STANDING in the long room, you are hit with an overwhelming sense of awe as your eyes are drawn upwards to the ornate pressed metal ceilings.
It is the centrepiece of the heritage-listed Customs House that dominates the corner of Sydney and River Streets in Mackay opposite the Pioneer River.
And inside, sixth-generation local and proud new custodian, Dean Williamson, has been busily transforming the building into what will be his first dental practice.
“Everything we do has to be reversible,” Dr Williamson said.
“It’ll just be me to begin with but we’ll plumb for four surgeries.
“Down the track, it will be great to have three other dentists in as well.”
But retrofitting the 1902-built building has extra challenges besides the heritage considerations.
Dr Williamson laughed that he had not yet figured out how to change the light fittings hanging from the impressively tall ceiling space.
But he and the family were becoming pros at polishing brass, with just one of door handles taking about four hours to complete.
The building also features an original fireplace, leadlight doors, arched windows, extensive moulding and a Milners safe guarded by a six-inch thick steel door.
“I had a look, and Milners actually made some safes that went on the Titanic as well,” Dr Williamson said.
Picking up the keys to the building a fortnight ago coupled with a 100-page booklet on how to care for it, he plans to open Dean Williamson Dental with a soiree by mid to late November
“It’s daunting for sure, but I think the excitement outweighs the scariness of it,” he said.
“I just can’t believe that we’re the custodians of it.
“I know Allmans have done a lot of renovations to the place in the past and I suppose we just want to keep looking after it.”
Mr Williamson, son of Mackay Mayor Greg Williamson, said he chose dentistry at James Cook University after an enjoyable work experience.
“I kinda liked being on the other side of the chair,” Dr Williamson said with a laugh.
He added the practice had been a “dream aspiration” since finishing his degree.
When complete, it will have off-street parking including a wheelchair-friendly entrance.
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