Wednesday, June 2, 2010

A Tale of Two Castlemaines: Part I

Well this week has (so far) been very hectic.

Yesterday, I was in the city from 4:00 am to run a team of volunteers in Melbourne City Council’s annual “Street Count” program. To Council’s credit they are attempting to be proactive in addressing the problem of homelessness in the city.

Street Count is an attempt at getting a snapshot of the number of people sleeping rough in the city to inform their policy development. Local charities and individuals are asked to help with labour for the count.

So from 4:00 am I was watching the safety of three groups of volunteers as they checked a large area along the Yarra River and around Flinders Street Station.

Flinders Street Station Source Wilkimedia commons

Last Year it was cold and wet for the whole count. Fortunately, this year it was dry. Although, down here in the Southern Hemisphere winter is setting in so it was cold (by Oz standards) and dark the whole time.

I’m pleased to say all volunteers returned safely to the count HQ, without incident. We all shared a hot breakfast to warm up while we completed the debrief session.

Now, my Uncle Harry Tour guide hat is going on again.

Maybe a month ago on one of our day trips, Deb and I shot up towards Castlemaine in central Victoria, a couple of hours drive from home.

On the way up I paused to take a few piccies of places that grabbed my attention.

In Kilmore there is an old Town Hall with a grand facade.

But if you look behind it is no more than a front.

We then passed Hanging Rock which featured in Peter Weir’s 1975 movie Picnic at Hanging Rock.

Like so many other places in Victoria, Castlemaine is a former gold rush town that was founded during the 1850s.

At a site called Red Hill on the outskirts of Castlemaine are the relics of some of the old gold diggings.

This area contains shattered remains of the original hill.

As no remediation work was ever carried out on the old diggings what is left of the hill continues to erode away.

These old iron pipes were used in the area to carry water for sluicing the gold. If you look closely you can see they are riveted together from smaller strips. They have been hand made by local blacksmiths!

In the town itself are the grand buildings typical of the newly prosperous Nineteenth Century communities.

The town hall

The courthouse

The “Imperial Hotel” has fallen on hard times, but the front still has the most intricate wrought iron lacework.

The grandest building is probably the “New” post office opened in 1875.

And tucked behind the post office is the Nineteenth Century version of the internet: the telegraph office. Opened in 1857 Castlemaine’s telegraph office is the oldest remaining telegraph office Australia.

Last, but very far from least, The Castlemaine library opened in 1855 and still in use.


Ann said...

What beautiful buildings! Only the large cities in the US have anything comparable. As always your photos are wonderful. If I ever make it to your hemisphere, I will have more then enough to search out!

Al said...

Hi Anne,
We are well and truly spoiled here in Victoria.
During the Gold Rushes there was so much money around that even small towns could get grand designs :)

Christine said...

Here is a confession! I have never had any real interest in Australia. Your blog has changed all that. Love your photos and snippets of history. One should'nt have a closed mind.....

Jen said...

Wow what beautiful architecture the city has to offer. I think I need to grab my passport and head on over. I don't think of Houston as gorgeous... then again maybe I'm not looking in the right places!

Old Kitty said...

Gosh. What a harrowing thing to do - to count how many homeless people there are! :-( It's very sad. I hope the numbers were down.. especially with your winter now settling in.

I am so in awe with you and all the volunteers doing this. I hope that a humane and workable policy would be created out of this important data. Yes, at least the council is trying to be proactive so that's all to the good.

These pics of Castlemaine are amazing!!! I love that town hall facade! LOL!!! What happened there then?

And that poor rock in Red Hill - all eroding because it contained gold. Oh dear.

Picnic at Hanging Rock!! I loved that film - it disturbs me everytime I watch it - so haunting and there it is in you pic!! Wow!!!!

And of course the library building wins it for me!

Take care

Wendy Ramer said...

Beautiful architecture, but the thing that caught my eye is how well maintained they are. All the paint looks fresh, as if they are newer buildings made to look like old ones. Not doubting your history, just respecting the cleanliness ;-)

Falen said...

4AM is much too early to be up and about...

Culture Served Raw said...

*sigh* you manage to make simple things appear so majestic

Julie Musil said...

My goodness, I love those photos!

L'Aussie said...

Al, great to meet a fellow Aussie, even though at the other end of the country. I feel for the homeless in Brisbane and am on nodding acquaintance with some. I'd love to do something like you're doing. I'll have to approach our council as it is a disgrace that people are sleeping rough in our 'lucky' country. I also love photography, and adore the Castlemaine pics. Love the architecture. That's what I like about travelling in Europe. Brisbane also has some great Victorian buildings but our local government loves to knock them down. grr...

Myrna Foster said...

I like all of the pictures, but my favorite is the one of the iron pipes. Is that weird?

I'm glad you're doing something to help the homeless.

Anonymous said...

How beautiful! Rarely around my own environment do I find some architecture of note, old or otherwise, and I appreciate your pictures to recall how beautiful they can be. Thank you.

It's wonderful to hear of someone doing so much to help their community. For that I would also like to thank you.

Cathy said...

Hello Al
Time gets away and I've been meaning to come over and say 'thank you' for following my blog (Still Waters).
Its been a while since I visited Castlemaine - one of those spur of the moment decisions, we decided on a day trip the day before and drove up to find it a lovely old town. If I remember correctly there was a fabulous vicitor centre in the the Town Hall as well as the Old Gaol. Will have to back for a better look some time.
Take care

Al said...

Hi Christine,
A convert! I am pleased you enjoy my efforts.
Thank you for looking again. I fully understand your reticence before, the image we project overseas is mostly a long way from reality.

Hi Jen,
As I said above we are spoiled in Victoria. Town after town have something worth a look.
What is good is that development was quite slow in some rural areas until after we realised that the old ad enough merit to be worth preserving.
Well if you get a chance I to come over I guess you’d find a welcome here.

Hi Jennifer,
It is harrowing, but that is unfortunately the way of the sector I work in.
Unfortunately, numbers are up. Oz has avoided the worst of the financial downturn of recent years, but there has still been an increase in unemployment and related homelessness.
I am always impressed by volunteers, so much of what we do in this sector simply wouldn’t happen without them. Council is being proactive, but unfortunately it is a small cog in what is a society wide problem. Hopefully they will become leaders in the field.
I guess the good burghers of Kilmore wanted to match the towns in the region and just didn’t have the cash to match their ambitions :-)
Mining rehabilitation is better today but they had no idea in the 19th and early 20th centuries.
I thought I’d include the piccie of hanging rock. It certainly is a haunting film so I couldn’t drive past without at least a shot.
Aren’t Libraries great!

Hi Wendy,
It is interesting and beautiful architecture.
I think there are a few things that lead to a high standard of maintenance:
Pride in the little history we have;
An awareness that the picturesque nature of the buildings contributes to tourism;
and most of these buildings are in public hands with council and heritage trust money going toward their upkeep (the Imperial Hotel is in private hands and is comparably run down)

Hi Sarah,
I agree I am used to early mornings but 4am is definitely too early!

Hi Val,
Thank you, it’s not through a want of trying :-)

Hi Julie,
Thank you! I’m pleased you like them!

Hi L’Aussie,
(seems odd calling you that but I haven’t worked out your name yet).
The only saving grace to being homeless in Brissie is it’s a bit (a lot) warmer. Treating homeless people as people is the first step, so I guess you are already ahead of the field there.
I continually hang my head in shame at how bad things have become. It isn’t money it’s just how it is distributed.
Victoria has got its act together on the preservation scene in comparison to QLD (and I say that as an ex-bananabender)

Hi Myrna,
I liked all of the piccies including the iron pipes. So no I don’t think it is at all weird, I love objects like that especially when you think of the hard work that went into hand making them!
Thank you!

Hi Kimberly,
I am only too happy you like my piccies!
You are only too welcome on both scores!

Hi Cathy,
Hey I wouldn’t be following your blog if it didn’t look interesting!
We seem to spend most of our weekends on “spur of the moment” day trips.
I agree about going back I suspect I could spend considerably more time up there than the few hours we managed!

Amanda said...

How interesting! The old town hall reminds me of buildings in the town were I was born - a little mining town in Colorado. I'm thinking that Australia must be a little like the Western US where I am from - where history doesn't go very far back - where buildings from the 1800s are very very old.

Al said...

Hi Amanda,
You've hit the nail bang on the head!
The first European settlement (at Sydney) wasn't until 1788.

The first settlement in Victoria wasn't really until 1835 (at Melbourne) and a large number of places weren't settled till the 1850s.

Lisa said...

Wow, Castlemaine is cool! That town hall is great--a much fancier version of the buildings that popped up all over the American West 150 years ago with their false fronts.