation facilities.

“Essentially, Belair National Park exists because of a Walter Gooch. He was the original custodian of Belair National Park, which was only the second national park in the entire country,” says Jason.

The sale is being handled by Grant Giordano and Ross Smith of Sotheby’s International Realty.