When John’s grandfather, George Heyer, emigrated from Alsace to Australia in 1868, his sister Elizabeth remained in the cottage their father Johannes Heyer had built in Melsheim in 1834. Elizabeth finally sold the house and it passed out of the Heyer family. John never knew exactly where in Alsace the house was and he started looking in Molsheim, a village nearby. Then a family friend, Peggy Bunton discovered it in Melsheim in 1972 but it was not available for purchase. However, in 1982 the cottage, which had become known as the `Heyerhaus’, came on the market. John put in a bid for it and was successful.
The 150 year old Heyer Cottage was back in the family. The cottage and the barns were derelict. The entire plumbing system needed replacing, there were leaks everywhere; the electricity needed complete rewiring – lights either stayed on or stayed off; the roof was so near to collapse that an entirely new frame had to be built and retiled.
The original frame was made of trimmed branches straight from the forest. It took him some two years with the occasional help of a local tradesman to restore the cottage to its original 1834 attractive simplicity and create the comfortable nostalgic haven in which he spent much of his time in his last years.
He added an extra bedroom with shower and toilet upstairs in one of the barns for guests. Family and friends, including his old friend Pat Jackson, the British filmmaker, spent many happy hours under its roof. Needless to say, no visitor escaped without seeing the letters carved in the Vogestone arch over the cellar door: “H.H. 1834″, and the legend carved along one of the great oak beams by his great grandfather: "Diese Scheuer hat gebault Johannes Heyer und Margarether Schneider 1834” (“This barn was built by Johannes Heyer and Margarether Schneider 1834”).