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Booloominbah is a grand country gentleman’s house designed by Horbury Hunt for prominent colonial grazier, Frederick White, who decided to establish his family of seven children in Armidale because the cooler, fresher, drier air of the Tablelands was good for their health. He and his wife Sarah had already lost five children in infancy and during their time at Booloominbah tragedy struck again when another daughter, Ethel, drowned while on a picnic near Armidale at the age of 22.
The White family moved into their expansive house on a hill overlooking Armidale in 1888 and occupied it until Sarah White died in 1933. During World War I between 1916 and 1919 it became an important centre as a Red Cross convalescent home for wounded men.
After the death of Mrs White at the height of the Depression none of the family members wanted to take over and maintain the huge homestead which came to be regarded as something of a ‘White elephant’. During this period the movement to create a university in Armidale had gathered momentum and in 1936 her son-in-law T R Forster began his negotiations to buy Booloominbah from the family estate and donate it as a spur to gain government support for the initiative.
When UNE began as a college of Sydney University in 1938 Booloominbah became the centre of the scholarly life and student activities and has been symbolically regarded as the heart of the University ever since.
Surrounded by magnificent grounds the historic building has taken on many roles in the evolution of the University. When Vice-Chancellor Professor Ingrid Moses took up her position she made it a priority to find funding to restore Booloominbah to its original elegance and moved the secretariat to the beautifully refurbished upper floor of the building.
The Booloominbah Collection is located in the west wing in the area of the original College dining room.