How real estate agent and community pioneer Felix Cappy preserved Goldfields history

His family and friends say the Victorian towns of Castlemaine and Chewton would be very different were it not for Felix Cappy.

“There would probably be no [Castlemaine] courthouse,” his brother Vin Cappy said.

“Chewton Town Hall would no longer be there nor the Duke of Cornwell mine, which is a great icon of Fryerstown.”

Longtime friend of Felix, Ian Braybrook said the community is indebted to the activist who died after a battle with cancer in 2011.

“Half the streetscape in Chewton would have looked entirely different,” Mr Braybrook said.

Felix Capicchiano OAM, known as Cappy, is credited with almost single-handedly saving Castlemaine’s historic market building.

In his last radio interview with his friend Ian Braybrook, Felix said “those who won’t accept change probably won’t move forward”.(ABC Central Victoria: Shannon Schubert)

The long list of historic buildings he helped save includes the old music hall in Guildford and the old courthouse in Castlemaine.

“The old courthouse was going to be demolished,” Vin said.

He said a landlord with an ax threatened Felix.

“Felix got a court order… four years later the landlord came and thanked Felix. He’s still up today.”

To recognize the Castlemaine pioneer, who was involved in a long list of community groups, campaigns and movements, Felix was honored with a bronze bust.

The locally designed and made bronze bust, sponsored by her family, was unveiled at Castlemaine Town Hall on Sunday.

A picture of a building
Friends ask the Mount Alexander Shire to allow the bronze bust inside the historic market building that Felix Cappy saved. (ABC Central Victoria: Shannon Schubert)

Vin said his brother was a doer.

“If he saw a need or a cause, he wouldn’t hesitate. He would,” he said.

“All those iconic buildings wouldn’t be there.

“And that [would have] changed the landscape of Castlemaine and its history. The market may still have been there, but it may not be as it is.

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Felix worked tirelessly to protect local landmarks, even in the last months of his life.

“At the West Reserve, a proposal has come to council to create the West Reserve and Aquatic Center,” Vin said.

“At least 1,500 people showed up for this rally.

“Felix was very ill at the time, but he went anyway. He got his case through anyway.”

Location of the statue in contention

The bust will be displayed at the Castlemaine Pioneers and Old Residents’ Association, of which Felix was a member.

But several family members and friends, including Mr Braybrook, expressed disappointment that he was not standing in the historic market building that Felix saved.

“I am very disappointed that the council did not have this bust placed in the old market building as it helped save that building,” Mr Braybrook said.

“The bust should go. I’m really angry with our county council.”

A photo of a bald man speaking into a microphone on a stage.
Vin Cappy said his brother made his life an adventure.(ABC Central Victoria: Shannon Schubert )

An Honored Statesman

Mr Braybrook described Felix as a “generous spirit”.

“He did a lot just out of the goodness of his heart, no other reason. He just wanted to help,” he said.

Félix, a former real estate agent, was not only interested in buildings in his city.

In his own words, he aimed to improve and preserve his city.

Felix was Councilor of Mount Alexander Shire between 2004 and 2009.

Although he is best known for his work protecting heritage buildings, he has also worked to make the city a center for arts and culture.

He was President of the Castlemaine Art Gallery for a few years and chaired the first meeting of the Castlemaine State Festival.

Three men in a band on stage
The Cappy brothers pay tribute to their brother by performing “What a Wonderful World” by Stevie Wonder. (ABC Central Victoria: Shannon Schubert)

At the unveiling, Vin and his brothers performed the song What a Wonderful World in recognition of Felix’s “pioneering spirit”.

“If he saw a need, he liked to help in any way he could,” Vin said.

“If he could make a difference, he would. It was just Felix.”

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