THERE is excitement with news that one of Wagin's historic architectural icons has been sold and will be restored to bring a new focus on the town as a tourist destination.
Former local Clancy White and wife Diana Goldswain made an adventurous decision to buy the gracious stone building late last year and took possession of Moran's Hotel in February.
The 23-room hotel relinquished its liquor licence and closed its doors in 2017 after the death of Terry Moran, ending a century of Moran family ownership.
When the hotel closed the family were believed to have set a record by holding a licence for a single hotel for the longest period in Australia from 1921 until 2017 (96 years), adding to the building's other important heritage features.
The change of ownership also is good news for many Woolorama visitors who have downed a few beers and told a few yarns while relaxing after Wagin's big event and although the doors are closed for this year the hotel will re-open to a new, still-to-be-decided future.
The heritage-listed building came onto the market more than a year ago and since it was sold, townsfolk have been kept guessing about how plans will unfold - and even putting forward their own ideas for a micro-brewery or a gin distillery.
"There is a lot of conversation happening and we are quite open to that," Mr White said.
"We thought about a pop-up bar in time for Woolorama but it was not realistic to open it for this year.
"We want another year to do it right and hopefully we will be ready for next year."
It has been an exciting few months since they first seriously looked at the building.
The Perth-based couple head architectural business Whitehaus, best known for its community and public buildings and dealing, to a lesser extent, with residential housing.
For the sake of their two young school-age children, they were keen to maintain a connection with the country and with their family who own a property east of Wagin
On a wet November morning while down on the farm, Ms Goldswain convinced Mr White to stop and just walk around and take a look at the outside.
Despite his reluctance and the off-putting weathered exterior, its stone structure was substantial and free from cracks and movement.
It was encouraging enough to look further and for those who knew the grand old hotel, the interior, stripped of its furnishings, was an even sadder but still promising sight.
The beer garden that was once green and lush had a few of the toughest survivors including the wisteria that drapes over the tall wooden tank stand, which is also heritage listed along with the spartan corrugated iron staff quarters out the back.
To their delight the fire surrounds, carved timber staircases and other architectural fittings were still in place and at the $200,000 selling price, Ms Goldswain said it would make an epic holiday house in the interim.
After due diligence and with more adventure in their souls than money in their pockets, they enthusiastically snapped it up and since embarking on their new journey they have only seen the positives.
In the little time they have had to make plans they have found many reasons that back their decision, as well as huge local support.
They are approaching the project with deliberate slowness and the business model will be a series of stages with the ultimate plan to return the building to a fully licensed hotel.
The first priority will be asbestos removal and ensuring the hotel is safe, habitable and inviting so they can open up for airBnB.
For this reason they will concentrate their first efforts on the interior while they wait three years for heritage funding to become available.
They will redesign areas of the layout to improve efficiency and accommodate future operations and amenities.
For instance, there are only two bathrooms servicing the 23 bedrooms, but they will solve issue that by turning some of the bedrooms into ensuites.
They also hope to restore the two small shops under the east wing, used as storage, to their original use and the heritage-listed staff quarters will be kept close to their original condition.
In the second stage they hope to host one-off events and functions and the kitchen will become the hub for a restaurant.
The final model is still evolving but the couple recognises the slightly daunting responsibility they have to the community to ensure they get it right.
Mr White said there was no rush to make decisions and now they have possession, they will be able to really get a feel for what the community can support and understand what local people have a need for.
For now, the community has to be content in knowing they have the right people to give the hotel a bright new future.
The couple has completed several renovations of heritage-listed homes and has had the experience of putting together business cases and understand the process of applying for heritage funding.
They also have looked at the success of the Dome-operated heritage accommodation at Katanning, Northam and Collie's proposed round-house resort and can see the value of a similar venture in Wagin.
"We want to do things that will attract visitors and be able to work with locals to build momentum around what we are doing,'' Mr White said.
"We don't want to open up and take away business from others in Wagin - we want to grow a market by bringing people back to town and we can see opportunities for that and there is excitement about what could happen.
"Wagin is a great provenance for food - look at Wagin Duck, local saltbush-fed lamb, premium malting barley - that's available in the best Perth restaurants, but unfortunately it's not on the menu in Wagin.
"We would like to change that and there are opportunities to do it.
"With COVID-19, we are seeing families who want to holiday in WA and it is safe - we would like them to discover Wagin as a destination, not just a stop, and a good restaurant is part of that.
"We just have to be clever how we do it."
At the first opportunity, the couple will hold an open day to give people a glimpse of their plans and the wider community will be able to follow the progress via a planned website.
Ms Goldswain also is seeking history, information and old hotel photos to piece together its century-old story.
She already has some great anecdotes but ask about a hotel ghost and she is adamant there isn't one.
No one has mentioned it and, with all the positivity surrounding it, the place has a great happy feel, she said.